Mantostaan....For a select few

If you go by the title, it is not really designed to draw the audience to the cinema halls. Also, not many in today’s movie-going audience would know about Sadat Hasan Manto. Talking of Staan, Manto had none. He was not quite happy in India before Partition nor when he migrated to the newly formed country, Pakistan. The Staan in the title refers to Manto’s own space he created for himself.

Mantostaan takes four of Manto’s short stories for this film. The four stories, all set around the Partition are: Khol Do, Aakhri Salute, Thanda Ghosht and Assignment.

These omnibus short story stuff has been tried earlier in films, the last one in memory being Vinay Shukla’s Mirch, which told four stories written by the Italian writer, Giovanni Boccaccio, who in turn had copied his collection of short stories from the Indian legends of The Panchtantra, among others.
That said about films with multiple stories, Mantostaan’s four stories run simultaneously with each other. And, that, at times affects the narration. One feels that telling these four short stories independent of each other may have been more effective.

The stories depict violence that took place during the Partition.

In Khol Do, a man trying to go to Pakistan along with his wife and daughter survives but remembers his wife being killed. When he comes to a refugee camp, he searches for his daughter. Then, he is promised by some young men who risk going back to Amritsar and bring women and children back, that they will search for his daughter.

Another story, Assignment, is about a retired Muslim judge stuck in his house in Amritsar with his daughter and son as most other Muslims have moved to safer locations. It is Eid day and a Sikh who owed the judge a favour pays a visit even as a mob waits down the street to finish their task.

Aaakhri Salute is about a banter between an Indian soldier and a Pakistani, both serving at the border.

The fourth story is about a man trying to hide a macabre truth about himself, something he did during the riots, from his woman.

Manto, for those initiated, makes for taut reading, but here, in the film, it does not really grip you. Direction shows lack of experience.

Performances are mediocre, save for Raghuvir Yadav.

Producers: Rahat Kazmi, Tariq Khan, Aditya Pratap Singh.

Director: Rahat Kazmi.

Cast: Raghuvir Yadav, Sonal Sehgal, Veerendra Saxena and Rahat Kazmi.

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