Not many of us have heard about Saadat Hasan Manto, a prolific Indian writer from the pre-independence era. Even if some of us have heard his name, only a handful of us know that he was one of the most blunt and fearless writers of South Asia. Manto was a man way ahead of his time. The messages that he wished to convey to society through his writings often brought him under serious criticism. His writing style, which was often rude and profane, and the issues he addressed, the issues one was not expected to talk about openly, were only a few reasons why he wasn’t liked as much as he deserved. To read Manto’s writings was considered unbecoming of a member of the civilised society of the land.
The six-minute duration short film is directed by Nandita Das and Manto’s character is played by none other than Bollywood star Nawazuddin Siddiqui, known for his beautiful acting and traits that set him apart from other actors in the industry. The film is called In Defence of Freedom and it opens with Manto, played by Nawaz, addressing students in a class.
He talks about what different people think about him and his writings. While some think he is progressive or taraqqi-pasand, others dislike him because his writings are obscene and vulgar. In his speech, he advocates and defends freedom of expression and raises multiple questions that are valid even today, and given the current events, will remain valid for a long time to come.
Nawaz said that he had to read several of Manto’s writings to fit into his character. According to him, the most difficult part was to imbibe Manto’s dialect, the 42-year-old told The Indian Express. Manto’s writings were the only means by which he could understand him as there are no videos available of this great writer. The film is due to release later this year and Nawaz has, no doubt, created enough anticipation with his moving performance.
By Aman Sahil