Phanishwar Nath Renu: A pioneer of Hindi social fiction

Er Prabhat Kishore
Phanishwar Nath Renu is one of the most successful and influential writers who is remembered for his vivid portrayal of events in rural India through regional novels and for bringing regional dialect into the mainstream of Hindi literature. Renuji is counted among the most successful and inspiring creators of modern Hindi literature after the Premchand era. His first masterpiece social novel titled “Maila Aanchal”, composed in 1954, gained the fame of the most famous Hindi novel after Premchand’s “Godan” and he was subsequently awarded the “Padma Shri” award in 1970 by the Government of India.
Phanishwar Nath Renu was born on 4 March 1921 in a poor Kurmi family in Aunrahi Hingna village under the then Purnia district (present-day Araria district) of Bihar. After completing his primary education in Forbesganj and Araria, he moved to Viratnagar (Nepal), where he completed his matriculation from Viratnagar Adarsh Vidyalaya, residing with the Koirala family. After passing his Intermediate in Arts course from Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya, he actively participated in India’s freedom struggle. In 1950, he participated in the Nepalese revolutionary movement against the monarchy in Nepal, which resulted in the establishment of democracy there. He fell seriously ill in 1952-53, and during this period he inclined towards writings. A glimpse of his period is found in his story “Tabe Ekla Chalo Re”.
Renuji laid the foundation of “Anchalik Katha” in Hindi literature. In his stories and novels, a successful attempt has been made to put into words every tune, every smell, every rhythm, every tone, every beauty and every simplicity of rural life. There is a magical effect in his language-style which keeps the readers bound with him. His literature deeply captures the rural diversities. He was an outstanding storyteller and while reading his works, one feels as if someone is telling a livingstory. He has used the folk songs of rural life in a very creative way in his fictions. Renuji’s writings carry forward the social realist tradition of Premchand and for this reason he is called the“ Premchand of Post-independence”. His writing style was descriptive in which each psychological thought of the character was described in a captivating way. Renuji’s famous social novel “Maila Aanchal” depicts the lives of rural Bharat and its deprived people. The publication of this novel made him famous overnight as an eminent Hindi story writer.
The prominent novels composed by Renuji include Maila Aanchal (1954), Parati Parikatha (1957), Dirghtapa (1964), Juloos (1966), Kitne Chaurahe (1966), Kalank Mukti (1972), Paltu Babu Road (1979),and Is Jal Pralay Mein. He wrote story collections namely Ek Thumri (1959), Agnikhor (1973), Ek Shravani Dophari Ki Dhoop(1984) and AchheAadmi. In his memoirs, Rin Jal-Dhan Jal, Van Tulsi Ki Gandh, Shrut Ashrut Purve, Totapur, Samay Ki Shila Par, Aatm Parichay, and Nepali Kranti Katha. His famous stories include Mare Gaye Gulfan, Ek Aadim Ratri Ki Mahak, Lal Paan Ki Begum, Panchlite, Tabe Ekla Chalo Re, Raspriya, Thes, Naina Jogin, Sanwadiya, Purani Kahani:NayaPaath, Pahalwan Ki Dholak, Akal Aur Bhains, Agni Sancharak, Atithi Satkar, Atha Balakandam, Abhinav, Party Ka Bhoot, Wonderful Studio, Vikat Sankat, Ek Akahani Ka Supatra, Pranon Mein Ghule Huye Rang.
Renuji’s short story “Mare Gaye Gulfan” was adapted into the famous film “Teesari Kasam” in 1966, by director Basu Bhattacharya and produced by famous lyricist Shailendra. Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman played the lead roles in this film. Renuji also wrote the dialogues for this film. This film is considered a milestone in the world of cinema, in which the love story of Hiraman and Hirabai created a wonderful epic yet tragic narrative of love and it continue to fascinate readers and audiences even today. In 2017, a short TV film based on one of his stories “Panchlight” presented a wonderful picture of village life.
In the 1972 Bihar Legislative Assembly elections, Renuji contested as an independent candidate from Farbisganj constituency to symbolically protest against the mismanagement and corruption prevailing in the government system. A group of litterateurs, writers and intellectuals went from village to village to campaign in his favour, during which the poetic slogan “Kah Do Gaon Gaon Mein, AbkiIss Chunav Mein, Vote Denge Naav Mein” became widely popular.
In 1974, he actively participated in the Bihar Sapta Kranti Aandolan under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan and showing his solidarity towards the movement, he returned the title of “Padma Shri” in protest against the anti-people policies of the government during the Emergency. During the movement, he was also bled many times by the lathis of the police. On April 11, 1977, after a prolong illness, this literature seeker left his mortal body and merged into the five elements.
(The Author is a technocrat and Educationist)

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