When Manto's wit regaled audience

Bold theatre

Saadat Hasan Manto was a prolific short-story writer who carved a niche for himself in the world of letters. The individualistic style in which he attempted to display sensitive issues and emotions related to religion, identity and humanity amongst many others, continues to garner universal praise in the literary world.

 In an attempt to bring alive some of Manto’s works, third year students of the Nat­ional School of Drama rece­ntly put up a play Bitter Fruits. It was an artistic compilation of stories from Manto wherein director Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry gave a glimpse of the mass migration, wars, rapes, loot and plunder, loss, defeated sexuality and much more. 

She tells Metrolife, “Manto is very raw, visceral and earthy. In a certain way he rejects hypocrisy, the moral and social framework of a bourgeoisie and brings out the compassion in humanity; which I purport to bring forward with this play.”While the dark and dingy ambience on the sets generated the desired mood for the audience, the director worked hard to bring forward the plight of the characters with respect to their clothes, the mud, the food items, the broken car and the shady street lights. Accompanying the play was a group of musicians, who excellently intensified the emotions of different scenes enacted and added to the human element of the performance.  

Speaking of its compositions, one story followed the love between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, putting in focus the issue of inter-religion marriages and the concept of converting from one’s religion after marriage. Another story detailed the experiences of a repeatedly raped woman and yet another of a man who accidentally attempts to have sex with a dead woman.

In the backdrop of the recent earthquake in Nepal, which left in its wake massive devastation and loss of lives, Chowdhry made a very laudable attempt to poignantly bring forward the mindset of the victims of such natural calamities. The sheer havoc, the confusion and the ultimate suffering that people experience, makes them resort to crimes and heinous actions, which in turn raises questions on their humanity and their very existence.

The concluding act of the play left the audience both teary-eyed and shocked. While people praised and appreciated the director’s attempts at highlighting social issues, the promising performance of the actors were considered equally phenomenal. 

“The materials used in the play like mud and food items, were very peculiar from the works of other directors that we’ve worked with. The language used in the play was very raw and unusual. Having performed it on stage, I feel that I have grown as a theatre artiste,” said Gandharv Dewan, an actor in the play.  

While Chowdhry has previously worked with some experienced and talented actors, it was her first encounter with students of theatre. 

“It was a lovely experience to work with this wonderful group of 10 young actors. It was a challenging and meaningful journey bound on trust from both sides, which can be credited to the success of the play,” she told Metrolife. 

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