My first memory of you is that of a bespectacled boy named Cheekoo. Though many kids, along with their parents, had already started enjoying Indian soaps (thanks to the ‘cable’ craze!), I was still an audience to PTV’s dramas and sitcoms. I was a kid back then and laughter was the only escape from the stress of doing homework, hence Shashlick and Family Front were my favourite. I remember my father calling me Cheekoo for a very long time because of my glasses and chubby face. This name and the puns delivered by your character made me laugh a lot. Little did I know that you as Manto would make me cry about two decades later and I, being a 90s kid, would start envisioning you upon hearing Manto’s name every single time… yes, you made me cry by giving one of the most irresistible and overmastering performances I have ever seen.

This may sound to you as an expression of highly overwhelming extolment, but believe me when I say that Manto deserves way more commendation than it is being bestowed with. Here is the reason why I think so. In my teens, when I had started exploring the arenas of Urdu and English literary works, I brought home a few papers which my mother threw away almost immediately. The papers had borne on them the burden of the ink that shaped the words of Manto’s fiction Khol Do and this was their only fault that destined their fate, like any other bearing his words, in the dustbin of a ‘respectable’ family. Today, I suffer no shame in discussing Manto’s works even with my grandfather. And this ice got broken the moment I narrated the movie Manto to my family. I will be forever indebted for this favour. Now, young readers do not have to hide these pages under the jacket of unobjectionable books. Now, Saadat Hassan Manto is not an uncouth writer, but a proclaimed wordsmith and litterateur. Now, his works are no more considered to be offensive; each and every word is literature.

People may view my claims as unwarranted and unsubstantiated. They may defend the society by telling the tales of its since-forever, sure-enough receptivity. However, we all know about the mechanism through which a thing gains acceptability among people. Our attitude towards dealing with controversies that point fingers at us is to first abominate and then openly censure it by provoking others to do the same. Later, we need a darer who could challenge our stereotypical norms and who, if is reputable, would be able to achieve his goal of making the idea tolerable and allowable by public. This is exactly what you did. We needed a renowned actor and director to transform these hackneyed perceptions into welcoming ears and eyes. We needed the all-famous Humsafar director to realise that there is no harm in openly reading, reciting and quoting Manto’s works. We needed a Sarmad Sultan Khoosat to introduce us to the several dimensions of suffering as articulated by a lambasted author of the 30s, 40s and early half of the 50s.

There was only one question that kept encircling my mind while I was amusing myself with the masterpiece called Manto: How did you manage to do it so well? This question was answered later by a simple Google search that, in fact, made me a little embarrassed. The answer lied in you being a psychologist. It must have made you get into Manto’s shoes and comprehend his state of mind and reasoning with which he had originally penned down each and every word. Undoubtedly, your chemistry with all the actors, particularly Sania Saeed, was highly commendable that made Manto the success it is.

You have not only helped in Pakistani cinema’s revival but have actually set a yardstick to measure the success of any movie. You are to receive the Pride of Performance in 2017 and no matter how humbly you take it, you have made us really very proud. Thank you for giving us Manto. Thank you for making us accept him as a phenomenal writer. Thank you for breaking the silence.