mantoSaadat Hasan Manto and his stories continue to inspire and evoke people from varied backgrounds around the world. Now, Toni Usman, a Norwegian of Pakistani origin, has adapted Manto’s short story, Thanda Gosht, into a 25-minute long film called Sard.

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“I have tried to take the liberties a filmmaker can legitimately take while staying true to the text as well as Manto’s spirit in its totality,” he says.
Sard aims to depict the collective madness that accompanied the partition. Unfortunately, partition on various grounds continues to afflict human societies, says Usman.

He makes a point that Manto remains relevant as he is a symbol of free speech as well as a victim of censorship even in his death. “For instance, the provocative epitaph he himself authored for his grave was replaced by a less contemptuous one by his own family. His family justifiably feared that the provocative epitaph might infuriate fanatics. Likewise, the Charlie Hebdo episode on the one hand, and flogging of a Saudi blogger, on the other, has triggered a global debate on the contours of free expression. Manto was implicated in court cases both by the colonial authorities as well as post-colonial state. The government wanted Manto to lie but he could not write and speak anything other than the truth,” says Toni Usman.

“My fascination with Manto has many reasons. Manto explores themes that are both familiar and complex. Often what is familiar is hard to come to grips with. Manto does it artistically. I find his honesty and bravery and his trust in human nature indeed inspiring as well as uniquely filmatic,” he says. Usman believes that Manto’s wit and capacity for satire is another reason to get inspired. He takes Manto as a “master satirist”, who could laugh at himself. “And here lies the true progressive in Manto: unless we are able to laugh at ourselves, we would not change.”

The language of the film is going to be Urdu with Norwegian subtitles and it will be shown in June in Oslo.

Link to article: Manto in Oslo