Saadat Hassan Manto, the famous, legendary and controversial short story writer of the Sub-continent migrated to Pakistan in 1948 after the Partition and lived in Lahore till his sad and tragic death in 1955. This biopic begins with him in an asylum where he is being treated for alcoholism; his tormented and strained mind doesn’t stop working and his pen flourishes to produce some of the greatest literature of the world. His angst, his agony, his nightmares, his hallucinations, his rebellion, his magic, his words, his characters, his stabs and his creative genius: nothing gets affected by the physical and the psychological pain he goes through. His contempt for the aristocracy, fundamentalism and extremism of all sorts keeps motivating him to use his fertile mind and the ferocious and untiring pen to write and write more and more. He is released from the asylum and he comes back to the mundane yet essential ‘normal’ life that comprises of his family, friends, contemporaries, foes, politicians and villains. The prominent ones amongst these, including Noor Jehan, Shaukat Rizvi, Nazar Mohammed, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Shaukat Thanvi, Qudrat Ullah Shahab and his arch rival Chaudhary Mohammed Hussain keep weaving webs of complicated circumstances around him which not only affect his life in good and bad ways but also provide him the essential misery that keeps him going. While real life is nothing less than a roller coaster for him, his unconscious mind keeps playing with the sights and sounds around him.
This biopic doesn’t intend to make a screen hero out of the legend that he already was and is, by over dramatizing or by blowing his persona up to a larger than life idea because he was larger and grander than we can possibly imagine; and that too despite all the human weaknesses and shortcomings. It is a journey through the last four and a half years of his life and just an attempt to try and feel how it is to be ‘Manto’…..who still questions God about who the better story teller is….him or Him.