“Saadat Hassan Manto-Hayat Aur Karnamay”
By Upender Ambardar
Premi, a noted Urdu scholar and a writer is a name familiar to a wide circle of
Urdu readers. The wealth of written material he has left behind in the form of
books, research articles, shot stories, essays, literary criticism, allegories
besides translations and travelogues is a veritable treasure trove in the world
of creative Urdu literature. His wider canvas and literary genius has resulted
in remarkable and well-recognised literary works. Infact, his works have
contributed immensely to the growth, development and enrichment of the Urdu
"Sadat Hassan Mantoo-Hayat Aur Karnamay"
Works) is one such highly acclaimed literary work of Dr. Brij Premi.
piece, which is based on incisive and in-depth research work, has won him the
paeans of praise from all shades of the Urdu scholars all over the country. The
said book of 375 pages thoughtfully structured in various sections and chapters
reveals and shares various startling facts and facets of Mantoo's life and
literary works. The author at the very beginning enlightens the reader about
Mantoo's Kashmiri descent and his excessive emotional affinity with Kashmir.
This fact Mantoo himself proclaims time and again in his writings with a
profound sense of pride : "I am a Kashmiri. Long back my ancestors
Punjab, where they embraced Islam".
admiration and adoration for
is inherent and sentimental, which is collaborated by his revelation in an
article: "I am also a Kashmiri...and I have endless love for fellow
also comes to know that Krishan Chander, the legendary Urdu writer and
Mantoo's literary companion also endorses it by his assertions: "Mantoo
like Nehru and Iqbal is a Kashmiri Pandit....By his disposition, temperament,
features and spirits, Mantoo even today is a Kashmiri Pandit." Mantoo's
Saraswat Brahman pedigree is also affirmed by his wife Safia Begum in one of her
letters to the author. As investigated by the author Dr. Premi, the surname
'Mantoo' owes its origin to a Kashmiri word 'Manut', meaning one
and a half seer (a Kashmiri weight measurement). Mantoo's ancestors would take
this weight of the produce as levy from the public as a part of the tax
collection. As detailed in the book, one of the ancestors of Mantoo namely
Khawaja Rehmat Ullah, who dealt in Pashmina and Shawl business is believed to
have migrated from Kashmir to Lahore (Punjab) in the beginning of nineteenth
century and thereafter to Amritsar where he finally settled down.
It was at
Samrala, a place in district Ludhiana where Mantoo was born on
11th May 1912
and also had his initial education. His father Moulvi Ghulam Hassan had twelve
issues by his two wives. During his student days, Mantoo envisaged little
interest in the studies but somehow managed to pass his matriculation
examination from Amritsar. Influenced by progressive literary movement and the
ideology of Marx and Lenin, Bari Aleeg, Mantoo's mentor and preceptor was
instrumental in moulding his thinking and character. It resulted in the stock
piling of a large number of books on Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Gorky, Pushkin,
Chekov, October Russian Revolution, Oscar Wilde, Maupassant and Victor Hugo in
Mantoo's room, named 'Darul-Hamar'. The author further mentions
that Mantoo's youthful imagination was also fired by the revolutionary
conviction of Bhagat Singh, whose photograph adorned Mantoo's room shelf joined
by his communist friends, Mantoo's said room was the hub of animated discussions
about the great October Russian Revolution and Marxist Ideology.
matriculation, Mantoo enrolled himself for F.A. Studies at Aligarh Muslim
University but impending economic constraints and failing health coerced him to
discontinue his studies. After having been diagnosed to be suffering from T.B.
disease, Mantoo decided to go to Batote (J&K
State) sanatorium for convalescence, where he stayed for three months.
spell binding natural grandeur, picturesque surroundings and Mantoo's
infatuation with a native shepherdess named, 'Bego' find their
reflections in Mantoo's well-known short stories entitled "Ek khat",
"Bego", "Misri Ki Dali", "Mausam Ki Shararat" and "Lalteen"
association with a progressive daily newspaper of Amritsar "Masawat"
heralded his journalistic career. Subsequently due to the financial stringencies
resulting from the death of his father and also out of his flawed relationships
with some of his close relatives, forced young Mantoo to move to Lahore, where
he joined Lala Karam Chand's newspaper "Paras" on monthly wages of Rs
during this time that besides compiling translated short stories of Gorky,
Mantoo himself translated certain Russian short stories for a special number of
his economic constraints and indifferent health, the author Dr. Brij Premi
lucidly traces Mantoo's journey from Lahore to Bombay at the young age of twenty
years. In order to satiate his literary hunger, Mantoo with renewed will and
vigour associated himself with different cine periodicals and film companies of
In January 1936, he started as a columnist-cum-editor in Nazeer Ludhianavis'
cine weekly "Musavir", on monthly wages of Rs forty only and later-on
shifted to "Karwan", another periodical at Bombay.
