To celebrate the illustrious works of renowned Hindi novelist and short stories writer, Premchand, on his 139th birth anniversary, an event named Jashn-e-Premchand has been organised by Katha Kathan founder, Jameel Gulays, in Versova, Mumbai. The three-day event which started on 28 July, will have its finale today with dramatized readings of Prem Chand’s stories in Urdu done by a group of narrators, at Veda Factory.
According to Gulays, this is a good way of introducing authors like Premchand to the younger generation who may not even be learning about such writers, or reading their works in their respective schools. Katha Kathan, in fact, is an initiative started by Gulays to save Indian Languages, by reintroducing people to the diverse trove of Indian literature.
“Our languages are our heritage, our virasat. But, people nowadays don’t want to save this legacy, which is why so many Indian languages are dying. People talk so much about religions… But, if the languages are not safe, how can religions be safe? All our culture will go for a toss, and when Indian languages go out of the system, religions will also go out of the system too.” said Gulays.
Talking about the event tonight Gulays said, ” It will be a lot like hearing radio plays…We want to create the atmosphere of a play, so there will be as many characters as the story has, and the emotions. It will not be plain reading for sure. It will be dramatized.”
While Gulays is striving to retain and pass down the legacy of Premchand to the next generation, it seems that the most influential Hindi-Urdu author of the twentieth century is slowly slipping into oblivion. According to reports in The New Indian Express, the power supply to the author’s ancestral home at Lamhi, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh was recently disconnected as rehearsals for his 139th birth anniversary was underway, forcing the participants to practice in candlelight. The issue was later resolved, and power was restored by the UP Power Corporation.
If you think of it, this incident could have served as an excellent setting for one of Premchand’s novels, had he been alive. Premchand, through his works, always highlighted the plight of the poor, and the middle class, and was one of the first Hindi authors to write with such vivid realistic imagery about social evils of corruption, child marriages and the archaic feudal system. At a time of literary censorship, when it was hard to criticise or write anything against the British government, Premchand dared to write satires which obliquely hinted at the oppression. In fact, Premchand’s collection of short stories Soz-e-Watan was considered ‘seditious’ and many copies of this book were burnt by the British government, but the author remained unperturbed and continued to write not just against imperialism but also against caste-based discrimination of the society.
In one of his most inspiring speeches about the ‘Aim of Literature’, Premchand stated that for any creative writing to be considered literature it should reflect the truth, and added that the duty of any author is to defend the weak and the deprived. Premchand’s works like Babaji’s Feast and Thakur’s Well are excellent reminders of how the ‘upper’ caste exploited their privilege and ill-treated the members of ‘lower’ caste. The author of over three hundred short stories, and fourteen novels, Premchand has left behind an oeuvre of work that is very pertinent in today’s world as well.
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