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'Bol Ke Lab Azad Hain' song: Rashid Khan's voice intensifies emotions of Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Manto

Composed by Sneha Khanvalkar, the song is based on the famous nazm 'Bol Ke Lab Azad Hain Tere' by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. 

Shriram Iyengar

The music of Nandita Das's Manto is turning out to be a pleasant surprise. After the beautifully nostalgic turn with 'Nagri Nagri', composer Sneha Khanvalkar uses the lyrics of another iconoclast poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, to convey the sense of dedication to truth and integrity that defined Manto's character in 'Bol Ke Lab Azad Hain'. 

The song emerges from the roots of the great Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's nazm of the same name. Considered one of the most progressive poets of his generation, Faiz shared with Manto the infamy of being incarcerated for his repeated habit of pointing out the evils of successive tyrannical governments. Like Manto, the poet, too, was a part of the Progressive Writers' Movement which defined the literature and style of Urdu and Hindi writers of the pre-Independence era in the subcontinent. 

The composition by Khanvalkar is simple, mellifluous and very minimalistic so as to not hinder the powerful verses of Faiz. Sung by Rashid Khan and Vidya Shah, the verses flow to capture the emotions and the turbulent nature of the times in which Manto lived. It is hard not to be moved by the magic in Khan's voice that rises. An inspiring poem about the necessity of speaking the truth, at all costs, especially during the most oppressive of times, 'Bol Ke Lab Azad Hain' captures the dedication of an artist to depict the cruelty of his age as he witnessed it. 

The slow rise of the background orchestra of violins, harmonium and bass as the intensity of the poem reaches its crescendo is impactful. 

The visuals of the song also serve to enhance the effect of the emotional track. Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers perfectly as the intense, passionate Manto who is distraught at the sights of cruelty and barbarism that erupted during the Partition of India and Pakistan. Das's visuals also capture characters from the stories of the writer with snippets from stories like Toba Tek Singh and Thanda Gosht making appearances. 

In addition, the song also plays above the visual of Manto dealing with two aspects of the Hindu-Muslim riots that broke out during the period. One clear moment is that of a visibly scared Manto in a car beside a friend pointing to the riots. This implies the episode the writer describes in 'Stars From Another Sky' when actor Ashok Kumar drove him through a riot affected area. 

Another scene is that of the writer and actor Shyam (Tahir Raj Bhasin) discussing the after effects of the riots. Both these moments were crucial to the writer's decision to leaving India for Pakistan. 

Siddiqui is fantastic in his depiction of the pain, confusion and anger that rose within Manto as he witnessed the gory sights of the partition of the subcontinent. He is matched in intensity by his co-stars of Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, and Paresh Rawal among others through the song. 

Manto will be released on 21 September 2018. 

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Song review