Meet Manto as he delves into his life, childhood, family & friends, facing persecution, self-ridicule, depression, being broke, helplessness, drinking, Hindi cinema, satire, irony, hypocrisy, sadness, strife and moral decay.
Ashwath Bhatt, a Mumbai-based screen and stage artist, decodes the enigma and idiosyncrasies of Manto, in the guise of Manto himself. A cultivated resemblance in physicality and mannerisms makes this a memorable solo performance. Correlating his writing with the political climate of the time, this performance follows Manto as he contemplates his journey, changing mindsets, family life and poetry before an audience.
Saadat Hasan Manto is an Indo-Pakistani writer known for his irreverent writing, holding up a mirror to the society especially in ugly times. He is hailed as one of Urdu’s finest & most controversial writers. The performance is based on articles written by Manto and explores his life, times he lived in and the social changes, he witnessed at the time of India’s Partition. Ashwath Bhatt plays Manto who engages with the audience in person, trying to answer the biggest question “Why I write what I write”.
The texts used in the play are ‘Manto, Main Afsana Kyun Kar Likhta hoon, Khol Do, Kal Sawere Jo Meri Ankh Khuli and Deewaroon Pe Likhna. Begum Akhtar’s ghazals have been used at a few places to highlight the pathos of Manto’s life.
Running successfully for last 10 years with more than 50 shows. Internationally, it’s been performed at Hakaya Festival (Amman Jordan), Luton Mela & The Hat Factory (Luton), Norden Farm Art Centre (Maidenhead, UK), Nehru Centre (London), Indian Embassy (Berlin, Germany), World Performing Arts Festival (Lahore, Pakistan).
Nationally, travelled to Bangalore, Jammu, Srinagar, Kolkata, Siliguri, Behrampore-West Bengal, Guwahati-Assam, Gangtok-Sikkim, Delhi, Madurai, Bangalore, Amritsar, Lucknow, Bareilly, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon-Haryana & Patna-Bihar.
Actor & Director
Presently shooting for Dharma Production’s Kesari with Akshay Kumar. Upcoming films are A R Rahman (99 Songs), Abhijit Kokate (Rakkosh). Worked with acclaimed filmmakers like Meghna Gulzar (Raazi), Mira Nair (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Nandita Das (Manto), Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider), Kabir Khan (Phantom), Oscar winner Danish Tanovic (Tigers), Rahul Dholakia (Lamhaa), Ajita Suchitraveera (Ballad of Rustom), Dipesh Jain (Gali Guliyaan- In the Shadows), Ashiq Abu (Gangster), Buddhadeb Dasgupta, etc.
After National School of Drama, India, he went to LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) London. He was the first recipient of prestigious Inlaks foundation scholarship for Theatre/Acting. He is a visiting faculty to various prestigious institutions in India & abroad. He has worked with reputed theatre companies like Oxfordshire theatre Company- Oxford, GYLPT- Greenwich, Flying Fish Theatre Company- Berlin etc. He has done plays for BBC worldwide and has been part of collaboration with National Theatre, Mannheim/Germany. He has acted under the direction of various Indian and Foreign theatre luminaries and conducted workshops on various aspects of acting in England, Germany, France, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. He is on the selection panel of LAMDA in India as well as ‘Inlaks Theatre India Awards’ which is his brainchild.
He is widely known for his work on ‘Red Nose Clowning’ theatre form in India. In 2007, he established non-profit trust – Theatre Garage Project. The philosophy behind his work is ‘Finding something in nothing’.
He recently directed play ‘Paladin’ based on the best-selling book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Dr. Paul Kalanithi.
Throughout his life, Manto faced a lot of criticism & persecution for his writing, his characters, his expression and choice of words. His famous response to all the criticism was ‘I don’t write filth, I don’t write obscenity, I only write what is there in your society!’. Manto always fought and stood for freedom of speech & expression. His stories and perspective towards the social issues are still stand relevant. We chose to perform Manto’s articles because the bigger idea is to let the audience meet the real Manto, not just a controversial & obscene writer which a normal perception of him.
Manto has written a lot about India-Pakistan partition. Since then, the world has moved on, we are still stuck in the quagmire of ignorance, fear, communalism, and hate. The world would have been a much better place if we could learn from our history. Neither Pakistan nor India deserves him. If Manto, who hated didacticism, were asked if he had a message for the people of the sub-continent, he would surely say, ‘Let’s make peace’.
Art has the potential to uplift a human spirit & can actually work as a catalyst towards a positive change.
We do a business of impacting and transforming human lives and we want to do it as successfully as possible. We don’t conform to the set notions of the field and always try to stay relevant to the times. We also challenge ourselves and subsequently our audiences to grow and experience new dimensions of the field. We always strive to get the right blend of quality and entertainment. We are a private limited company and welcome collaborations with other individuals and organisations to add more value to the art community.
The main philosophy behind this project is to finding something in nothing.
Theatre Garage Project is the brainchild of NSD & LAMDA graduate Ashwath Bhatt. People from various places in India have flocked to this ’empty space’ to redefine and rediscover themselves. Earlier TGP Residencies have seen a fusion of cultures – enthusiasts have flocked from places like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Lucknow, Assam and Kashmir.