Undoubtedly, the first name that comes to our mind whenever we discuss or talk about Hindi Literature is that of Munshi Premchand – a person who single-handedly raised the level of the Hindustani Literature to several new heights. Interestingly, Munshi Premchand is such a persona that he is widely regarded as ‘Williams Shakespeare’ of the Hindustani/Hindi Literature. Well, to be honest his literary contributions in the Hindi Literature is nothing less than that of Williams Shakespeare’s in Latin/English Literature. It is indeed lovely to witness that how different writers have made some remarkable and unforgettable contributions in various languages at different phases of time!
Dhanpat Rai Srivastava, better known by his pen name ‘Premchand’ is the greatest Indian writer who is known for his modern Hindustani literature. Premchand was a pioneer of Hindi and Urdu social fiction. He was one of the first authors to write about caste hierarchies and the plights of women and labourers prevalent in the society of late 1880s. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian Subcontinent, and is regarded as one of the foremost Hindi writers of the early twentieth century. His works include Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Gaban, Mansarovar, Idgah. He published his first collection of five short stories in 1907 in a book called Soz-e-Watan.
Well, this literary genius form the 20th century undivided India was born on 31st of July 1880 in a village named Lambi, which is near the historic city of Varanasi (Benares). As a child, Dhanpat Rai sought solace in fiction, and developed a fascination for books. He heard the stories of the Persian-language fantasy epic Tilism-e-Hoshruba at a tobacconist’s shop. He took the job of selling books for a book wholesaler, thus getting the opportunity to read a lot of books. He learnt English at a missionary school, and studied several works of fiction including George W. M. Reynolds’s eight-volume The Mysteries of the Court of London. He composed his first literary work at Gorakhpur, which was never published and is now lost. It was a farce on a bachelor, who falls in love with a low caste woman. The character was based on Premchand’s uncle, who used to scold him for being obsessed with reading fiction; the farce was probably written as a revenge for this!
He began writing under the pen name ‘Nawab Rai’ but subsequently switched to Premchand. A novel writer, storywriter and dramatist, he has been referred to as the ‘Upanyas Samrat’ (Emperor Among Novelists) by Hindi writers. His works include more than a dozen novels, around 300 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi. Well, this great writer managed to gather several feathers of achievements under his cap and some of them are related to the Hindi Film Industry as well.
Premchand arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 31 May 1934 to try his luck in the Hindi film industry. He had accepted a script writing job for the production house Ajanta Cinetone, hoping that the yearly salary of ₹8,000 would help him overcome his financial troubles. He stayed in Dadar, and wrote the script for the film Mazdoor (The Labourer). The film, directed by Mohan Bhawnani, depicted the poor conditions on the labour class. Premchand himself did a cameo as the leader of labourers in the film. Some influential businesspersons managed to get a stay on its release in Bombay. The film was released in Lahore and Delhi, but was banned again after it inspired the mill workers to stand up against the owners!
Well, that was an interesting fact about Munshi Premchand’s life, which many of us might not be aware of anyways there is no denial that Munshi Premchand (31 July 1880 – 8 October 1936), is the pride of India and the greatest ambassador of the Hindustani Literature. Now, even after so many years the world has not yet witnessed anyone even nearly close to the achievements of Munshi Premchand when it comes to Hindustani Literature. With this write-up, I hope that the readers would take forward the stories of Premchand to the upcoming generations and maybe someday we might see some other writers walking on the paths of Munshi Premchand – the legend.
Written By NEEL PREET – Author of the Books, Voice From The East (2016); Journey With Time Place And Circumstances (2018) & Indian Defence Files (2021).