Godaan (1963)

I am not a one to make New Year’s resolutions; more often than not, it’s just something I silently tell myself I should attempt to do over the course of the coming year. At the start of 2014, I decided I should read more classic fiction this year—and, importantly, more fiction that wasn’t originally in English. Since the only two languages I am fluent in are English and Hindi, it meant that the only untranslated works I could read would be in either of those two languages. So, after many years (if I remember correctly, I last read a Munshi Premchand novel in school), I decided to read his landmark novel, Godaan.

…and didn’t even know, till a couple of months back, that it had been adapted into a film. When I discovered Godaan on Youtube, I bookmarked it immediately (noting, though, with trepidation, that it starred two people I’m not especially fond of: Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal). And I vowed to watch it as soon as possible, at least while the novel was still fresh in my mind.

Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal in Godaan

Godaan is set in pre-Independence India, in the countryside somewhere in North India, not too far from Lucknow. The story begins one evening, as the protagonist, Hori (Raj Kumar), a poor farmer who’s neck-deep in debt, sets off from his home, telling his wife Dhaniya (Kamini Kaushal) that he’s going to pay his respects to the local zamindar, the Rai Sahib, who’s sent for Hori.

Hori and Dhaniya at home one evening
Dhaniya is dismissive, and tells Hori that Rai Sahib can surely wait until Hori has had a bite to eat or something to drink after a long day working in the fields, but Hori cannot accept that. Rai Sahib, to him, cannot be kept waiting. Not because he is brutal or tyrannical (he isn’t, not in the melodramatic, typical Hindi film style), but because he is Rai Sahib, important and awful [awful in the archaic sense of the word].

On his way to Rai Sahib’s haveli, Hori bumps into the milkman Bhola (?), who is leading a fine new cow. They greet each other and chat briefly; Hori praises the cow, and expresses a rueful wish that he could buy her from Bhola; a cow is the shobha, the ornament, of a home, after all. Bhola, who is pretty long in the tooth, mentions (and this is obviously a well-worn topic) that he would like to get married again. And, just like that, a deal is struck: Hori promises to look for a bride for Bhola, and Bhola promises to give him the cow—the payment for it can be given later, whenever Hori has the money.

Hori meets Bhola one the way
Hori, delighted, offers Bhola—who has been cribbing about the lack of fodder to feed his milch cattle—some hay. Later today, once Hori’s back from Rai Sahib’s. They go their own ways, content, and Hori makes his way to Rai Sahib (? Bipin Gupta?). Rai Sahib tells Hori that, in the upcoming Ramleela celebrations, Hori is to enact the role of Raja Janak’s gardener; he also instructs Hori to let the villagers—Hori included, of course—know that Rai Sahib expects them to donate Rs 500 for the cause.

He then goes on to talk about how he wishes the government would not burden him with this task of being landlord and all. He would much rather give up all this power and wealth and spend his days peacefully ploughing fields and harvesting crops.

Rai Sahib gives Hori some instructions
In a later scene, where Rai Sahib is dining with some friends—Mr Mehta (?), Miss Malti (Shashikala), Mr Khanna (Madan Puri) and Mirza Sahib (?)—this hypocrisy of the rich is touched upon again. They talk of being enlightened, of wanting to help the poor, of living the simple life—but all from the comfort of their know-no-want lives.

Rai Sahib with his guests
Meanwhile, a lot happens in the lives of Hori and his family. When Hori and his son Gobar (Mehmood) go to Bhola’s house to leave the promised hay, Gobar sees Bhola’s daughter Jhuniya (Shubha Khote)—and there’s immediate chemistry.

Jhuniya and Gobar fall in love
They begin to meet clandestinely, but not discreetly enough. Soon, the entire village knows about them, and Dhaniya is grumbling to Hori and saying she doesn’t want Gobar wasted on a girl like Jhuniya.

Also, the cow has been brought home, with much fanfare. A beaming Hori and Dhaniya, along with Gobar and his two younger sisters, Sona and Rupa, welcome the cow and install it in the courtyard. People from the village come by to admire the animal, to offer advice, and to congratulate Hori on obtaining such a fine cow.

The cow comes home
All except Hori’s two estranged brothers, Hira and Shobha. Even though Dhaniya tries to tell him that it doesn’t matter; those two no-good louts would only envy him his good fortune, not rejoice—Hori isn’t convinced. He still loves his brothers, and wants to share the good news with them.
He therefore goes off to tell Hira and Shobha—and ends up eavesdropping on a conversation between them. Hira, bitter and disgruntled, says that Hori must have misappropriated part of the family inheritance; that’s how he’s managed to cough up money for this cow. Shobha tries to reason with him and calm him down, but to no avail; Hira is very resentful.

And Hori, deeply hurt, goes home without coming forward to talk to Hira and Shobha.

