In keeping with my commitment to you all, to draw attention to quality projects that may otherwise have flown under your radar, here’s an absolute gem to start the week off on the right note.
Based on Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story by the same name, this telefilm, Gurmukh Singh ki Wasiyat, was a part of a series Partition Stories that aired in 2007 on PTV. Produced by Khalid Ahmed, the original story was adapted for screen by Sharjil Baloch who also directed this telefilm.
I don’t have to tell you the premise nor do I have to sell you a synopsis.
It’s Partition. It’s Manto.
Right off the bat you know you are in for a raw no-holds barred kind of story telling .. but then precisely because it’s Partition and it’s Manto you never quite know which particular dark alley he’s going to lead you down and at what precise moment he’s gonna let go off your hand and … KaBoom!
Manto’s Khol Do is a Partition story in as much as a Thanda Gosht or a Toba Tek Singh … but to see them as being similar or to dismiss them as being variations of the same story is a big mistake.
And so Gurmukh Singh ki Wasiyat… as similar or as dissimilar as the rest of Manto’s other Partition stories.
I had read this story a while ago but had never seen an adapted version before, and so when I came across this one the other day – thank you Google for linked searches – I stopped to check out of sheer curiosity. The first frame was enough. I was hooked.
Adapting short stories for screen is hard. Not every viewer is as prepped and tuned in to to the context as the self-selected reader, hence the screen adaptor’s job is made all the more challenging. To not only convince viewers to stay put but also to convey the nuances of the story while staying true to the spirit of the original.
Link for the Telefilm:
With a runtime of almost 47 mins, Sharjil Baloch and Khalid Ahmed’s Gurmukh Singh is a moving ode to the brilliant original. The darkness of the story is turned into a veritable character by the director and his DOP Majid Mumtaz. Here darkness is as much about the impending end of a chapter of history as it is about the depravity of human souls, but then it also about glow of friendship that lights up a darkened room or the fuzzy familiarity of neighbors gathered around to exchange news and gossip. Lighting is used to great effect to emphasize how not all nights are the same – the golden warmth of the night when old friends dismiss news of things changing forever is very different from the frigid fear of nights lit by the torches of rapists and killers.
With Ehteshamuddin as the creative head of the project, the aesthetics and attention to detailing are all spot on. Every frame is a visual delight. Musadiq Sanwal’s orignial songs lend that special touch of authenticity to the over all ambiance.
Munawwar Saeed as the elderly Gurmukh Singh is the heart and soul of this story. Qazi Wajid as Abdul Hayee, the retired judge sahab is effortlessly fabulous – he makes it all look so easy. Aamina Sheikh is heartbreakingly beautiful as Sughra, conveying the young girl’s fears, anxieties, joys, relief – a whole range of emotions so very organically. Hard to believe this telefilm was Aamina’s entry into the world of acting!
As with Manto’s other writings, this one too is a deceptively simple piece. It is not just about Partition or about pitting Hindus against Muslims or Sikhs against Muslims or Hindus or any other permutation thereof. Manto’s genius lies in that his work is as much a comment on his times as much as it on ours. The names and faces may have changed but the context remains unchanged. Riling up masses and commiting mass murders and getting away with them in the name of religion is still the easiest thing in the world.
Since we have announced Desi Reads, lets consider this post a segue and use this Manto short story for our first reading together. In addition to watching the telefilm you can read the original Urdu short story here and an English translation can be accessed here. We will discuss the short story under this post only.
Written by SZ~