Meet Premchand, the person

Updated: Sep 17, 2019, 10:19 IST | Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

A dramatised reading inspired by the autobiography of the legendary writer's wife Shivrani offers a rare insight into the private, egalitarian world of the couple

Munshi Premchand and Shivrani Devi. Pic courtesy/Àzad Mir;
Munshi Premchand and Shivrani Devi. Pic courtesy/Àzad Mir;

He came to me as my husband, how could I revere him? If I did, I would worship him with flowers and paan, but instead that’s how he worshipped me. He would fan me when I couldn’t sleep, he’d run errands for me… you see, love and reverence cannot exist together," wrote Shivrani Devi of her fellow writer and husband Munshi Premchand in her autobiography. When a thespian friend introduced Mumbai-based novelist Yashwant Shekhawat to Munshi Premchand Ghar Mein, he felt that a dramatised reading of the memoir could offer an insight into the private world of the couple, who led a life, which more than a century ago, was unheard of in India.

premchandYashwant Shekhawat

The reading features four actors. While Priyanka Setia and Meenakshi Rathod will represent Shivrani in the early phase of her marriage and after Premchand’s death, Ajeet Singh Palawat and Dilip Pandey will portray Premchand in his 30s and 50s.

 "While we know Premchand through his works, this autobiography tells you what Premchand was like as a person. But the more you read it, the more you realise the similarity between his writing and his persona. When you speak of a great personality, it is his thoughts and conduct that make him great," says Shekhawat, referring to the fact that the iconic writer married Shivrani — a writer of repute who contributed to the freedom struggle — after his first marriage turned out to be unsuccessful. Being a child widow, this was Shivrani’s second marriage, too. The couple tied the knot in 1906, and the next year, Premchand wrote Prema, where the protagonist overcomes social opposition to marry a young widow, much like Premchand himself.

Shekhawat adds that the memoir also busts several myths about Premchand’s personal life. "Many of Premchand’s contemporaries believed that his wife used to dominate, and even exploit him. But this book reveals why he wanted Shivrani Devi to dominate him," he says.

"Though the play is set in the pre-Independence era, the country is still the same to a large extent," adds Shekhawat, speaking about the relevance of the performance. "Here was a couple whose marriage fed into and drew from the recurring themes in Premchand’s works, and their bond, much like the egalitarian principles he argued for in his stories, was truly that of equals."

On September 21, 7 pm
At Studio Tamaasha, Lokhandwala, Andheri West.
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Entry Rs 100 onwards

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