The celebrated short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto, who left an indelible mark on the subcontinent with his writings on the terrible wounds inflicted by Partition, will be celebrated in a special way in the Capital in this centenary year.

An Urdu play titled Ek Mulaqat Manto Se, reflecting the life and times of the great story writer, who was deeply anguished by Partition, will be staged at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library here today (Friday).

Manto’s legacy will be highlighted through an exhibition at the same venue. Also, leading Indian as well as Pakistani literary figures would be speaking about Manto’s extraordinary contribution to literature at a two-day seminar at NMML beginning this Friday.

Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust and NMML are hosting the event.

According to SAHMAT founding member Ram Rahman, the seminar is being organised to enlighten people about this multi-faceted personality who shared a warm camaraderie with a number of old friends in the Bombay film industry. “He was a great pal of Ashok Kumar. Pran was one of the actors he was closely associated with while he was living in the country. He wrote film scripts and worked at All India Radio in Delhi for two years. In fact, he wrote profiles of Pran, Devika Rani and Sitara Devi.”

Manto’s association with stalwarts of the Hindi film industry would have created extraordinary works but he migrated to Pakistan in 1948.

According to Rakshanda Jalil, who has painstakingly put together the festival, Manto’s personal legacy is not merely confined to Urdu literature. “His writings are famous in the Devnagari script and included in the curriculum of one of Delhi University’s courses in English. This seminar will assess his legacy and not see his work in one category. We will examine his contribution in the field of literature in a critical, academic, historical and sociological light. He was a visionary and wrote about Pakistan’s tilt towards the U.S.”

Shedding light on the Urdu play, director-cum-actor Ashwath Bhatt, who has introduced Manto to thousands of people in the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Libya, says the performance will highlight Manto’s thinking on his treatment of the tragedy of Partition. An attempt has been made to adapt his articles in the play.

“If Manto, who hated didacticism, was asked if he had a message for the people of the sub-continent, he would surely say, ‘Yes, make peace’. The main reason for enacting a play based on the articles penned by Manto is to portray a correct picture of one of the most controversial writers of the progressive movement. It is heartening to see people feel positive about Manto. The play’s script shuttles between Saadat Hasan commenting on Manto and vice versa.”

Manto’s life was in public domain but to some extent he was responsible for that as he would openly share his personal life with readers. “In fact, he enjoyed people commenting on his personality.”

Describing Manto as a champion of woman liberation, he says the former was deeply traumatised by the violence during Partition, especially against woman.

An exhibition displaying colour and black-and-white pictures on Manto’s life and work will run on both days at NMML.

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