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Toba Tek Singh review: The Ketan Mehta film does not capture the essence of Manto’s story

In his short story Toba Tek Singh, Saadat Hasan Manto tried to present the madness that engulfed two countries during the partition era. The story, set in a mental asylum, was a representation of how lost the people of the countries were in those years. The short story spoke of the craziness that had consumed everyone when the partition was announced. The story carried a strong subtext but this Ketan Mehta film tries to interpret every little nuance and hence it is a disappointment.
Mehta has adapted the short story into a 70-minute film and cast Pankaj Kapur in the lead role of Bishan Singh. To add his own spin to it, Mehta has Manto’s character as the narrator here. Vinay Pathak plays Manto and warden of the asylum in the film. The characters in the asylum are presented as over-the-top caricatures. The inclusion of all the elements from the short story seems forced and the same is extremely evident from the way Mehta deals with the lunatic characters in the European ward.
The enhanced music in certain scenes is added to make the viewer feel emotional but it doesn’t work. The film feels stretched as it often spends minutes trying to convey a tiny bit of information. Mehta has also borrowed from Manto’s short story Khol Do to highlight the state of women during the partition era.
Pankaj Kapur is a fantastic actor and the same can be said for his performance here but there is absolutely nothing else to look forward to in this film.
Adapting popular literature is a humungous task and it looks like Mehta has bit off more than he can chew here.