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Ajoka’s daring act to rediscover Manto

December 15, 2012

LAHORE, Dec 14: Ajoka theatre premiered its play ‘Kaun Hai Ye Gustakh’ at Alhamra Art Centre on Friday to rediscover sub-continent’s most prestigious short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto.

The two-hour play, written by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Madeeha Gauhar, throws light on those aspects of Manto which generally are not highlighted: his political insight, the attitude he was met by contemporary writers in Pakistan, the trials he faced and his stories not so popular.

Before the performance, Mr Nadeem said that the play was part of Manto’s centennial celebrations. He said Ajoka had always tried to straighten up the history when it came to the facts and that was why it had discovered those angles of Bhagat Singh and Dara Shikoh through its plays which were the part of their rediscovery process.

The play covers the events after Manto’s migration to Pakistan in 1948.

Manto had migrated because of family pressure as his wife and relatives had already gone to Pakistan, and his disillusionment at the Hindu-Muslim tensions in Bombay which had adversely affected the atmosphere of the film industry.

The play opens with Manto’s journey from India to Pakistan and his impressions of the communal riots which are reflected in his writings on partition. The enactment of scenes from these writings is followed by the hostile reception Manto gets both from the rigid Left and the intolerant Right and a conservative establishment.

The play shows how Manto is denied a decent job. He was given a share in an ice factory when he applied for a printing press. He is denounced by the leftists as a reactionary enemy of the people while the rightist accuse him of being pornographer and a communist lackey.

While Manto is harassed and persecuted by the courts and the press, and exploited by the publishers, he fondly remembers his years in Bombay and his close friend Shyam. Manto was played by Naseem Abbas and he carried Manto’s character extremely well. The slides of old Lahore and Bombay shown through projector and old Indian film songs of those times such as Tu Mera Chand Mein Teri Chandani’ add flavour to the performance.

In the play Manto is visited by characters from his stories like ‘Khuda ki Qasam, ‘Khol do’, Kal Saveray Jo Ankh Meri Khuli’, ‘License’, ‘ Letters to Uncle Sam’ , ‘Thanda Gosht’ and ‘ Toba Tek Singh’.

The non-ticketed performance would also be staged on Saturday (today) at Alhamra.