Hori overhears a conversation between his estranged brothers
Soon after, one hot and sultry evening, Hori tells Dhaniya that he’s going to tie the cow up outside; it’s so hot for them humans inside the house, will the cow too not be uncomfortable? It will be better for her outside. Dhaniya tries to dissuade her husband, then gives in. Hori ties up the cow outside—and, a little later, happens to go out, only to see his brother Hira there, near the cow. Hira mumbles a greeting, says something about having stopped by to see how Hori and his family are getting along, and then goes off.

Hira drops by
Hori, puzzled, goes back inside. A little while later, Gobar arrives home—to find the cow lying twitching and obviously at her last gasp. Hori, Dhaniya and Gobar rush out to the cow, but it’s too late. She dies before their very eyes, poisoned.
The family is devastated. Their beautiful, so very auspicious cow is dead, gone. Hori, in his grief, mentions to Dhaniya that he had met Hira standing outside, beside the cow. And Dhaniya, hot-headed as always, gets furious.

... and their cow drops dead
In the midst of this family tirade—Hori trying to calm Dhaniya down, she vowing to see Hira brought to justice—the law arrives, in the form of the local daroga (SN Banerjee), along with other prominent members of the villages, including the pandit. Dhaniya, so angry with Hira (who, it transpires, has decamped and is now nowhere to be found), tells the daroga of her suspicions of Hira. When the daroga says he’ll search Hira’s house, Hori—far too kind and loving for his own good—interrupts and begs him not to; he even goes so far as to deny that he had ever said anything about having seen Hira.

Hori and Dhaniya and the daroga
Much angst ensues. Gobar, who’s also turned up, gets annoyed with Hori’s wishy-washy ways (Gobar is rather like his mother Dhaniya in this respect; he is not one to take injustice lightly, the way Hori is wont to do). Meanwhile, to pacify the daroga, who’s annoyed at being brought out here for nothing, the pandit hands over a bribe of Rs 50 on behalf of Hori. As if Hori didn’t have enough debts to pay back already.

Things steadily get worse for Hori, Dhaniya and their family. They are just about getting used to the loss of their beloved cow when one fine day, Jhuniya turns up at their doorstep. Pregnant. Gobar has got her into this condition, and has now fled, she knows not where. Jhuniya knows that if she goes to her own home, her father Bhola will have her hide. And will throw her out—so she has come to Hori’s. Dhaniya, initially indignant and angry, quickly softens and accepts Jhuniya as her bahu, so what if a formal marriage didn’t take place. Jhuniya is taken into the household.

Jhuniya turns up at their home, pregnant
This, of course, has its repercussions. Hori and Dhaniya are hauled before the panchayat, to account for their part in siding with the wrongdoers in this scandal. They should have thrown Jhuniya out, everybody insists. For that, to compensate for the insult to the village’s honour, Hori must pay up Rs 100. Hori pleads: he hasn’t a naya paisa. How can he be expected to pay such a fine?

The panch parmeshwar (and Hori does regard them as parmeshwar, infallible and omnipotent and worthy of all his respect) offer a solution. Hori should mortgage his house to one of them (the moneylender). The money he receives in return will be used to pay the fine.

And, because he has no other option, Hori agrees. He signs over his little home.

Hori is forced to mortgage his home
Then, before they can even recover from this blow, Bhola comes thundering, baying for Gobar’s blood, and then threatening Hori with consequences if he doesn’t throw Jhuniya out immediately. What consequences? Well, Bhola will take away Hori’s pair of oxen. After all, Bhola had given Hori his cow, and see what has happened. Not only has he not been paid for the cow (which, after all, is dead), Hori hasn’t done anything about getting Bhola remarried. And now this.

Hori tries hard to stop Bhola—after all, if Bhola takes away the oxen, how will Hori plough his fields? Nothing comes of his pleas. Bhola drags away his oxen.

Bhola takes away Hori's oxen
Just about all he possesses is gone now, until such time as Hori is possibly able to pay off the money. And buy back his oxen. And pay the various other people he owes money to. And, of course, continue to pay the taxes on his meagre lands. And, perhaps, someday he will be able to buy a cow. Because a cow is the ultimate ornament for a home, a sign of comfort and hope and goodness…

No, Godaan isn’t a story promoting the sacredness of cows. This is a story about a poor farmer’s dream. A dream that gets crushed as he tries in vain to struggle against the many forces ranged against him: the wealthy, the powerful, the greedy, even his own kin, his son and his brother. Godaan is a story of how dreams can remain when all else is gone. It is a story of greed and avarice, of selfish ambition. And of love.

