Sarmad Khoosat enraged at Geo for unfair treatment with his Manto!

Sarmad Khoosat Manto Geo Controversy

Social Media, and more specifically Twitter, is abuzz with the word “Manto” these days. While it initially started with the cinematic release of Nandita Das’s take on the life of the iconic Pakistani writer Saadat Hassan Manto, things have taken an ugly turn more recently.

At first, it was about the film’s ban in Pakistan, but now, since the 19th of December, the name is back on the digital map, all thanks to the director/actor of the Pakistani version on the subject, Sarmad Khoosat.

How it all Started

Ever since the news came that the Pakistani censor board has banned Nandita Das’s Nawazudin Siddiqui starrer “Manto,” there has been a continual discussion on the film’s fate, political aspects surrounding it, and the content of both the films.

While those in favour of the release are talking about ‘art having no boundaries,’ there is also no shortage of comparisons between the two films in terms of script, treatment, acting, and what not.

It all turned positive when pushed by the debate on social media, Pakistan’s Minister of Information, Fawad Chaudry, took notice of the ban and promised all possible help for the film’s release in Pakistan. For this, Das thanked the minister.

Chaudhry primarily took notice of an online petition, started by journalist Saeed Ahmed, and supported by Saadat Hassan Manto’s family and various civil society members including prominent literary figures from both sides of the border. Supporting the cause on the front lines on this side of the border is the director, producer, and actor, Sarmad Khoosat, whose 2015 directorial on Manto was both, a critical and commercial hit, unlike its Indian counterpart.

How it Turned Ugly

Where Sarmad supported Nandita Das’s film and expressed his sorrow on not being able to see the film in the cinema, he, quite aptly and timely, pointed out the negligence that Geo Films have been practicing regarding Pakistani Manto’s digital release.

Sarmad, via a series of tweets, slammed Geo Films for getting into ‘petty politics’ that may have affected the film’s digital premiere and hence its inability to reach a wider audience. This, by the way, is in reference to the Das’s version of Manto being available on Netflix.

According to Sarmad, he had reached out to the relevant people at Geo films to ensure “Manto’s” online release but was unable to get a positive response from them, and they seemed to not care about his concerns.

Here is what he tweeted on the subject:

We contacted the director to get a broader sense of the matter, and here is what he had to say to a query put forward by us, “It’s not about any individual in Geo Films or against any institute for that matter. But I just want to give a wake-up call to the administration at Geo Films which has now changed from the days when Manto was produced.”

He went on and said, “We had put years of work in Manto, and that’s why I contacted people at Geo at each and every possible level and requested every person that bumped at me to give the film a fair chance to be seen by wider audience. But the response hasn’t been positive. With regard to both the “Mantos,” when two works of art are created, both should be given fair chances to be seen by people.”

Not the First Time by Geo

Chambaili Geo ControversyIndeed, Geo Films’ inability to release a masterpiece like Manto for a global audience is tantamount to criminal negligence as far as flourishing art is concerned. This is, however, not the first time a filmmaker has protested Geo Films’ inability to handle their work better and in a professional manner.

In the past, Shahzad Nawaz (Producer, Writer, Chambaili) has expressed his disappointment over the handling of his film after its release. Shahzad’s primary plaint, however, remained more in regards to his film’s release on Television or DVD, and the culprit seemed to be Geo’s dubious contracts with the filmmakers that binds them with the banner for several years. Or at least that’s what we originally thought was the entire issue.

To get a holistic view of Geo’s maltreatment to filmmakers, we decided to contact Shahzad Nawaz for his comment on the entire issue, and what we discovered was even more shocking. Shahzad believes that it’s the politics of the country triggered by some Indian propaganda about his film that led to the banner giving his film an orphan treatment.

Here is what he had to say, “It was basically Nawaz Shareef’s government at that time, and things went bad when Hindustan Times published a piece about Chambaili, declaring it the “poster-movie for Imran Khan.” All because the film had a call for change in it. Resultantly, the Nawaz government pressurised Geo and the long story short, it’s 2018 now, and we haven’t moved an inch on the issue in five years.”

When you have put years’ worth of effort into something, and this is the treatment that is meted out to you, it can be frustrating. It is about time that Geo mends its ways before things turn ugly for them and they eventually fall out of industry’s favour altogether.

We hope that both, Pakistani and Indian versions of Manto, get out of their respective dilemmas and see the wider releases they deserve. As for Chambaili, it is interesting that the current Minister of Maritime Affairs, Ali Zaidi, was one of the co-producers of the film, along with Abdullah Kadwani.

Co-producers Chambaili, Shahzad Nawaz and Ali Zaidi, now Federal Minister Maritime Affairs. Credits: Chambaili Facebook Page

Therefore, while the Information Minister has set the right example by encouraging film importers to import Indian Manto, it is to be seen whether Naya Pakistan has some space for the Pakistani Chambaili too.

We tried to reach Geo Films for their take on the matter, but they could not be reached for the comment. Our platform will remain open for them in case they desire to tell their side of the story.

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I am a doctor,a foodie and a traveller. The aroma of Popcorn ,the peculiar sensation of being in a darkened theatre,enjoying a Film, intrigues & gives me a reason to promote Pakistani Cinema. anjumhassan87@gmail.com