subsequent association as a dialogue writer, with Bombay's 'Imperial Film
Company' and later on with 'Film City' and 'Hindustan Cine Tune' is also covered
by the author.
period, Mantoo wrote the screen play of his first feature film 'Apni
Nagariya', which was based on his own short story 'Keechad'. The
film turned out to be a box office hit.
marriage in 1939 with Safya Begum who belonged to an old Kashmiri family of
Lahore but settled in Africa, the birth of his first child Arif in 1940 and his
mother's demise in 1940 itself are well documented by the author, Dr. Brij
disillusionment with life because of his mother's death and his deteriorating
health forced him to say good-bye to Bombay and seek employment as a script
writer in the Drama section of All India Radio in 1941 on a salary of Rs 150 per
month. Urdu legendaries like Krishna Chander, Upender Nath Ashq, Noom Meem
Rashid, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Rajander Singh Bedi and Behnaz Lucknawi were his
associates there. During his one and a half year's stint at All India Radio
Delhi, Manto wrote more than one hundred and fifty radio plays and features, the
notable among them being "Jaeb Katra", Neeli Ragen", "Journalist",
besides "Intezar Ka Doosra Rukh". All these details have been
revealed with graphic description by the author.
caused by indifference of his colleagues due to professional jealousy and the
death of his lone son Arif in July 1942 compelled Mantoo to quit the job at All
India Radio and to shift to Bombay once again on 7th August 1942, where he
subsequently joined 'Filmistan', the film company on a salary of Rs 300 per
month. It was at the Filmistan that he scripted his first film under its banner
by the name of 'Chal Chal Rae Naujawan'. It was followed by the
release of his two more films 'Ghumand' and 'Mirza Ghalib'.
As clearly indicated by the author, Mantoo was greatly influenced by the
poetry of Ghalib, the fact which is collaborated by the frequent use of Ghalib's
poetry by Mantoo in his various writings.
equation with the management of Filmistan and the rosy picture of better
professional prospectus at
(Pakistan) persuaded Mantoo to migrate to
in January 1948, where his family had already migrated after the partition of
the country. There, he again associated himself with the film industry and his
first film in
was 'Beli', which was followed by his another film 'Doosri
As per the
author Dr. Brij Premi, the enormous devastation, violence and bloodshed
inflicted on the people of the subcontinent in the aftermath of the partition in
1947 forced Mantoo to pour-out his crying soul in his short stories. As
reflected in them, he outrightly rejected the narrow minded religious and
communal approach of the fundamentalist forces in both the countries. His
daringly written post partition literary work in Pakistan is indicative of the
view that Mantoo was deeply saddened by the events that followed the partition
of the country.
realities of the partition of the country are vividly reflected in Mantoo's
writings, in which the hard hitting denunciation of the communal forces is quite
evident. Mantoo's unorthodox look, coupled with his pragmatic and rational
approach is reflected in his short stories like 'Kali Shalvar', 'Boo',
'Dhuvan', 'Thanda Goshat', 'Khol Doh' and 'Oopur Neechay Darmiyan'
etc. These creative writings infuriated and antagonized both the
colonial English rulers before independence and the Pakistani authorities after
Mantoo's short stories also have a word of sympathy for the downtrodden
oppressed and those leading a life of squalor and misery. Mantoo examines the
issues related with the common man with sentimental compassion and fearless
assertion. His humanistic approach, championing of the cause of the proletariat
and his socialist and leftist leanings are quite evident in his writings. Even
after his migration to Pakistan, Mantoo did not discard and surrender his
secular and progressive credentials. He remained committed to them to the last.
As revealed by the author, a combination of successive setbacks, indifference of
his close associates at Bombay, uncertainties and insecurities of life and
fickleness of the 'Dame Luck' to favour him forced Mantoo to migrate to Lahore
the book "Sadat Hassan Mantoo—Hayat Aur Karmay", is an outstanding
work of Dr. Brij Premi. It has rightly been acclaimed by the critics as a
magnificent, comprehensive and in-depth research work on the life and works of
Mantoo. The book is a valuable addition to the Urdu literature.
is a Keen student of
Culture and Tradition. His pioneering work on KASHMIRI PANDIT DIASPORA IN
HIMACHAL PRADESH has been widely acclaimed. He has also translated many Kashmiri
and Urdu writers into English.