Speak, for your lips are free
Musings after watching Manto
If someone asked how I would picture myself on a poster based on my life, I would probably picture myself walking in the crowd, being a part of it or walking in the other direction trying to gather all my strength to move ahead. So, the crowd is there. The feeling associated with it is there. Whether I’ll be lost in translation (!) or be a rebel like most of the self-proclaimed outcasts from my generation, that depends on when you ask me about it.
It felt good to see myself in that poster again. It felt good to have that feeling or at least some kind of intimate feeling again. What made me feel like that was not some unusual experience. It was just me walking towards my train, after a film. I went alone for the film as I usually do and was on my way to return. I was walking amongst the people that were trying to catch the last train for the day. Unlike some other day, I had this incredible amount of pride of being myself. I was walking a bit faster just because of that. I wasn’t completely unaware of what I was doing, like usual. I was more conscious of my own persona, in a good way.
I remember I was confronting myself throughout the film. I was looking at the protagonist, who happened to be a real-life character and I was criticizing myself. Maybe it was foolish-me thinking how I could relate to him. Most of the millennials like me do that anyway. Trying to find oneself in these ideal or even wounded, vulnerable characters. Despite not being completely satisfied with the film, it gave me these few moments, moments of introspection, a few time-capsules, where I was criticizing my own actions, my own character and how I behave, change or adapt. Do films really do that these days?
I don’t mean to be a snob and deny something solely entertaining as a form of film. But, I was asking the same the character had to ask, if that’s what the reality is, that’s how brutal or unforgiving it is at the times, how can we just believe that this part of life, just doesn’t exist?
I took a deep breath. I need these dramatic clichés every now and then to make myself relaxed. The irony was right there! Then I started reminding myself how dreamy I get sometimes and how this fever would end right after I have to fit in the group of people that won’t probably understand this, but the people that would be happy to see a genuine smile on my face. But, that was leaving me from the bukhaar I had, that I would rarely get, the one that I would love to go through over and over again. Even if it leaves a bitter taste for a while, I wouldn’t mind to leave, at least for some more time.
The film I’m talking about is about the protagonist, who’s a writer, challenging every norm at the time it was most important to. All he had was his words. He used them as wisely and as bluntly as he could. He faced the consequences. He went through trials and tribulations. But that didn’t shake what he believed in, for he knew his words meant more than the small disagreements that often seemed like major disappointments.
There was a scene that I particularly remember where he was having dinner with his wife and some other couple where he raised his tone more than necessary. That shocked everyone on the table, even his children. He looked at them right after and saw their faces afraid. Afraid, of seeing this side of a person they thought they knew about. But he changed his manoeuvre and shifted to the friendlier tone in a moment and took control of the situation. The discussion that made this clutter was about how his writings had affected the livelihood of his family. This scene alone suggests how much he cared about his writing. He knew that someone had to take a stand. He couldn’t get carried away or otherwise there wouldn’t be anyone to tell their stories that would leave bruises as fresh and brutal as it has cut your own skin. He had to remain in that constant state of creation and for that he needed that part of stability. He needed to change his mannerisms just as a chameleon would change its colours.
As I was saying earlier, he had to face for what he said. He wasn’t particularly afraid of the consequences, but when he actually got to witness them his reaction was a human as ours. That wasn’t just a man trying to be heroic just for the sake of it. He was scared just as we would be. This was someone just like us.