Munshi Premchand born on July 31, 1880, inspired many films that will always stay memorable, which include some unforgettable movies and creations by master directors Gulzar, Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy. Remember Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Do Bigha Zameen, or the most recent being Tehreer, a TV series on Godan that aired on Indian national TV channel Doordarshan.
The very first film inspired by a Munshi Premchand book was Mazdoor, way back in 1945, followed by Heera Moti (1959), which was based on a short story ‘Do Bailon ki Kahani’. In fact, Heera Moti featured the famous pairing of Bimal Roy’s classic Do Bigha Zameen(1953) – Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy.
Then came Godan (1963) which refuses to vanish form the memory of film and literature lovers for its realistic depiction on the silver screen of the struggle of an Indian farmer. Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal played the lead, with mesmerizing musical score by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Godan is the last complete novel by Mumshi Premchand, and is among the greatest literary works in the world, boasting of translations in many languages. Filmmaker Krishna Chopra joined hands with Hrishikesh Mukherjee to make another Munshi Premchand story as Gaban (1966). Gaban is the story of a clerk who embezzles funds, tempted by the desire to buy a necklace for his wife. Sunil Dutt played the clerk and a Sadhana his wife. Shankar Jaikishen composed the music, which was a huge hit.
Just when one thought the days of Premchand’s socialist realism were over, world renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray made his Hindi film debut with a Munshi Premchand story, set in the backdrop of colonial India and annexation of Oudh. Despite inviting a lot of criticism, Shatranj ke Khiladi is still considered one of Ray’s most prominent films. Next came Satyajit Ray’s telefilm Sadgati (1981), starring Om Puri and Smita Patil, putting the focus on the question of caste in society.
And most recently Gulzar turned Munshi Premchand’s Godan into a 26-episode serial for Doordarshan called Tehreer. The response to the serial was however, quite lukewarm, and not as inviting as one would have expected.
Nevertheless, Munshi Premchand’s romance with movies will continue, and makers will turn their attention to his w0rks when a classic is waiting to manifest in their heart and soul.