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Watch Manto, Or You’ll Miss Out On One Of India’s Best Contemporary Films

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‘Manto’, the film, is a narrative of melancholy: the melancholy of a creator, the melancholy of a creation the melancholy of experiences, and lastly the melancholy of Manto. You have read it right, after mentioning the melancholy of different entities here, I mentioned Manto again. That’s actually what the film ‘Manto’, made by Nandita Das, is all about.

When I left my city Kolkata and shifted to Bangalore to study, I was very irritated and down for some days – the happiness of shifting to the new place had vanished, while the sadness of leaving my city had begun to kill me.


Here, Nandita Das did a wonderful job of connecting the city he lives in, with Manto. The relationship between the city of Bombay and writer Manto was so strong that they became a single entity. Bombay was his love, the city which built him, and the city where his father, mother, and son were buried. Bombay, at last, was Manto himself and that’s the magic that Nandita depicted.

What does a city mean to a writer? What does a city mean to a creator? For a creative person, a city means a lot more than it means to a regular person.

Director Nandita Das and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who played the lead role, felt the importance of a city to the creator.

The small lanes to the posh night parties, the small rooms of sex workers to the film studios, Manto’s life was always beautiful amid the extremes of the city Bombay.

I am not a movie reviewer, neither am I trying to review this movie. But it is a movie which has stories worth sharing. Manto is not only a character in this film but it is about time. In this movie, Manto is all about the experience of one of the darkest times in India. Manto is a phenomenon, Manto is the ego of a creator, Manto is the melancholy of failures, and Manto is a person born in a wrong time period.

The time mentioned here was the time of independence, followed by the division of India and Pakistan. The situation made Manto leave Bombay and shift to Lahore, Pakistan.

But Pakistan was not Manto’s; neither was Manto made for Pakistan. Manto was a man of free thought, Manto was a  man of expressions, his words were for the society and his creation was for the people. The hatred, the bloodbath, the deaths, the rapes and the beginning of the end of a civilization were the things he wanted to write about because Manto witnessed those. However, the state stopped him to write claiming his short story “Thanda Gosht” as obscene.

He was stuck between alcohol and himself. He was stuck between time and thoughts. He was stuck between his power and the control of the authority over his power. It is this melancholy of a creator that Nandita Das depicted carefully and deeply in this film.

The director, Nandita Das, has been as vocal as the protagonist of this movie and that’s why she has not stopped herself from telling the story. If Manto was a person of contradiction, then it is the same for the time when he was born and Nandita Das has not missed a chance to portray this fact in this movie.

The film is also very important for the time it is made in. India is now going through a time when the freedom of expression is being questioned by the authority and Manto is the answer to those questions. Creation stays, creation struggles, but creation never dies.

In this film, Nawaz has done the best justice that could have been done to ‘Manto’. His expression, his voice throwing, his attitude, and his eyes have talked about what we wanted to listen. Rasika Dugal who acted in the role of Manto’s wife was wonderful. All the actors in this film have done the best and as required.

The background score and the cinematography will always be remembered. At last, Manto is a masterpiece of a story and storytelling. If you do not watch it, you will miss out on one of the best contemporary movies ever made in India.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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