A panel discussion to talk about the relevance of the celebrated storyteller, and why free speech matters in today's times
The recent arrests of critics of the ruling party added fuel to the fiery dialogue on free speech in India. But back when people didn't have the support of freethinking blogs and the Web, writer Saadat Hasan Manto fearlessly let his pen speak the truth, which led to him being arrested six times. And it's because of this very spirited writing that Manto continues to find an audience, decades after his death.
Had he been alive today, would he still be on trial? How free is speech in India? These and many more questions will be raised at Manto Now, a precursor to the release of Nandita Das's film Manto. The discussion will feature stars of the film, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Dugal; literary historian Rakhshanda Jalil; and Nazia Erum, author of Mothering a Muslim. For Parmesh Shahani, head, Godrej India Culture Lab (GICL), the germ of this idea goes back to 2014, when Das and he were part of the Yale World Fellow programme at Yale University. Das was writing the script at the time. "Manto as an author is still relevant, his stories continue to be performed and read. He held up a mirror to the society, his writing was honest. We have always presented voices that are not heard enough. Manto was all about freedom of speech, so it made sense for us to contextualise his work with the India we are living in now," says Shahani.
Erum adds that the talk will delve into what freedom of speech meant then, and what it does today. "Today, we self-censor so much, in talking or writing, and he didn't do that. Rakhshanda writes about Manto; Nandita has been inspired to make a film. Manto continues to inspire many more people," Erum sums up.
ON: September 7, 5.30 pm
AT: Godrej One, Vikhroli East.
RSVP: indiaculturelab.org (to check for last-minute seats) or watch live on Facebook
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