Clash of the titans

The writings of Urdu author Saadat Hasan Manto have been the subject of films and plays, yet, there are many sides to his personality that need to be explored. Hindi playwright and theatre personality Mathura Kalauny’s latest offering Mera Dushman Manto focuses on a fairly unknown aspect of the writer’s life. However, Kalauny does not eulogise Manto; he offers an insight into Manto through the perspective of one of the literary master’s contemporaries, Upendranath Ashk. “I read Ashk’s biography Manto: Mera Dushman during my youth. Ashk’s Manto was not likeable, he was irritating and was somewhat of a shallow man. According to Ashk, there was no finesse in Manto’s writing. Manto was aware, however, that the literary world considered his writing as crude,” says Kalauny, who has produced and directed 30 plays, authored 21 plays, 150 short stories, and four novelettes.

Mathura Kalauny

Mathura Kalauny  

Kalauny says Manto wrote during turbulent times, though it wasn’t as if he was the only great author of his times. “There were a galaxy of writers, the likes of which we may never see again: Krishna Sobti, Krishna Chandra, Rajendra Singh Bedi, Khwaza Ahmed Abbas and many more besides Ashk and Manto. My play Mera Dushman Manto is not about all these great authors but the two egoistic ones, Ashk and Manto.”

Speaking about the literary greatness of Upendra Nath Ashk, Kalauny says: “He was the first Hindi dramatist to receive the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He was hired by All India Radio (AIR) as a playwright and Hindi adviser in 1941 where Manto was already working for their Urdu service. There was no love lost between these two great authors. Ashk was critical of Manto’s writing, and Manto was dismissive of Ashq’s story telling skills. Manto sought every conceivable opportunity to confront him. The play Mera Dushman Manto is dramatisation of representative short stories of Ashk and Manto, and a glimpse of Manto’s life through the eyes of Upendranath Ashk.”

While the relationship between Ashk and Manto forms the backdrop to the play, Kalauny has compared two of Manto’s short stories: Khushiya and Blouse with two of Ashk’s stories: Dachi and Ubal. “Dachi was a new genre Hindi short story of that time. The story is evocative and lucidly brings out the softer feelings of human nature hitherto found only in Sanskrit literature. Khushiya is a story of a lowly pimp who suddenly discovers self respect. Ubal and Blouse are stories about teenage domestic workers struggling to cope with hormonal changes in their bodies.” Kalauny has included a fifth story: Manto’s License. “It is a typical Manto short story which has a hard hitting ending that leaves the audience shell shocked. And of course, the skirmish between the authors adds to the drama of Mera Dushman Manto.

The cast includes Aloka Chatterjea, Amit Aggarwal, Sagnik Sinha, Aniruddha Roy, Harshal Dwivedi, Debanjana, Abhishek Sultania, Sandeep Papnai, Maulik Pandey, Amit Kalra, Anjali, Reetesh Ranjan, Shakti Deora, Shefali Singh, and Shweta Gupta.

Mera Dushman Manto, presented by Kalayan Theatre, will be staged at Alliance Francaise, Vasanthnagar, on May 10 at 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm and on May 18 and 19 at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield, at 3 pm and 6.30 pm. Call 9900566480.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 8:27:53 AM |

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