Bringing life into words


Bringing life into words

Power-packed: Heeba Shah in Manto Ismat Hazir Hain.

Motley couldn’t have picked a better day to pay tribute to these two Urdu writers as the day was being observed as Mother Language Day. Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto, splendid writers of their time, were unabashedly written off by their critics as obscene writers. But in their eyes, their words, were more ‘realistic’ than obscene. There was a time when both these writers met at a trial for their respective stories that were termed ‘too sexual in nature.’ Instead of apologising for it, they stood by their stories and fought.

Picking out four short stories, the director asked the actors to simply read out the play in its original text. “Words have a way of being explanatory even if one does not know the language. The actors will enact and recite one character from each story, so that the audience will feel they have not only heard the story but have also seen it,” said Naseeruddin Shah.

The four short stories, though different, were perfectly interlinked, which made one feel that it was one story itself. If Boo (scent of a woman) and Lihaaf (quilt) portrayed the sexuality of different women. The Dog of Titwal questioned as to which was more obscene, the realities of war or what was written by these writers? The evening then concluded with the fourth short story, In the name of those married women, which described the hilarious account of Ismat Apa during her fight in Lahore High Court along with Manto.

Each one of the actors were brilliant. Compared to last time when they were performed the City, one could see how much they have grown and matured. Naseeruddin Shah sure did make an impact through them. Minimalist props like a bed and a chair, period costumes and the lighting created the mood of an era. A special mention should go to the otherwise reserved Heeba Shah, who was zestful as a young girl in Lihaaf.

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