Munshi Premchand (Hindi: मुंशी प्रेमचंद, Urdu: منشی پریم چند), (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. A novel writer, story writer and a dramatist, he is known as "Upanyas Samrat" ("Emperor of Novels") among the Hindi writers.
Premchand was born on July 31, 1880 in village Lamhi near Varanasi in a Kayastha family 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 first pen name chosen by Premchand.[page needed] His early education was at a local madarsa under a maulvi, where he studied Urdu. Premchand's parents died early - his mother when he was seven and his father when he was sixteen or seventeen and still a student. His father's death left Premchand with no option but to absent himself from the intermediate examination he was going to give that year. Moreover Premchand was left responsible for his stepmother and step-siblings. Next year he gave his intermediate examination and got successful scores with second division but was unable to enter a college. He found employment as a school teacher in Chunar, near Varanasi, in 1899. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree simultaneously.
Premchand was married at fourteen years of age 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. On February 8, 1921, Mahatma Gandhi in a seminar in Gorakhpur in which Premchand was also present asked people to resign from government jobs. Premchand, although physically unwell, with two kids at home and his wife pregnant, took a vow and after five days of mental conflict deciding to resign from his government job albeit with the agreement of his wife. To serve the cause of Independence, Premchand tried writing for the columns of Urdu dailies of Gorakhpur Tehkik and Swadesh but his failure to do that led him to settle in Varanasi, after four months of his resignation from the government job. Premchand arrived at Marwari Vidyalya, Kanpur but his conflicts with the school principal and manager led him to get back to Varanasi. In Varanasi he took the responsibility of editing the magazine Maryada, later he became principal of Kashi Vidyapith a school in Varanasi. On its closure he worked for his ambitious project of running a printing press. Though he ran it but it didn't gave him any financial profits. Finally he accepted the job offer of editing the journal Madhuri. He remained in Lucknow for six years and remaining there in 1930 he started the weekly Hans being printed in Varanasi. In early 1932 Premchand came back to Varanasi. Along with Hans he started another weekly Jagran, only to find it unmanageable although technically sound. In order to unburden himself from loan resulting from both the weeklies he worked as script writer for Ajanta Cinetone in Mumbai. He wrote for film Mazdoor and before the completion of his annual contract came back to Varanasi for the culture of Mumbai film industry left him blank. Himanshu roy, the founder of Bombay Talkies, insisted on Premchand not leaving Mumbai but he didn't wanted to stay. In Mumbai itself his health had deteriorated and after coming back to Varanasi, he fell ill. After several days of sickness, Premchand died on October 8, 1936
Premchand wrote over three hundred short stories and fourteen novels, many essays and letters, plays and translations. Many of Premchand's works 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, Hori, 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.
- Panch Parameshvar is a story about two friends Jumman Sheikh and Algu Chowdhari who live in a village in India. One of the friend Jumman troubles his aunt who seeks the help of the village panchayat to get justice. aman friend Algu is chosen as the judge(sarpanch), and on the post Algu takes the correct action (which is against his friend) due to which their friendship is affected. After sometime Algu decides to sell his oxen to the local moneylender but is cheated. The matter goes to the panchayat in which Jumman is chosen as a judge. Jumman comes to the realization that a judge should not be biased as the words from his mouth are treated like words from the mouth of God.He proclaims a justifiable decision in favour of Algu, his former friend.In the end the Algu and Juman re-unite, becoming friends again.
- 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 Eid ul-Fitr, a Muslim festival. He goes to a fair along with his friends, who spend a lot of money in buying candy, toys etc.; but he remembers his grandmother whose fingers get burnt when she makes rotis over a fire in a clay oven as she has no chimta (tongs) to flip the rotis over. He bargains for a chimta in a shop for whatever little money he has. Other children make fun of him for buying a pair of tongs instead of toys or candies. Upon his return, his grandmother initially scolds him for the seemingly poor choice of purchase, but is touched when she becomes aware of the actual thought process behind Hamid's gesture.
- Daroga Sahab
- Mantra is a story about a rich doctor named Chaddha whose selfishness results in the death of a patient and how that same patient's father very non selfishly cures Dr. Chaddha's son, when the doctor meets the same sort of situation.
- Nashaa a story about two friends living in colonial India from different strata of society. Studying away from their homes, residing in city, when during holiday period the rich friend decides to spend time in his lavish abode in village the poor friend accompanies him.In village Ishwari the rich friend son of a Zamindar introduces his friend falsely as a rich zamindar's son. When the poor friend gets used to the luxuries of his friend's home and both return back for college, a stark incidence ends the intoxication of luxuries the poor friend and nameless speaker of the story were beholding.
- Shatranj ke khiladi is a story about two aristocrats Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali living in the kingdom of Avadh during the times of British Raj. Both of them are careless towards their duties and spend their days playing Chess. Their love for the game is so immense that even when their senior and ruler of Avadh Wajid Ali Shah is captured by the British they continue playing the game of chess. In the end when a move in the game sparks a verbal conflict between both they end up killing each other with the swords they held with them.
- Poos ki raat is a story about a poor farmer and his struggle with the chilling cold during the month of December. Halku a poor farmer doesn't have enough money to buy a blanket and when he and his pet dog in a night during the time of winters are staying in their fields in order to protect the farm produce from animals, they become so restless to sleep and cold that their purpose of protecting their field is lost.
- Boodhi Kaki a story about a old woman craving for love from her family. Buddhiram, a man with a family has obtained all the legal powers to the financial belongings of her old aunt whose offspring and husband are dead. His old aunt age lives a downtrodden life dependent on his nephew's family. She is often taken advantage of due to this shortcoming of hers by his nephew Buddhiram and his wife Rupa. When the matrimonial ceremony of his nephew's son takes place the delicasies made in the house tempts her to delve into it. But when her nephew and his wife dishonour her in front of the guests and reject her desires she succumbs to her helplessness and stays in her room empty stomach. Later when her innocent granddaughter secretly offers her those delicasies and the old woman's hunger for more of it leads her to feed on the leftovers, it melts the heart of Rupa who ultimately serves her mother-in-law all the tasty food openly and warm heartedly.
- Bade Bhaisahab is a touching story about two school going brother and the relationship shared by them.
- Bade ghar ki beti is a story of two brothers whose family conflict is undone by the intervention of elder brother's wife. Benimadho Singh a zamindar of village Gauripur and has two sons Shree Kanth Singh and Lal Bihari Singh, Shree Kanth the elder brother is a employee in city and his wife comes from a financially strong family. Once when Shree Kanth is outside the village a pity incident leads to a fight between Lal Bihari and his elder brother's wife Anandi. On Shri Kanth's arrival Anandi insists on justice with her emotions to which Shri Kanth tells his father of family separation from his brother. The younger brother repentant and with tears in his eyes talks to his sister-in-law which results in end of conflict.
- Kafan is a story about a lower caste father and son poor labours from a village, emergency strikes when the son's wife dies while giving birth to a child and both father and son have no money to cremate the body of the dead woman. The lethargic duo seek financial help from village zamindar and other members of the society. But the money they obtain they end up spending on liquor and food.
- Dikri Ke Rupaye
- Udhar Ki Ghadi
- Namak Ka Daroga
- Do Bahanein
- Prem Purnima
- The night ghost
- Thakur ka kuaan
- Dhaai ser gehun
- Gupt Dhan is a story about a man of character 'Haridas' who owns a brick factory but looses his character when he gets a map of a heriditary treasure of a worker and thus evetually dies as a punishment of god.
- 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.
- Mangalsootra incomplete
Adaptation of Premchand's work
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)with ayush
- 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)