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Premchand
Writer
--: Biography of Premchand :--

 

Munshi Premchand (July 31, 1880- October 8, 1936) was a famous writer of modern Hindi-Urdu literature. He is generally recognized in India as the foremost Hindi-Urdu writer of the early twentieth century. Premchand was born on July 31, 1880 in the village Lamhi near Varanasi to Munshi Ajaib Lal, a postal clerk, and his wife Anandi. His parents named him Dhanpat Rai ("master of wealth") while his uncle, Mahabir, a rich landowner, called him Nawab (Prince), the name Premchand first chose to write under His early education was at a local madarsa under a maulvi, where he studied Urdu.Premchand's parents died young - his mother when he was seven and his father when he was sixteen or seventeen and still a student. Premchand was left responsible for his stepmother and step-siblings.

Premchand was married at fifteen years to a girl from a neighboring village but the marriage was a failure and when he left the village in 1899, the girl returned to her village. Several years later, in 1909, he married a young widow named Shivrani Devi. This step was considered to be revolutionary at that time and Premchand had to face a lot of opposition.

The main characteristic of Premchand's writings is his interesting story-telling and use of simple language. His novels describe the problems of the rural peasant classes. He avoided the use of highly Sanskritized Hindi (as was the common practice among Hindi writers), but rather he used the dialect of the common people.

Premchand called literature a work that expresses the truths and experiences of life impressively. Presiding over the Progressive Writers' Conference in Lucknow in 1936, he said that attaching the word "Progressive" to writer was redundant, because "A writer or an artist is progressive by nature, if this was not his/her nature, he/she would not be a writer at all."

Before Premchand, Hindi literature was largely confined to raja-rani (king and queen) tales, stories of magical powers and other such escapist fantasies. It was flying in the sky of fantasy until Premchand brought it to the ground of reality. Premchand wrote on the realistic issues of the day - communalism, corruption, zamindari, debt, poverty, colonialism etc.

Some criticize Premchand's writings as full of too many deaths and too much misery. They believe Premchand does not stand anywhere near the contemporary literary giants of India, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore. But many of Premchand's stories were influenced by his own experiences with poverty and misery. His stories represented the ordinary Indian people as they were, without any embellishments. Unlike many other contemporary writers, his works did not have any "hero" or "Mr. Nice" - they described people as they were.

Premchand was a contemporary of some other literary giants of that era like Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla and Jaishankar Prasad.

Premchand wrote about 300 short stories and several novels as well as many essays and letters. He also wrote plays and did some translations. Many of Premchand's stories have been translated into English and Russian.

Godaan (The Gift of a Cow), his last novel, is considered one of the finest Hindi novels. The protagonist, Jhuri, a poor peasant, desperately longs for a cow, a symbol of wealth and prestige in rural India. The story depicts the human beings' deep-rooted beliefs, and their ability to survive and uphold these beliefs despite great misery.

In Kafan (Shroud), a poor man collects money for the funeral rites of his dead wife, but spends it on food and drink. Famous stories 
. Panch Parameshvar 
. Idgah is a very touching story of a poor orphan boy named Hamid, who lives with his grandmother. He has very little money to spend on Idgah the holy day for muslims. He goes to a fair along with his friends, who spend more money in buying candy, toys etc. He has very little money, but remembers his grandmother whose hands get hurt when she makes rotis (bread) over a fire in a clay oven. She has no chimta (tongs) to flip the rotis over the fire in the oven. He bargains for a chimta in a shop for whatever little money he has. Upon return, his grandmother is very much touched with this gesture. 
. Mantra 
. Nashaa 
. Shatranj ke khiladi 
. Poos ki raat 
. Atmaram 
. Boodhi Kaki 
. Bade Bhaisahab 
. Bade ghar ki beti 
. Kafan 
. Dikri Ke Rupai 
. Udhar Ki Ghadi 
. Namak Ka Daroga 
. Panch Fool 
. Prem Purnima 
. Ram Katha 
. Jurmana 
. The night ghost

Novels

. Gaban 
. Bazaar-e-Husn or Seva Sadan. Bazaar-e-Husn was Premchand's first major novel; Written originally in Urdu under the title Bazaar-e-Husn, but first published in Hindi under the title Seva Sadan (i.e. The House of Service) in 1919[6]. 
. Godaan 
. Karmabhoomi 
. Kaayakalp 
. Manorama 
. Mangalsootra incomplete 
. Nirmala 
. Pratigya 
. Premashram 
. Rangbhoomi 
. Vardaan 
. Prema

Plays

. Karbala Satyajit Ray filmed two of Premchand's works- Sadgati and Shatranj Ke Khiladi. Sadgati (Salvation) is a short story revolving around poor Dukhi, who dies of exhaustion while hewing wood for a paltry favor. Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) revolved around the decadence of nawabi Lucknow, where the obsession with a game consumes the players, making them oblivious of their responsibilities in the midst of a crisis. Sevasadan (first published in 1918) was made into a film with M.S. Subbulakshmi in the lead role. The novel is set in Varanasi, the holy city of Hindus. Sevasadan ("House of Service") is an institute built for the daughters of courtesans. The lead of the novel is a beautiful, intelligent and talented girl called Suman. She belongs to high caste. She is married to a much older, tyrannical man. She realizes that a loveless marriage is just like prostitution except that there is only one client. Bholi, a courtesan, lives opposite Suman. Suman realizes that Bholi is "outside purdah", while she is "inside it". Suman leaves her husband and becomes a successful entertainer of gentlemen. But after a brief period of success, she ends up as a victim of a political drama played out by self-righteous Hindu social reformers and moralists

He also worked with the film director Himanshu Rai of Bombay Talkies, one of the founders of Bollywood.

The Actor Factor Theatre Company, a young Delhi based theatre group, staged KAFAN in 2010 in New Delhi. It is an original stage adaptation of Munshi Premchand's last short story. Kafan is a dark comedy. In the play, Puppetry is being explored to depict the tussle between two classes and the plight of Budhia, who is caught in the crossfire. Bleakness of hope in the story and awfulness of the father-son duo find a delicate balance. At times the situations break into morbid humor. In the end a wine-house becomes the stage for Ghisu (Father) and Madhav's (Son) rebellious dance, defying not only the laws of the land but also that of the Gods.

Films and TV serials

. Mazdoor (1934) 
. Seva Sadan (1938) (based on the novel Bazaar-e-Husn) 
. Mazdoor (1945). 
. Heera Moti (1959), based on a short story, Do Bailon ki Kahani 
. Godaan (1963) 
. Gaban (1966) 
. Sadgati (1981) (TV) 
. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977) 
. Godhuli (1977) 
. Oka Oori Katha, based on the story Kafan (1977) 
. Nirmala (TV Series, 1980s) 
. Prem Sarovar (TV Series, 1994 - Doordarshan Lucknow & 1996 - DD National Hindi Belt) : Director - Sunil Batta 
. Guldasta (TV Series, 2006 - Doordarshan Urdu): Director - Sunil Batta 
. Tahreer: Munshi Premchand ki (Doordarshan 2006, Director - Gulzar)

 

 
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