My love for Manto, has been more than evident on my blog. So on my visit to Prithvi Book Shop 'Paperback' when I saw a Film CD with the title 'Kaal Shalwaar', the curiosity that followed was obvious. I had to watch it. A film based on Manto's Short Story has to be something. Books, plays and now films, where will my obsession end.
This is a film produced by NIFD on Saddat Hassan Manto's Short story 'Kaali Shalwaar' with characters and references from other short stories Mahmmod bhai, Babu Gopinath and Hatak (Sugandhi). The start cast boasts of some of the best artists in the country, they are not stars because that's for Bollywood but actors Sadiya Siddiqui, Irfan Khan, Key Key Menon who ruled the art films and Doordarshan through their memorable performances.
The movie is simple and straight, with soulful performance by Sadiya Siddiqui who brings alive the character of Sultana. A small town prostitute moves to Mumbai, but her dreams and desires simple though are still too big to achieve in such a big city. Very innocently she utters tippani (comments) or abuses in English like Rascal, What a life! adding a tinge of curiosity to an illiterate character who knows very little English but uses it aptly and with perfect accent.
Only thing I felt was the Director failed to show the dimensions of the character Manto played by Key Key Menon, who appears as a character artist from time to time. Both Key Key as well as Manto the character were wasted, and the burden of emoting and observing was left on Sadiya herself. She solely carries the film on her shoulders with some support from Irfan Khan who appears in a few shots. Even Vrajesh Hirjee was a wrong choice to play Mahmmod bhai, he just doesn't fit the bill. Because the way Manto interpreted the character seemed more than his moustache and Director's vision was limited to the moustache.
It was a great co-incidence that I met Sadiya on a flight after watching the film, and I could have a moment with her to congratulate her on her work in the film and how much I loved it. Her smile stated how glad she was to receive the compliment. If Manto can be credited for the Short Story then Sadiya needs to be credited for the film. The vision of an artist can only be understood by another. So here were my two bits on the film, do watch it for Manto and Sadiya.
Mir Taqi Mir's couplets along with Manto's cynicism beautifully depict the empty vastness of life. They are surely to strike a chord with the viewer, here are some:
Yahan ka koi nahin.
Is shahar main pahoonchne ke liye kai nishaan banane padte hain, na jaane kitne nakshe banane bulane padte hain. Nahin to pooch liya karo, poochne se to jannat naseeb ho jati hai.
Kehte hain Manto ki kalam main syahi nahin tezaab hai. Paas jao toh cheente girne ka darr hai. Aag muttta hai. Kahani na ho, hain RDX ho gayi.
Keemtein aasman se thoonkti hain hamari kamai pe.
Sadhuon ki sohbat aur randion ke satsang main, dono main fareb hi fareb hai