An Unforgettable Artistic Experience
For a film to be able to grip your interest and keep it intact for each and every second that it moves, is the greatest achievement, and Manto is one such film, which without any contemporary songs/dances or glamorous dresses, keeps you focused for the entire two hours. And not even that but you take it home with you; a head full of the dialogues of the film and its depth. I am still awestruck at its beauty, uniqueness and excellence.
The biopic on one of the greatest Urdu writers, Saadat Hassan Manto, takes you right at the starting credit. And you are sure that what you are about to witness for the next two hours is surely nothing commonplace. The rest is history !! 'Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh' playing in the background, as the movie starts, will give you goose bumps !!
Manto's best afsanas are picked up smartly and dramatized amidst the main plot that revolves around the writer's life; his struggles, conflicts in life, illness, addictions, controversies and all the different aspects of his professional and personal life. Even what goes in his mind and his fight with his astral self.
The performances are the most admirable feature of the entire film. Each and every actor portrays the character with full intensity and that is one reason why you are completely lost in the world of Manto imagining yourself to be one of his old admirers (even if you have never read Urdu literature before - and this comes from my firsthand experience). There is a long cast and most of the actors have brief appearances. The performances of Saba Qamar, Shamoon Abbasi, Nadia Afghan, Rehan Sheikh, Hina Bayat omph up the masterpiece.
There are sequences spreadout throughout the film that awestruck you completely, making it a great piece of art. Nimra Bucha plays his wild inner self, who makes appearances at various points setting the ground for his behavior. The depth of the dialogues and the connection between Manto and his astral self is powerful.
Though an intense serious movie, it does not fail to make you laugh at places where the writer very cautiously uses witty phrases and sequences. One such with Mahira Khan and Asfar Rehman is especially true in this regard - it's humorous and refreshing in the dark Manto world. The movie is a blend of places where you could shed tears and also take a laughing break.
Sarmad's acting genius is revealed with all its might and power. After he receives electric shock treatment at a mental hospital, the way he utters words with difficulty and the way Sania Saeed (who plays Begum Manto) reacts to his condition is worth applause. Other actors appear for brief periods of time but leave an imprint since each and every sequence of the movie adds up to its brilliance. One such worth mentioning performance is that of Faisal Qureshi, who plays a voice actor at the radio and tremendously voice overs all the characters in the drama.
It is not only the story telling art that the film has surpassed but the entire cinematography and screenplay is extraordinarily amazing. As mentioned above, the cinematic genius of the movie is evident right from the starting credit and ends with the ending screen credit with the appearances of Hamayun Saeed and Mahira Khan.
For an industry that has been stagnant for years, a revival through such movies as Manto, is miraculous !!! Only mature cinema can produce such a piece of brilliance. It is therefore absolutely a miracle !!
Personal Note: Have you ever witnessed people clapping at the end of a movie show? I mean, it is a ritual for theatre/stage performances but not movies. The elation of the audience was quite evident on the second day of the film when they clapped in applause as the movie ended. This itself speaks for the appreciation the film is gathering.
And my final word, it has imbued in me a deep desire to move to Urdu Literature - something I had never even thought of doing before. Such is the beauty of this amazing film !!! From now on, we should say 'Jis nay Manto nahi waikhi, o jamiya he nahi' !!