Some Lesser Known Facts About Saadat Hasan Manto
- Did Saadat Hasan Manto drink alcohol?: Yes
- He was born into a middle-class Muslim family in the predominantly Sikh city of Ludhiana in British India.
- Manto was ethnically a Kashmiri, and he was so proud of being a Kashmiri that once he wrote to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that being ‘beautiful’ was the synonym of being ‘Kashmiri’.
- In 1933, at the age of 21, his life took a turn when he met Abdul Bari Alig (a scholar and polemic writer) in Amritsar. It was Abdul Bari Alig who encouraged him to read French and Russian authors.
- It was through studying the western authors that he learned the art of short story writing, and in his early 20s, he translated French, Russian and English stories into Urdu.
- His first story was Sarguzasht-e-Aseer (A Prisoner’s Story), which was an Urdu translation of Victor Hugo’s The Last Day of a Condemned Man.
- Usually, Manto preferred writing an entire story in one sitting. Most of his subjects tended to be those on the fringes of society.
- While studying at the Aligarh Muslim University, Manto got associated with Indian Progressive Writers’ Association (IPWA).
- It was there at the Aligarh Muslim University that he wrote his 2nd story “Inquilab Pasand,” which was published in Aligarh magazine in March 1935.
- In 1941, he joined the Urdu Service of All India Radio where he published over 4 collections of radio plays- Aao, Manto Ke Drame, Janaze and Teen Moti Auraten.
- In 1942, due to some differences with the director of the All India Radio, he left his job and returned to Bombay, and again started working with the film industry, which was his best phase in screenwriting giving films like Shikari, Aatth Din, Mirza Ghalib and Chal Chal Re Naujawan.
- After the partition of India in 1947, Manto moved to Pakistan in January 1948. Initially, Manto had been implacably opposed to partition and had even refused to go to the newly formed Pakistan. One evening when he was drinking with his Hindu colleagues, one of them remarked- were it not for the fact they were friends, he would have killed Manto. The next day, Manto decided to leave the country and took his family to Lahore.
- While in Lahore, Manto got associated with several prominent intellectuals including Nasir Kazmi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and Ahmad Rahi among others. These intellectuals would gather at Lahore’s iconic Pak Tea House and get involved in passionate political arguments and literary debates.
- In the early 1950s, Manto wrote essays entitled “Letters to Uncle Sam” concerning Pakistan’s fate in the international relations. In one such essay, he predicted a future where everything – music and art, literature and poetry – would be censored. In another letter to Uncle Sam, he wrote, “You would not believe, uncle, that despite being the author of 20, 22 books, I do not own a house to live.”
- At the fag end of his life, Manto got addicted to alcohol, which became the reason behind his death in January 1955.
- Six months earlier to his death, Manto had composed his own epitaph, which would read “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto and with him lie buried all the secrets and mysteries of the art of story writing. Under mounds of earth, he lies, still wondering who among the two is the greater story writer – God or he.” However, it was never used on his tombstone.
- On the 50th anniversary of his death in January 2005, Manto was commemorated on a Pakistani postage stamp.
- After Manto’s death, his life story became a subject of intense introspection and discussion.
- On occasion of his birth centenary, Danish Iqbal’s stage Play ‘Ek Kutte Ki Kahani’ presented Manto in a new perspective.
- In 2015, a Pakistani biographical drama film titled “Manto” directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat was released.
- In 2017, a Bollywood film was made with the same title directed by Nandita Das and starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manto.
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