“Godaan” is a famous Hindi novel by Munshi Premchand. Published in 1936, this novel is counted among the greatest novels of Hindi literature. Before talking about this novel and the series that is based on this novel and is streaming on Youtube, let’s talk a little about Munshiji. Munshi ji’s place in the world of Hindi literature is among some of the most outstanding writers. The novels he has written include famous and popular books like Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Gaban, Mansarovar, Idgah. He has written more than 12 famous books and over 300 short stories and his books have been translated into English and other foreign languages. I have written reviews in Hindi and Gujarati and will post them as well.
In 1963, a Bollywood film was made on “Godaan”, starring Raj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Mehmood and Sashikala.
In 2004, Tehrir, directed by Gulzar, based on Munshiji’s Godaan, was aired on Doordarshan, starring Pankaj Kapur and Surekha Sikri.
This is a masterfully told story focusing on the lives of farmers in rural India of 1930s. These poor and largely uneducated farmers are caught in a cycle of poverty and debt. Various members of the upper classes including, jamindars, thakurs, members of the Panchayat, and brahmin priests take advantage of the fact that the farmers look up to them and deeply respect them. For real and imagined transgressions, fines are levied on the farmers, their animals (and sometimes their farms) are seized in return for loans given at exorbitant interest rates, receipts are never given of loan repayments leaving it to their will how much to extract from the poor farmers and thus continues the cycle of poverty for generations. Sometimes these farmers even become a target of the members of their own class, on account of jealousy. And when a farmer is fully driven into debt and there is nothing left to extract out of the poor man who has lost his youthful spirit and is well into his middle age, then he is cajoled into marrying his beloved young daughter to old man, twice her age, but one who is not likely to demand a dowry and may help the family financially.
The serial is specifically centered around a farmer, Horiram and his wife, Dhania and their three children. Performances by Pankaj Kapur as Hori and Surekha Sikri as Dhaniya are absolutely flawless. The serial is heart-rending, flawlessly made with superb performances and engaging story, beautifully told. I watched it in Hindi but since Munshi’s stories are translated in other languages, I highly recommend that you try and find it and watch if possible.