👀 Stories that are like mirrors
#207 | A dive into Premchand's cinematic legacy
Welcome, my fellow culture vultures!
Earlier this year, I visited International Kolkata Book Fair with fellow Bee Proiti, and during one of our many conversations, I realised I have inadvertently pulled away from Hindi literature for a while now. A wrong I intend to correct.
It also gave me an idea for today's Thing. Hindi literature is a vast and wonderful expanse of breathtaking prose, so today I'm paying homage to one person in particular - Munshi Premchand, specifically the movies his writing inspired.
Premchand was a literary rockstar. A legend in his time, and ours. He inspired cinema legends like Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, who used his powerful Hindustani prose to create some truly epic works of art.
The hope is for you to experience Premchand's work or just binge on some amazing cinema. Either way, it will be a fun ride.
I'll kick things off with some old-school drama with a side of bovine love; the classic - Heera Moti. Directed by Krishen Chopra and starring the iconic Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy as a farmer couple fighting a greedy landlord. They don't take any bull from him - especially when it comes to their beloved oxen.
Godaan, Munshi Premchand's last complete masterpiece, will leave you as emotionally drained as a drought-ridden farmer. The movie stars Raaj Kumar, Mehmood and Shashi Kala and is a story of struggle, exploitation, and the crushing weight of economic deprivation.
Shatranj Ke Khilari was the first Hindi film by the legendary Satyajit Ray based on a Premchand novel of the same name, it takes us back to 1856 Awadh, a year before the First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny, depending on which side of the colonial divide you stand. The movie is time capsule of a tumultuous time in Indian history with stellar performances and a gripping storyline that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Finally, Satyajit Ray's Sadgati. Starring Om Puri and the delicious Smita Patil, this made-for-TV movie is a prime example of how great storytelling transcends mediums. It takes sharp jabs at the Indian caste system, as it follows the life of a shoemaker and his interaction with a village priest that will change their lives forever.
Premchand's works have inspired generations of artists, and his words are as relevant today as ever were, whether on paper or screen. I hope you do explore his cinematic legacy, and if you do, write and tell me all about it.
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