Manto’s birth centenary today
LAHORE: Long after the bashing he got from the left, right and the centre, an uninhibited bash celebrating the genius is still in the making exactly a century after the birth of the ever-ironic and crafty, and ‘controversial’, Saadat Hasan Manto. Today marks the master storyteller’s 100th anniversary.
As the big day neared, the momentum has picked up a little in recent days, with newspapers coming out with special Manto supplements. In Lahore, his birthday today is going to be marked with a book launch at Alhamra, The Mall — just a few minutes’ walk from his Laxmi Mansion home.
It is a bilingual book covering his writings, with Ayesha Jalal, renowned scholar and a niece of Manto, the key speaker. She will be joined by Kishwar Naheed, who is going to speak on ‘Manto and women’ and Asghar Nadeem Syed. Salman Shahid and Samia Mumtaz are going to present selected readings from Manto’s works.
In Islamabad, the Academy of Letters is hosting a programme to mark the 100th birth anniversary. The academy’s chairman, Abdul Hameed, said: “We are planning weeklong Manto festival in a few months’ time.”
In Lahore, the Beaconhouse National University is to hold a Manto event after the summer holidays. The Film and Television Department students at the BNU are working on documentaries on Manto, and they are also dramatising some of his stories.
Ajoka theatre is going to organise a theatre festival dedicated to the short story writer from May 14 to 17. The group is aided in its effort by the Information and Culture Department, Punjab, and the Lahore Arts Council. “It (the theatre festival) is a coordinated effort and our input to the festival is substantial,” Secretary Culture Punjab, Muhyuddin Wani told Dawn.
He was asked why cannot a figure of Manto’s stature inspire centenary celebrations by the eight local arts councils all over the province that fall under the Punjab Arts Council’s umbrella. Mr Wani said a ‘Hall of Fame’ was being built at Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall, which will include a tribute to Manto among other big names related to culture. The Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture would dedicate its routine three hour transmission to Manto today.
“We cannot depend on solely the government to celebrate personalities such as Manto,” responded poet Iftikhar Arif when he was asked if the centenary has got the kind of official attention in the country that it deserved. According to him what a true remembrance of literary assets required was commitment and dedication from people.
“I am so happy that my father’s centenary is being celebrated not only in Pakistan but in India, too,” said Nusrat Jalal, Manto’s daughter, talking to Dawn in Lahore. She said she would be happier if her illustrious father’s works was included in the curriculum in colleges and universities.
According to a Pakistan National Council of Arts’ Lahore official, they have not planned to arrange any function in this regard.
— By Shoaib Ahmed with reporting by Jamal Shahid in Islamabad.