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Penning the pain: Tracing the history of partition through Indian literature

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By Ila Garg

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They say history is for the Kings and Royals, and for common people, there is literature. Partition of 1947 has always been recorded in history from a patriarchal perception. However, literature has tried to approach the mayhem event of partition through a holistic view. At NewsGram, we are attempting to focus on a few writers who gave voices to the hushed up history.

We have writers like Manto and Faiz who have written extensively about the suffering of people and the bloodshed that accompanied the Partition.manto

Manto’s short story, ‘Khol Do’ (Open It) had a huge impact on readers and it continues to speak through silences as the contemporary readers try to interpret it in their own way. His story can be read to get a glimpse of the violence and the horrendous crimes that partition resulted in. Women were the main targets to these atrocities and yet they were not given freedom of expression for a long time. Original version of this story is in Urdu but its translated version is more widely read.

A short excerpt from the story:

That evening there was sudden activity in the camp. He saw four men carrying the body of a young girl found unconscious near the railway tracks. They were taking her to the camp hospital. He began to follow them.
He stood outside the hospital for some time, and then went in. In one of the rooms, he found a stretcher with someone lying on it.
A light was switched on. It was a young woman with a mole on her left cheek. “Sakina!” Sirajuddin screamed.
The doctor, who had switched on the light, stared at Sirajuddin.
“I am her father,” he stammered. The doctor looked at the prostrate body and felt for the pulse. Then he said to the old man, “Open the window.”
The young woman on the stretcher moved slightly. Her hands groped for the cord which kept her salwar tied around her waist. With painful slowness, she unfastened it, pulled the garment down and opened her thighs.
“She is alive. My daughter is alive,” Sirajuddin shouted with joy. The doctor broke into a cold sweat.

faiz-ahmed-faiz-3

 

While Manto expressed more through his short stories, Faiz Ahmed Faiz did the same through his poems. His ‘Subah-e-Azaadi’ is the most talked about poem in Urdu Literature. It has a touch of revolution and gives gory details of partition.

 

 

“Ye daagh daagh ujaalaa, ye shab-gazida sahar,
Wo intzaar tha jiska, ye vo seher toh nahi,
Ye wo seher toh nahin jiski aarzu lekar,
Chale the yaar ke mil jaegi kahi na kahi,
Falak ke dasht mei taaro ki aakhiri manzil,
Kahi toh hoga shab-e-sust mauj ka sahil,
Kahi toh jaake rukega safina-e-gham-e-dil.”

SahirLudhianvi

 

 

Hindi poets like Sahir Ludhianvi too contributed to the partition literature by echoing similar emotions. Ludianvi’s ‘Wo Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi’ is indicative of reviving hope in difficulties. The tone might be a little mellow but it conveys his ideas quite well.

 

 

“Inn Kaali Sadiyo Ke Sar Se, Jab Raat Kaa Aanchal Dhalkega
Jab Dukh Ke Badal Pighalenge, Jab Sukh Ka Sagar Chhalkega
Jab Ambar Jhoom Ke Naachega, Jab Dharti Nagame Gaaegi
Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi, Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi
Jis Subah Ke Khatir Jug Jug Se, Hum Sab Mar Mar Ke Jite Hai”

Amrita_Pritam_(1919_–_2005)_,_in_1948

Among the various approaches to the misfortunate event, Punjabi poet, Amrita Pritam’s voice emerged out. She stood as a rebel and reasserted her identity as a woman. Through her poetry, she expressed a strong will to liberate herself from the shackles of patriarchy.

Her poem ‘Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu’ is centered on her appeal to Waris Shah to come and listen to the crying daughters of Punjab. Till date, the poem holds significance and doesn’t cease to influence people with its powerful words.

Pritam’s poetry reflects her rebellious nature, though her only limitation was geographical boundary.

Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nuu,
Kiton Qabraan Wichon Bol,
Tey Ajj Kitaab-e-Ishq Daa,
Koi Agla Warka Khol
Ikk Royi Sii Dhi Punjab Di,
Tu Likh Likh Maarey Wain,
Ajj Lakhaan Dhiyan Rondiyan,
Tenu Waris Shah Nuu Kain

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Nandita Das Says “Manto” Was Most Challenging Yet Interesting Journey

It took me four years to research and write the script

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Nandita Das Says
Nandita Das Says "Manto" Was Most Challenging Yet Interesting Journey, Flickr

Acclaimed actress and filmmaker Nandita Das says making “Manto” was a most challenging yet interesting journey.

“It has been the most challenging journey for me, but probably the most interesting one too. This by far has been the biggest learning curve for me. There were challenges I faced at almost every step of the process,” Nandita told IANS in an email interview.

“It took me four years to research and write the script and two years to get funding, cast, crew, locations and all the preparation to shoot and get the film out. The genesis of the idea of the film was in 2012, Manto’s centenary celebration, and now it finally premiered in Cannes.”

After having helmed “Firaaq” in 2008, Nandita went behind the camera to trace the life of writer Saadat Hasan Manto, to be portrayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the film, expected to release in India in September.

Manto, who died in 1955 at the age of 43, penned an impressive body of work touching various genres.

He churned out about 22 collections of stories comprising a novel, essays, personal sketches and movie scripts. Out of his literary gems was a story on Mirza Ghalib, a poet who is often compared with the stature of Shakespeare. His work also gained attention for weaving stories around the ordeal of partition as well as sexuality. The film provides a window into his life during the tumultuous partitioning of British colonial India into two new nations — India and Pakistan.

“Manto”, co-produced by HP Studios, Filmstoc and Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, was the only Indian film in Un Certain Regard category at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. It will also be screened at Sydney Film Festival, which started on June 6 and will go on till June 17.

Nandita says she was “deeply involved with every department and have learnt so much in the process”.

Nandita Das
Nandita Das, flickr

“After all I never went to a film school or assisted any director so everything was being learnt on the job and I was relying mostly on my creative instinct and life experiences.”

On her experience at the fest, she said: “I have been attending Cannes since I was invited in the main jury in 2005. Then again in 2013 in the short film jury. Including more recently, to raise funds for ‘Manto’.

“Other than these two opportunities, I have been there several times as a film lover. Apart from it being the most celebrated festival, it truly manages to combine great cinema and a thriving platform for filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world. While you of course wish your film to be premiered in Cannes, one is aware that every filmmaker wishes that too. The competition is extremely fierce. And ‘Manto’ is not a typical “festival film”.

Also read: BBC Bollywood dark secret nothing

“The references and context is not always easy for foreigners to understand. I di’n’t know till the day they officially announced the list. It was the only Indian film in the main official sections and so it is a huge honour. I am most delighted that ‘Manto’ has started its journey in Cannes.” (IANS)