History has witnessed many times that the plain words of great writers of become unacceptable for the conservatives and narrow-minded people. Saadat Hasan Manto is one of those writers who reflected the true face of the society in his short stories for which he had to face court proceedings many times after the partition of the Sub-Continent. Recently, Azad Theatre presented a play ‘Dafa 292’ in collaboration with Alhamra Art Council in Lahore. Its purpose was to pay tribute to the literary legend, Saadat Hasan Manto and to give awareness to the people that there was no vulgarity in his writings rather his piece of writings were quite meaningful and are still significant. The society today is still the prey of the same dilemmas which were prophesied by Manto 60 years ago. He was an intellectual who could foresee beyond the era he lived in. He was the keen observer of the society and highlighted those aspects of the life which are generally overlooked and are not taken into consideration. He believed that the real life consisted of the everyday happenings which take place in a society but not those which are idealised but never brought into practice. Manto migrated to Pakistan from Amritsar in 1948 and lived in Lahore until his death in 1955. Many critics believe that his most prolific period as a writer was after he migrated to Pakistan after the partition. It was the time when he wrote his masterpieces like ‘Toba Tek Singh’, ‘Khol Do’, ‘Thanda Gosht’, ‘Siyah Hashiyae’ and ‘Akhari Salute’. In these stories Manto highlighted the deprived and deplorable aspect of human beings. Manto was a critique of the fact that people of Sub-Continent who had been living together since ages, became blood-thirsty during partition period. Manto was not only writing stories at that time but was also saving the history of the Sub-Continent in his words. His unwavering commitment to humanity and his abhorrence to war was not acceptable for some fanatics of the society. Thanda Gosht, Kali Shalwar and many other short stories in which   Manto portrayed the true aspects of the society, he had to face  court trials for these writings many times. He was subjected to harassment, and admitted to mental hospital many times.

The script of the play at Alhamra Art Council was inspired by Manto’s stories like 'Kali Shalwar (Black Trouser), Dhuwaan (Smoke), Bu (Odour), Khol Do (Open It) and Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat). It started with many people on the stage blaming Manto for spreading vulgarity through his writings and by demanding his trial. They also presented the view that the government should hire all the writers and literary people for services as clerks in government offices as they are good in writings. It was a pungent satire on the people of that society who were trying to clean out all the intellectual and literary people out of them and wanted them to do a job no different from an ordinary person.

There were different scenes of Monto’s trial in the court where he was set free from all the charges against him. In the play Manto mocked ‘Maulvis’ who issued ‘Fatwas’ against him and termed him ‘Tarakki-Pasand’ or progressive writer, as a matter of fact, which should have been extended as a compliment to Manto.

It was also highlighted in the play that a housewife never became the subject matter of Manto’s stories rather he wrote about prostitutes and call girls knowingly involved in immoral activities. Besides, there were many contradictions of the society highlighted in the play. People who demanded Manto’s trial did not abhor the evils existing around them but they accused Manto for vulgarity because he pointed out those evils existing in the society. Many a time s in the play it was shown that people were praying to Allah to take Manto to His heavenly abode and make a trial of him there if he gets free from the court in this world.

Manto was shown pondering over the people who were concentrating on the sex and ignoring the real message of his stories. For example in Thanda Ghost people were focusing on the abuses of Shankar but they were ignoring the punishment he received for his bad deeds. Similarly, rapes, mob-killings, violence were happening in the society but mentioning these things in the writings and reflecting the true picture of society entangled Manto in legal cobweb of obscenity. It was Dafa 292 of the Penal Code for which Manto was tried again and again.

At the end of the play a Sikh fell and died on the ground was an allusion to Manto’s famous story ‘Toba Tek Singh’ which highlighted the brutalities of the partition.

The play was directed by Mr Aslam Malik. It was beautiful and well crafted having excellent lighting. Music went well with the theme of the play which was composed by Sarfraz Ansari. Talking to media Aslam Malik said, “2012 is being celebrated as Manto’s year. Through this play we have tried to remove the misunderstandings that some people have about Manto. Highlighting controversial stories in the play was meant to prove that there is nothing vulgar about them. Had these stories were analysed psychologically, it would have brought the true stature and vision of Manto who was living beyond his time. Manto was a visionary whose ideas still have relevance in the contemporary society. He had envisioned the past, present and future. The play mirrors life in its truest form.” It was the sixth production of Azad Theatre and the play was dedicated to the late theatre artiste Imran ul Haq who passed away recently. He was suffering from cancer.