Writers, activists and journalists in Pakistan on Monday held a nationwide protest against a ban on Indian filmmaker Nandita Das' "Manto", based on the life of the late Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, in the hope the movie will see the light of the day in their country. The filmmaker is grateful.
"Beyond borders, the fight for freedom of expression is the same. Thanks to all those in Pakistan who are working to free 'Manto'. Thanks to everyone who has taken to the streets to protest against the ban on 'Manto' in Pakistan. I am there with you in spirit, and so is the entire Manto team," Nandita tweeted.
"Amazing to see people out on the streets to protest. Salima Hashmi, artist and daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and others! Respect and gratitude," she added.
Saeed Ahmed, a journalist and playwright, a key consultant for "Manto", had initially started an online petition on change.org, urging the Imran Khan government to allow the film's release. In collaboration with the Manto Memorial Society, the peaceful protests were held in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Multan.
[caption id="attachment_137306" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Rasika Dugal and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from Manto[/caption]
Nandita had on January 11 expressed her gratitude to Ahmed. "I am overwhelmed by the spontaneous support it has garnered from so many around the world. It is very moving to see that so many writers, artists, activists, concerned citizens have taken it upon themselves to fight the battle to screen 'Manto' in Pakistan. My team and I can take zero credit for this. I hope the needle will move and Geo TV - Har Pal Geo, the distributor, will also join the efforts," she added.
In December 2018, Pakistan's Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry had extended help to Nandita. In a message to her via Twitter, Chaudhry had said, "I am trying to pursue importers to bring this movie to Pak(istan). I hope someone will definitely take risk of showing a less commercial film to the viewers."
Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui had brought the character of Manto to life in the movie, which follows the most tumultuous years in the life of the writer and those of India and Pakistan which Manto inhabited and chronicled. Danyal Gilani, Chairman, Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC), had earlier told IANS that Manto wasn't cleared by the Board as the members found it in violation of the censorship code.