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A Review of Manto Katha

By Prof. Qamar

(The author is a top ranking critic expert on Prem Chand Studies, worked as Professor & Head P.G. Deptt of Urdu, University of Delhi, Author, writer, Poet, Intellectual, Journalist, Recient of many literary awards.)

My first meeting with Dr. Brij Premi took place forty years back when the noted man of letters was in his prime, full of vigour and vibrance. Intellectually, he was associated with the progressive movement that had influenced the younger generation of writers. His main pre-occupation at that time was a study and appraisal of the classical and folk traditions of Kashmiri literature. We had long sessions of interaction on the problems of aesthetics as related to Art and Literature in general and that of Kashmir in particular. It was for the first time that I got a feel of the enchanting verses of Lal Ded through Premiís renderings into Urdu language.

In the truest tradition of the progressive movement, Premi along with many other intellectuals could appreciate and analyse the diverse and colourful aspects of the colourful heritage of Kashmir. A critical  appraisal of this facet of the rich tradition is to be found in Premiís writings. I have no hesitation in pointing out that Premi is next only to late Abdul Ahad Azad in the matter of service to Kashmiri language and literature.

Incidentally, that was the period when Premi was pre-occupied with his research work connected with his Ph.D thesis on Saadat Hasan Manto. My suggestions that he should undertake a comparative study of Persian, Kashmiri and Urdu poetry elicited immediate approval but Premi had to express his inability to take it up as he was already committed to his work on Manto. His choice was perhaps dictated by the fact that Manto was proud of his Kashmiri background as also of an intimate relationship with Kashmiri cultural heritage that was dear to him. The thesis that Premi produced after putting in his best in terms of research and analytical faculty did not win the favour of the authorities that be because of their indifference, resulting in an inordinate delay in awarding the degree which he deserved without a shadow of doubt. It was a disappointing experience for Premi although his book on Manto's multifaceted achievements in the field of artistic accomplishment was used freely and unabashedly by some quarters in the subcontinent without even acknowledging the source. In certain cases it was almost plagiarism of the worst type indicating dishonesty and ingratitude.

Brij Premi was temperamentally a blend of simplicity, uprightness and straight-forwardness. Silent and unostentatious by nature, he did not believe in exhibitionism as is wont with people who know the art of psychofancy. Here was a man who believed in self-denial although he had the capacity to demonstrate his faculties. All the time he concentrated on productive work, writing articles on Kashmiri Art and Culture besides very useful write-ups on the growth of Urdu language and literature in the state. All these invaluable collections have been edited and published by his son Premi Romani.

During this long literary voyage, Premi's research on Manto continued unabated. In this context 'Manto Katha' stands out as an important milestone. It is remarkable that the collection was the result of untiring efforts made by the author in the matter of procurement of material from different sources. I was consulted in unraveling some of the mysteries regarding a few papers which called for thorough analysis.

It is universally recognised that producing a thesis for a doctorate has a limited frame but to write a critical paper on the subject calls for a subtler study as it involves an in-depth analysis of the influences that might have shaped the artistic genius of the personage under scrutiny.

To write on Manto made it imperative to depend on the sources that had left an everlasting impact on the mind and critical faculties of the writer. Dr  Premi was conscious of his inability to trace out all the necessary material regarding the literary achievements of Manto in the fields of novel, films, letters and translations. The material collected by Premi has found very useful and meaningful utility at the hands of his son, Dr Romani, who has authored a publication on the basis of available facts.   The first paper relates to the ancestor of the writer based on priceless findings and evidences collected and filed by Dr. Premi. In his outstanding write-up 'Manto and Kashmir', Dr. Premi has referred to sources indicating the humble beginnings of the writer. Bari Alig, who happened to be the mentor of Manto, is portrayed as one possessing a colourful personality although nobody had ever before taken the trouble of writing on him. Premi drew his conclusions after a thorough study of the life and contribution of the all-embracing personality of Bari Alig, as described by Manto himself. Similarly Premi has provided very useful and profound information about Mantoís association with the film industry as a script writer. It is to be noted with satisfaction that Premi has analysed at great length the influence of Russian short story on the literary accomplishments of Manto.

The culmination of the book  is in the form of a bunch of letters written by the readers and critics. The book is the very epitome of all that is brilliant in Premiís prose style as also his vision, simplicity and analytical faculty. He had a clear mind without any cobwebs of confusion in terms of critical faculties and his only aim was to discover the truth. It is tragic that this promising intellectual, a writer and a critic, was snatched from us by the cruel hand of death.

However, it is gratifying that his son, a scholar in his own right, has carried forward the torch successfully, notwithstanding the unfavourable situation created by the unfortunate displacement in 1990.

*(Translated from the original Urdu text by Prof. H.L. Misri)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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