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God An

God An

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Published by ramchinna

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Published by: ramchinna on Jun 19, 2009
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09/09/2010

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GODAN
Accompanied by unusual fervour and publicity, Doordarshan telecast a four episode series called‘Tehreer- Premchand Ki’ this week. It was directed and presented by Gulzar and comprisedPremchand’s major novels Godan and Nirmala and several short stories including Kafan.The venerable director claimed in a promotional interview that Premchand remains ‘strikinglyrelevant even today.’Undoubtedly, but nowadays Premchand is no longer a mere writer, he is an ideal, a metaphor, ashorthand for Progressivism regardless of how you maul him.The pristine progenitor of fiction for the two degenerate siblings Hindi and Urdu, the GandhianNationalist, the pioneering Progressive, the chronicler of the wretched and the poor, he is one of the most serviceable representatives of, as Gandhi liked to have it, real India.As such anybody can indignantly invoke him to disparage the present although, apart from thesyllabus, he is as little read as the 100 volumes of writings of his leader Gandhi.As a result, any endeavor associated with his name compels us to suspend judgement andcriticism and hail it as a noble effort. Premchand’s idealised image — poor, simple and pure —seems to reproach us, to remind us about another India, an infant rural poor India that we haveleft far behind and we respond to that guilt with gleeful sentimentalism, which is, but an inversionof self-pity.Over the last 20 years numerous television producers have taken advantage of this tendency togrant instant approval, respect and sympathy to any project bearing Premchand’s name. So wehave had adaptations of Nirmala, Sadgati, selections of Mansarovar (his collected short stories)and Premchand ki Duniya galore.It helps that you do not need to pay any royalty either. If you have seen any of those, it is unlikelythat you would ever be motivated to read him.Given all this, you can imagine the excitement with which I waited to watch Gulzar Saheb’sinterpretation of the classic. Only to find that the holy cow of Godan, the very object that is acentral motif of the story, is actually a Jersey cow.The director however defended himself by saying that ‘if Premchand was alive today he would patmy back for representing his vision.’ With due apologies, I am not quite sure whether he wouldhave delivered a pat or something else, but I am certain that a more bland, insipid, inauthenticand inept adaptation of Premchand has never been attempted before.Anyone who saw it would find it indistinguishable from the innumerable ‘rural’ serials that DDroutinely inflicts on us in the name of public service. Definitely no one would like to readPremchand after such a tribulation.What we were subjected to was in truth the pind-daan, the death due, of Godan rather than itsresuscitation. Happily may we bury the novel now and visit perdition upon the author’s head.When one of our most respected directors thus shortchanges him, and us, you can imagine thestate of my umbrage. In Gulzar’s interpretation, the classic poor farmer Hori and his family areshown to possess brand new, visibly new, clothes, pots, pans, walls, sets, objects, a décor whichobviously demands an equally clean jersey cow. If there is anything left of Hori and Dhania after this repulsively synthetic cleanliness — Dhania is once shown sweeping a floor that is bare andspotless — is lost in the direction and the characterisation.Pankaj ‘Maqbool’ Kapoor’s Hori is full of gravitas and authority, putting to bed the subaltern statusof a marginal farmer that Premchand had evoked. Surekha Sikri’s Dhania appears and behavesimmodestly like a coy middle class housewife.In this criminally insipid retelling, Godan is reduced to the stereotyped story of a debt-ridden

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