Of Pride and Wounds

The stage adaptation of Manto’s story showcases the insult a sex worker has to go through and how she avenges it

Published: 03rd April 2018 10:28 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th April 2018 05:10 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:Saadat Hasan Manto, was tried for obscenity both before and after Independence on both sides of the border given the raconteur of mayhem that he was, he’d the capability to show the hypocrisy of society in its absolute nudity especially when he wrote about women. His craft chronicled chaotic psyche and lives unfolding in blind alleys where the fallen women lived: cursed during the day for the ‘dirty’ profession and sought after in the darkness of night for wiping the dirt inside the same society. A true feminist that he was, his short stories have often been adapted for plays. That’s how as part of Jashn-e-Darpan, the city based group Darpan Theatre’s sixth anniversary, the great Urdu writer’s two tales were celebrated on stage at Ravindra Bharathi recently. The script of the same was written by Suhas Bhatnagar while director Ali Ahmed did a good job.

The short story as a play ‘Hatak’ explored the psyche of a sex worker The narrative is of Saugandhi, who entertains her customers for `10 and lives in a rented dingy room with a mangy dog sleeping underneath her old wooden bed. She’s affectionate and kind, but the loneliness within her looms large as she forces herself to believe the hollow words of her customer Madho played by Ananth Vikram, who expresses love for her asking her to leave the lowly life as he’d send her money for her expenses every month. He never does that and she knows it, but both continue the fake play of words. The climax is when a tired sleepy Saugandhi, played by Hyma Varshini, is asked by the pimp Ramlal, played by Rahul Kamlekar, to get ready during midnight for a rich customer who waits for her in a car on the road. She obliges only to be rejected. And this pinches her really hard that she bursts out into a long angry monologue wishing to lambaste that customer who dares reject her.

That’s why the title of the play ‘Hatak’ which means humiliation. What misses from the play is the way Manto portrays her roaming on the road and every object on it sympathizing with her. In return she wants to embrace the tall, cold streetlamp; wants to pour her warm affection inside its dark iron and suck all its loneliness. This motherliness is actually her own emptiness, her wish to pour out her love on someone else, though we get a glimpse of it in the act as she puts the head of her friend Kanta in her lap in an attempt to comfort her almost like a child. Her rant is full of angst and justifies her outburst, but the talaffuz or pronunciation of certain Urdu words could have been improved for example khoobsurati is pronounced as koobsurti. Despite this hiccup, Hyma was brilliant in the act, she lives the character and delves deep inside her.She is unparalleled when Madho wants money from her and demands that she leave her profession as he’d provide for her. She gets fierce, throws his photograph and kicks him out of the door in a way avenging her own hatak.

— Saima Afreen

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