Nandita Das‘s #Manto is a meticulous re-creation of a time and place – Bombay in the 1940s followed by Lahore post-partition. It’s also a weaving together of Saadat Hasan Manto’s life and work, with characters from his short stories making frequent appearances and underlining significant moments of his own life.
Manto lived through the brutal partition of the subcontinent and lost friends, neighborhoods, livelihood, community, an entire world, when he crossed the border into Pakistan. My mother tells me my grandfather experienced a similar loss. His life never quite gelled after he left Gurgaon. He died a few years after the partition. Watching the film is like stepping back in history. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this project.
Two of the most memorable scenes for me were Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s lethal put-down in court when he said that “Thanda Gosht” wasn’t obscene, it just wasn’t good literature (how disappointing), and seeing Toba Tek Singh actually die “on a bit of earth which had no name” between Pakistan and India. Always heartbreaking. The film is now on Netflix – it’s worth checking out.