Manto needs to be reinstated

Updated: Jul 28, 2019, 08:32 IST | Samiksha Mishra

Actors Shekhar Suman and Suchitra Krishnamoorthi revisit the life of prominent writer Saadat Hasan Manto in the upcoming play, Ek Haan

Manto needs to be reinstated
Shekhar Suman

It doesn't take much to step into the chappals of Saadat Hasan Manto: round glasses, a spotless white kurta, a lit cigarette or a pen hanging from his lips. When we meet actor Shekhar Suman, he's nailed the look. But, when we speak to him, we understand he's also got under the skin of the character. After playing the role of poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi in Ek Mulaqaat, Suman will play Manto in Randhir Ranjan Roy's upcoming production, Ek Haan. It follows Manto's interaction with Wazeera (played by Suchitra Krishnamoorthi), an Indian journalist, who travels to Pakistan after the Partition to interview him.

"Manto is an enigma," says Suman. "His stories, the characters he created, can be a part of himself or can be his imagination. But, the uncertainty and the mystery behind the writer of the profound stories intrigues me. This is also something we deal with in the play through Wazeera, who has come to interview him, and thinks that the characters Manto has written are about Manto himself. Manto needs to be reinstated, and it is our duty in our creative pursuits to take it upon ourselves [to do that]."

Suchitra Krishnamoorthi
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi

The play is mostly in a simplified version of Urdu. "People still know about Manto, but hardly anyone knows of Wazeera," says Krishnamoorthi. "She was deeply affected by Manto's stories. I am not very good with the language, still I took up this role because of the carefully structured character."

The play is set in the 1950s, when Manto moved to Pakistan and deals with the pathos and turmoil that stayed within the hearts of people after the Partition and how difficult it was for everyone to settle into the new way of living. "Toba Tek Singh is also a short part of the play," says Suman. "I get to play Toba. Manto was deeply scarred by Partition, and he left India even though he loved Bombay. Out of that pain of separation came the beautiful story of Toba Tek Singh. In the play as Manto, I play various characters of Manto. The intensity behind his compelling stories makes Manto one of a kind and, thus, even more challenging and exciting for an actor."

Randhir Ranjan Roy, director, Ek Haan
Randhir Ranjan Roy, director, Ek Haan

While Suman has been busy with plays, Krishnamoorthi has been focusing on other things. "I haven't done anything lately as I was giving all my time to my daughter," she says. "But now, I think I am ready to work and explore again. And, the script was so challenging and fresh that I couldn't resist it. Also, theatre and music are my roots and it just feels like I returned to my roots."

For Roy, this is his second play as director. "Manto's stories can make anyone shiver. The play explores various aspects in his life through his characters. When you listen to Suchitraji speak, you can imagine a woman speaking Urdu in the 1950s. The texture of her voice is just perfect, and while casting the character, that was all we needed. Similarly, after Ek Mulaqaat, the kind of command over language that Shekharji has is perfect for a character like Manto."

Both Krishnamoorthi and Suman are immersed in their characters. Where Suman is working on internalising the role and going deeper into it, Krishnamoorthi is working hard on her diction. "The play is colloquial, it is understandable and has a plethora of emotions. Hopefully, it will stir the audience and make them go home with the essence of Manto," says Suman.

When: August 15, 7.30 PM
Where: Royal Opera House, Charni Road; 23668888
Entry: Rs 750 – Rs 3,000
To book: www.bookmyshow.com

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