Bol ke Laab Azaad Hain Tere


“बोल, कि लब आज़ाद हैं तेरे…
… बोल, ये थोडा वख्त बहुत है
जिस्म और ज़ुबां की मौत के पेहले
बोल, कि सच ज़िन्दा है अब तक
बोल! जो कुछ कहना है, कहले…”
– फैज़

This Nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz rushed to my mind as I neared the end of a 6 minutes long Nandita Das short film– ‘In Defence of Freedom’ which is based on the famous Indo-Pakistani writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. One of the greatest short story writers from South Asia, Manto was charged six times for obscenity in his works to which he firmly retorted, “I am not a pornographer but a story writer.”

Unlike novelists such as Salman Rushdie and Arvind Adiga, who cater to the International audience by bashing our society to bag awards on the global platform, Manto does not target a specific society and rather focuses on the barbaric and inhuman ways of humans. Although he usually does take the backdrop of Indian partition, however his major goal is to unveil the evils and give centre stage to taboos of our society. He does not become a salesman who devises different ways to sell art that is appealing, rather through his works, he holds out a mirror for everyone to see their own despicable ugliness. Literature after all is a reflection of the times we live in. And when that ugliness stares us back in our face, it jerks us out from our peaceful slumber of indifference and that is what offends us . Ignorance indeed is a bliss. Manto rightly remarks on society –

“If you cannot bear these stories, then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society that itself is naked.”

Words fall short when it comes to describing the literary prowess of Manto, but Das in her short film captures the essence of Manto’s personality with perfect precision. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays Manto, has played his part beautifully and this is just a mere glimpse of the masterpiece of Manto’s biopic, that is yet to be released. Though a short film, it is a powerfully poignant piece of art that pierces right through the heart of the spectators, leaving each one of us spellbound and wanting more. Siddiqui’s convincing acting skills add to the beauty of the film as he steps into Manto’s shoes with such ease that we fall for his charms effortlessly. In the short film, Siddiqui is shown lecturing a class about one’s right to hold and express opinions, even if they are obscene as long as they are their own.

“No one has invented a condom for the pen yet.” This line by Khuswant Singh aptly fits to the persona of Manto as he writes hard and clear about what bothers him. “Thanda Ghosht”, “Toba Tek Singh”, “Khol Do” are some examples that hold witness to that.

The link for the short film-

About the Author:

Pratibha Nehra (Dept. of English)

Pratibha Nehra
(Dept. of English)

I’m an avid reader who has a passion for writing as well. I’m also a music buff and a fan of live music. I’m pursuing my masters degree from Panjab University and would love to become a food critic someday. If you like what I write, then do visit my blog –


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