Upcoming Nawazuddin-Nandita Das film Manto is a long due biopic of the man who is arguably the first secular feminist rockstar India has produced. Saadat Hasan Manto is celebrated as the master story teller of the century. His stories are based on the theme of Partition and the repercussions people had to suffer due to it are so full of truth that he was tried thrice in court for them.
The women in Manto’s stories were subalternised doubly, firstly by the patriarchy due to which they were treated as objects of possession, and plundered by the men of the other communities for revenge. Secondly these women were under colonialism and hence had to depend on their male counterparts for everything. Because they did not belong to the elite class of the colonised India or were not in any way related to the British officers, had to suffer hardships unimaginable.
Manto wrote about the society of his time and picked up his stories and characters from society itself. In his short story titled The Hundred Candle Power Bulb, a man who is supposed to fight for the honour of his wife is the one who is selling her for money. It is a documented fact that men sold their women (wives, daughters, sisters) at the time of Partition under different circumstances. The economic depression and turmoil witnessed at the time of Partition compelled refugees to indulge in such immoral, inhumane deeds.
Throughout these stories, a reader comes across female characters from different walks of life but the similitude that connects all of them is the silence that can be heard in their pain and agony, in the tragedies of their lives. These women are considered mere objects and commodities for possession and consumption respectively.
Manto proves to be the much-needed spokesperson of these women. Manto goes deep into the psyche of both the perpetrators of violence and of those at the receiving end. His sympathetic attitude towards women during Partition in his writing makes him their male feminist representative.