Mumbai: The city
surfaced in his stories. He even wrote scripts for its famous film
industry and starred in some movies. Now, 100 years after Saadat
Hasan Manto's birth, Mumbai is gearing up to remember the eventful
time that the legendary Urdu writer spent here.
Born May 11, 1912 in Samrala, Punjab, Manto arrived in Mumbai in
the 1940s and spent four to five years here. Though not much is
officially known about it, his writings provide adequate hints of
his sojourn here.
He lived in small, dark buildings spread across the congested
Grant Road, Byculla, Nagpada areas of southcentral parts of the
A series of events has been lined up now to mark his birth
centenary Friday, including one by the Mumbai Press Club, and
another by the socio-cultural organisation Urdu Markaz.
Senior film journalist, researcher and writer Rafique Baghdadi
said: "Manto's contribution to Urdu literature is remarkable."
Zubair Ansari of Urdu Markaz said, "The legendary writer merits a
befitting tribute on his birth centenary".
In his short life spanning barely 43 years, Manto left a legacy of
some of the most profound and popular contribution to Urdu
A short story writer, film and radio script writer and journalist,
in a professional career of less than two decades, Manto
bequeathed 22 collections of short stories, one novel, five
collections of radio plays, three collections of essays and two
collections of personal sketches.
Over the years, he was catapulted to fame with works "Boo", "Khol
Do", "Thanda Gosht", and his magnum opus, "Toba Tek Singh".
And Mumbai figured in his works.
In the biographical sketch of Nur Jehan, Manto writes: "I think I
arrived in Bombay on Aug 7, 1940, and my first meeting with
Shaukat (Syed Shaukar Hasan Rizvi) took place on 17 Adelphi
Chambers, Clare Road, which served both as office and his
His ever-popular story, "A Question of Honour" described in great
detail the places with which he was associated in the city, the
places he lived in, ate, visited during his few years here.
In "A Question of Honour", Manto mentions Mumbai's famous Arab
Gully: "Another street in the area was called Arab Gully, with
20-25 Arabs living there, all apparently in the pearl trade.
Others were Punjabis and Rampurias. I was in Arab Gally that I had
rented a room, which was so dark that the light has to be kept on
at all times. The monthly rent was exactly nine rupees, eight
Despite an early struggle, Manto was fortunate that the film
studios of that era recognised his gift for storytelling and he
landed with several scripts which later became movies.
They include "Keechad", "Apni Nagariya", "Begum", "Naukar", "Chal
Chal Re Naujawaan", "Kisaan Kanya", "Ghamandi", "Beli", "Mujhe
Paapi Kaho", "Doosri Kothi", "Shikaar", "Aath Din", "Aagosh" and "Mirza
He has also acted in a couple of films - "Eight Days" and "Chal
Chal Re Naujawan".
Considered one of the best Urdu short story writers of the 20th
century, Manto also developed a reputation for being the most
Known for penning topics which were considered social taboo in the
Indian and Pakistan society of those days, Manto was reviled and
revered in equal measure and often compared with D.H. Lawrence of
Manto's focus of writings ranged from the grim socio-economic
injustices prevailing in the pre-and-post-colonial subcontinent,
to the more controversial topics of love, sex, incest,
prostitution and the typical hypocrisy of a traditional
Long before the renowned artist M.F. Hussain came on the scene,
Manto was tried for obscenity half-a-dozen times, thrice in the
undivided British-ruled India and thrice after 1947 in the
post-Partition Pakistan. However, he escaped being convicted or
exiled for his bold thoughts and daring to espouse creative
freedom in that conservative era.
He was opposed and deeply pained by the Indian partition. He died
Jan 18, 1955, in Lahore, Pakistan. Only 42 years old, Manto was
survived by his wife Safiyah and three daughters, but the literary
void he left behind was difficult to fill.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)