Premchand: A Great Storyteller


Munshi Premchand, the pioneer of modern Hindi and Urdu social fiction, has been the epitome of Hindi literature. He is always compared with Charles Dickens, Gorky and Tolstoy. He, the most renowned authors of the early 20th century in India, was a versatile writer of short stories, novels, dramas and essays. He translated a number of literary works of other languages into Hindi.
Born at Lamahi near Banaras in a lower middle class family, Premchand learnt his early lessons in a madarsa. No doubt, his whole life was full of struggle. He made an active participation in the freedom movement of India. In response to Gandhi’s call he quit his job of Deputy Inspector and after that he devoted himself to writing. Premchand, a fantastic story writer, wrote more than three hundred stories. Experience of life is the soul of these stories and they are pure classic. These short stories mirror the society and encompass everything in the universe.
Premchand’s first story Duniya ka Sabse Anmol Ratan appeared in 1907 in the magazine Zamana published from Kanpur. It deals with author’s patriotic feeling. His first collection of short stories, Soz-e Watan appeared in 1908. It was so inflammable and rebellious that it was banned by the imperial government and all the copies of the book were burnt. His famous short stories are Qaatil Ki Maan, Zewar Ka Dibba, Gilli Danda, Eidgaah, Namak Ka Daroga, Bade Ghar Ki Beti and Kafan. Many of his stories have been published in a number of collections as Prem Pachisi, Prem Battisi and Manasarovar. Sevasadan, Rangmanch, Gaban, Nirmala and Godan are his best known novels. Several of his works were later adapted into movies, series, and plays. Satyajit Ray made Sadgati and Shatranj Ke Khiladi based on Premchand’s works. Guldasta and Teheer are some famous series based on his works.
Premchand wrote when India was under the British rule. His stories and characters show that he was a diehard patriot. His stories are representative of the socio-economic conditions that prevailed during the nationalist movement. They show the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and the Russian Revolution.
Premchand was the first Hindi author to introduce realism in his writings. He made the Indian villages his theme of writing. His short stories talk about the pain and suffering of the toiling masses that had been suppressed for centuries. They deal with problems of women, untouchables, downtrodden, caste system or communalism. They deal with the realistic issues of the day like dowry, untouchability, bribery, corruption, debt, poverty, colonialism, prostitution, widow remarriage and feudal system. Many of his stories reflected his personal experiences of poverty and misery. Inequality, exploitation, greed and discrimination find fantastic expression in his stories.
His deep understanding of human psychology is always appreciated. As a storyteller he was able to understand the psychology of people. His short stories like Namak ka Daroga, Bade Ghar ki Beti, Rani Sarandha, Mamta, Saut, Amavasya ki Raat and Panch Parmeshwar are the most apt examples of his ability to have a peep into human mind and heart.
Premchand was a great social reformer and thinker. His greatness lies in the fact that his writings embody social purpose and social criticism. He believed in social evolution and his ideal was equal opportunities for all. His stories took birth from the lives of the common people. The storyteller rebelled against narrow religious bias and instilled a whole generation with the idea of a new social order of justice and equality.
The Influence of feminist movements can easily be traced in the writings of Premchand. He found that women were the most severely affected victims of colonialism and feudalism. They were facing the problem of discrimination. In spite of that his women characters do not stay quite. They voice the strongest arguments, complaints and feelings. His Gangi in Thakur ka Kuan is willing to face the anger of the thakurs while trying to get clean drinking water for her ill husband. Gangi appears as a torch bearer of social change.
Premchand’s stories presented the ordinary Indian people as they were. The common man was hero in his writings. He honestly portrays his characters. He presents the minute details of each character. It seems that the author knows them well. Hamid, Ladli, Pandit Alopideen, Jhuri, Dukhi, Halku, Gangi, Buddhu, Bhajan Singh Ghisu and Madhav and countless others served a useful purpose in the stories of Premchand.
Premchand wrote in an awesome story-telling style. He had artistic instinct. He used simple language and dialect of common people. Due to this his compositions are easy to understand. He has used the words of English, Urdu, and Persian etc. in his works very well. Some of his works depict excellent use of satire and humour. In short, his short stories are compact in form and style.
From the above analysis of the stories of Premchand, it is evident that he was a master storyteller. While reading his short stories one can feel that he is roaming in some village of India and seeing everything with his naked eyes. He had a deep knowledge, understanding and practical experience of social and religious norms, rituals and traditions and psychology of the men and women of Indian society. He died in 1936 and has since been studied both in India and abroad as one of the greatest writers of the century. In short, Premchand was a great revolutionary storyteller.

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