Free Press Journal

Manto! Coming to terms with ‘partition’ to fighting legal battles, here’s the real story of legendary author Saadat Hasan Manto

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Manto, is a biopic of author Saadat Hasan Manto, which is releasing this Friday. The movie was premiered at Cannes Film Festival this year. Manto stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Duggal in lead roles, with noted actors like Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and Ila Arun playing supporting roles in the film. While the movie will cover some parts of the Manto’s life, we are here to tell you everything about this legendary author.

Saadat Hassan Manto was born on 11 May 1912 in a Muslim family in Paproudi village of Samrala, in the Ludhiana district of the Punjab. His father was a judge of a local court. He studied at Aligarh Muslim University. In 1933, at the age of 21, Manto met Abdul Bari Alig in Amritsar, Abdul Bari Alig was a writer who also encouraged Manto to find his true talents and read Russian and French authors.

Later he started writing and publishing plays and short stories early in his life. While in Mumbai, he also wrote for Bollywood and fell in love with the city which also became the setting for several of his stories. In 1941 Manto moved to Delhi where he used to write for Urdu service of All India Radio. He spent 18 months in Delhi which also proved to be his most productive periods because he published four radio plays. In 1942 he left the job in AIR and went back to Bombay where he again started writing for Bollywood films.


Before Independence, Manto faced a lot of obscenity charges for his short stories like Kali Salwar, Bu and Dhuan, he faced 3 obscenity charges in India before partition and 3 in Pakistan after he settled in Pakistan. His stories used to feature characters from his real life experiences. Dealing with court was not Manto’s biggest problem but it was partition which troubled him and because of his trouble with partition he wrote some of his greatest stories such as Toba Tek Singh, Khol Do, Thanda Gosht among others.

Manto was aware of his religious identity after partition and thought of moving to Pakistan. He thought because of his religious identity Pakistan would provide better opportunities. His wife and children were already in Pakistan when partition was announced and Manto joined them in 1948.

In Pakistan Manto was charged under Section 292 of Pakistan Penal Code for his earlier offence. The trial ran for three years, from 1949 to 1952. However, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison by Magistrate First Class, Lahore. After fighting a long court battles and facing partition Manto died in 1955 at 42.

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