In any discussion about Indian literature, the mention of Premchand is mandatory. Born in a village near Varanasi, as Dhanpat Rai Srivastava on 31st July 1880, he is regarded as the most important literary figure of the last century.
His works include more than 250 short stories, 20 novels and several essays and translations. He was known for his stories and novels focussing on the portrayal of the poor and the middleclass in realistic scenarios often for the purpose of stirring nationalistic views in the then ongoing freedom struggle of India. Starting out as an Urdu writer, he published a collection of short stories called ‘Soz-e-Watan’ in 1907, gaining a lot of flak from the British Government. His works have undertones of economic struggles and satirical views on religious superstitions that had plagued the country.
He later switched to writing in Hindi, but by then he had already established himself as a national literary hero. Some of his most remembered works are ‘Godan’, ‘Gaban’ and ‘Rangmanch’, and are still considered as some of the best works by any Indian writer till date. He had also dabbled in script writing for the movie ‘Mazdoor’ released in 1934.
Although he was not then known internationally like his Bengali contemporary Rabindranath Tagore, his translations have now made sure of a worldwide acknowledgement of his genius. The critically acclaimed movie ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, by the Oscar winning Satyajit Ray is based on Premchand’s story. Ray also directed ‘Sadgati’ which was another of Premchand’s works. His novel ‘Sevadasan’ was adapted in to a movie with the legendary M. S. Subbulakshmi as the lead.
Premchand was the pioneer of Hindi literature and served an exemplary role of the man who wrote for a social cause. His stories despite being simple have touched lives, and many writers thence have made him a paradigm for their understanding of literature.
His birthday brings in another chance to remember his prolific work and may the legend of Premchand’s love for the common man continue.
This Article was first published in zeenews.india.com