Saadat Hasan Manto re-visits birthplace Samrala
It is the second time that Manto is visiting his birthplace where he was born in the maternal home of his grandparents and spent his early childhood.punjab Updated: Mar 03, 2018 14:43 IST
The iconic story of the famous Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55), who is also known as the chronicler of the tragic communal frenzy at the time of the Partition, is ‘Toba Tek Singh’. Staged innumerable times and even made into films on both sides of the border, it is an evergreen stinging satire on communal polarisation.
However, it is for the first time that it is being staged on Friday at Samrala, just a km away from Papraudi village, the birthplace of the writer. Well-known theatre writer-director Atamjit of Manchan Arts is staging the play at the ‘Shahi Sports College’ on Friday.
The first time Atamjit took up this story for a play titled ‘Rishtiaan Da Ki Rakhiye Naa’ was in 1981-82, when Punjab witnessed the rise of a separatist movement. Till the late 1980s, the play had been staged several times.
When asked for the reason for the revival of this play, Atamjit says: “The present-day divisive politics compelled me to come back to the play which is an ultimate statement on the folly and tragedy of the communal divide.”
Manto’s genius knew no boundaries
Manto’s genius lay in entering spaces that were outside the purview of historians. The story is set a few years after the divide, when India and Pakistan decide to exchange lunatics on the basis of religion. Bishan Singh, an inmate of the Lahore asylum rejects both countries and wants just to go to his village called Toba Tek Singh. Finally, when he is being brought to Amritsar, he dies on the no-man’s land between the two countries.
Toba Tek Singh is a town of a district of the same name in the Pakistan Punjab adjoining the Faisalabad district. It is one of the few places where there has been no name-change. The legend goes it was named after a kind man, who provided shelter and water from a small pond on his land to thirsty villagers.
Rajwinder Singh of Aks Manch, Samrala, who is playing the lead role, says: “It is such a powerful role and it has been a rich experience to be directed by Atamjit. I also feel good to be enacting a character etched out by the great writer”.
It is the second time that Manto is visiting his birthplace where he was born in the maternal home of his grandparents and spent his early childhood. The first time was during his centenary celebrations in 2012, when his daughters visited the village.
Atamjit adds that the play is also a tribute to late music director HM Singh Kukki and theatre director and actor BP Singh, who were associated with the play in the 1980s. The music for the current production is by well-known composer Atul Sharma, who says, “I have used some of HM’s original and added some of my own including Brecht’s technique of alienation. The singers are all students of the Department of Music, Panjab University.”