Saadat Hasan Manto – The Man Behind the Writer

Saadat Hasan Manto was an Indo-Pakistani author, playwright, and writer. He was famous for writing the bare truths that no writer even had guts to talk about. He regarded as one of the greatest short story writers in the history of South Asia. Manto is also well known for his many dark and revealing stories about the devastation left behind in the aftermath of the partition following the 1947 independence from British rule.

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Life and Career

  • Manto was born on 11th May 1912 into a Muslim family of lawyers in Paproudi village, Samrala, located in Ludhiana district, British Punjab. He had Kashmiri ancestry and was proud of it.
  • When Manto was 21 years old, he met a polemic writer and scholar Abdul Bari Alig, in Amritsar. Abdul suggested that Manto read French and Russian authors and that would help him discovers his real talents. He soon produced an Urdu translation of ‘The Last Day of a Condemned Man’ written by Victor Hugo. He later began working as part of the editorial staff at a Ludhiana daily called Masawat.
  • In February 1934, Manto enrolled at Aligarh Muslim University to pursue graduation. There he got acquainted with the Indian Progressive Writers’ Association.
  • In 1941, Saadat began working as a writer for All India Radio’s Urdu service. This period was one of the most productive ones for Manto as a writer. He wrote many short stories like Dhuan; radio play collections like Janaze, Manto ke Drame, Teen Auraten, and Aao; and essays like Afsane aur Dramey, Manto ke Mazamin, and Manto ke Afsane. In July 1942, he had a disagreement with All India Radio’s director which caused him to leave the job and make his way to Bombay.
  • In Bombay, Manto began working in the movie industry and wrote screenplays for different films like Chal Chal Re Naujawan, Aatth Din, and Mirza Ghalib. He continued writing short stories as well.
  • In January 1948, Manto migrated to Pakistan along with his family after India was partitioned in 1947. In Pakistan, Manto lived in Lahore and got associated with many well-known intellectuals like Nasir Kazmi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, and Ahmad Rahi. He used to meet them at the iconic place called Pak Tea House in Lahore and was a participant in some of the fiercest literary arguments along with impassioned political debates.
  • All in all, Saadat Hasan Manto’s works include 20 short stories, one novel, two sketches, three essays, five radio dramas and a handful of film scripts.

 

Saadat Hasan Manto – Death

He passed away on 18th January 1955 at the young age of 42 years, due to alcoholism.

 

Trivia

  • Saadat’s stories exposed the hypocrisies and taboos of Indo-Pakistan society. As a result, he was tried in court 6 times for obscenity. This included 3 times in British India before independence and 3 times after 1947 in Pakistan. He was however never convicted.
  • He predicted the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan.
  • On the 50th death anniversary of Manto, on January 18 2005, he was honored on a postage stamp of Pakistan.
  • On 14th August 2012, the independence day of Pakistan, Saadat was posthumously given the Nishan-e-Imtiaz award by the Pakistani government.
  • Manto’s life has been the subject of many debates and discussions. An upcoming movie directed by Nandita Das will feature Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Saadat Hasan Manto.


Saadat Hasan Manto – Stories

Here are some of the stories written by Manto –

  • Mottled Dawn
  • Bitter Fruit
  • Meena Bazar
  • Manto – Select Short Stories
  • Toba Tek Singh Aur Anya Kahaniyaan
  • Roz Ek Kahani
  • Bombay Stories
  • Mis Teen Wala
  • Stars from Another Sky
  • Rajo aur Miss Phariya
  • Thanda Ghosht Aur Anya Kahaniyaan
  • Gunaghar Manto
  • Teen Moti Auratein
  • Madam Dicosta
  • My Name is Radha
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