What I liked about this film:

The characterization of Hori and Dhaniya. These two are, on the surface, polar opposites. Dhaniya is quick-tempered, inclined to stand up for herself and those she loves; she does not take things lying down. But she is not, either, a shrew: she is loving, even soft-hearted (for example, in the case of Jhuniya), and her loyalty to Hori is undoubted. Hori, on the other hand, is a gentle, mild-mannered man, quick to forgive (his brothers, for example, or Gobar). His is a character that veers towards submission: his respect for authority—political, legal, religious—is profound. There is not, however, a lack of self-respect or an utter abasement of self: Hori does show his frustration, does speak up now and then. Both are memorable characters, not black or white, but many shades of grey. As the film progresses, you realise that there is much in common between the two: their capacity for hard work, their innate goodness, their love for their children.

Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal as Hori and Dhaniya
And their love for each other. This is not the heady romance of a new love; it’s more mature, more comfortable. Hori and Dhaniya know each other well—Hori, for instance, knows just how to behave, what to say, to manipulate Dhaniya so that her anger against Jhuniya is turned into sympathy for the girl.

Dhaniya’s feelings for her husband are best shown in a quietly poignant little scene near the end of the film.

Hori, having slaved all day in the fields, is sitting outside his hut at night, spinning string. Dhaniya is helping him by winding the string onto a spool. Hori is telling her—or, rather, thinking aloud—of all he will do once he’s recovered his mortgaged land, got back his oxen, paid off this debt and that… he will buy a cow. Dhaniya slowly gets up and goes into the house, but pauses at the threshold and looks back. Her eyes fill with tears, but she says nothing. She knows Hori’s dreams will come to nothing (and Hori too knows it), but she will not break his heart by saying so—or pretend to him that yes, his dreams will come true. It is not pity you see in her eyes, but deep love, empathy, and helplessness.

Dhaniya looks back in anguish...
Behind her, Hori works on, quietly, fatalistically, aware that this is his lot.

... and Hori works on.
A very fine piece of direction by Trilok Jaitley, and very fine acting by both Kamini Kaushal as well as Raj Kumar. These two were very good in Godaan; their acting restrained, believable, and perhaps the best I’ve seen from either of them in the films I’ve seen.

The songs, written by Anjaan and scored by Ravi Shankar, are beautiful, even if not extremely well-known. My favourite one is the sad but lovely Hiya jarat din-rain; another good one is Pipra ke patwa.

What I didn’t like:

The scenes involving the wealthy urbanites: these were few and far enough to be pointless and even irritating. Shashikala’s Malti, for instance, is the one with the most scenes—and that’s a total of three, in none of which anything of much consequence happens. (More on this later, in the section below).

I have a feeling Moser Baer might have something to do with this ham-handed editing of the film in the video version I watched, but I can’t be sure.

Comparisons, comparisons:

Since Godaan is based on Premchand’s novel, it’s worth comparing the two.

The main difference—and this is something not uncommon—is in the scope of the two, the literary work versus the cinematic one. The novel, in this case, is very vast in scope: Premchand paints a huge and complex canvas, with a large number of characters, all of them with their own stories. Entire chapters, for example, are devoted to the lives of Malti, Mehta, Khanna, and the circles they move in. The novel shifts between city and village, rich and poor, educated and illiterate. It’s a difficult book to adapt for the big screen.

Though I had approached Godaan with skepticism—I had doubted whether it would be able to do justice to the book—I ended up not being disappointed. True, the intricately woven stories, the many details, are missing (and it would be impossible to put them all into the film; it would be too confusing and too long). But where the film scores is in that it retains the essence of Premchand’s story, the story of Hori and Dhaniya, their dreams, their struggles to survive in a world ranged against them. I just wish there had either been more of the Malti-Mehta-Khanna story in the film, or it had been completely omitted. As it is now, with just some three scenes or so devoted to them, it seems fairly pointless to have bothered to put them into the film—they merely serve to interrupt the otherwise smooth flow of the Hori-Dhaniya narrative.

Malti and Mehta, in a rare scene from the film
Despite that, though, this is a good film, a poignant and sensitive one which manages to tell a sad tale without getting melodramatic about it. Do watch.

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30 thoughts on “Godaan (1963)

  1. I had tried reading Godaan some years back and had given it up because the story was depressing and then reading a book in hindi (after 8th standard) was tough :p
    Also did not watch the movie because I am not fond of Raj Kumar or Kamini Kaushal! But after reading your review, I just might try it after all. :-)

    The music is absolutely beautiful. Hiya Jarat Rahat is my favourite too. I also like that Lata solo – Jaane Kahe Jiya Mora Dole re. Don’t remember Pipra Ke Patwa.. I will listen to this album again.

    • Thanks to studying Hindi right up to Class XII, I had to also study Higher Hindi in college! So, while I can’t read Hindi as swiftly as I can English, I’m still not totally floundering. And once I got into the flow while reading Godaan, it did become much easier and faster. It did turn out to be a memorable book, though I felt some of the characters could have been done away with – there were just too many, and their stories too involved.

      Do watch the film, Harini. It’s really quite good.

      • You had Hindi till Class XII?? And in college also, wow? I switched to Sanskrit after Class VIII.. and I was relieved. I do remember reading Raag Darbari (Shrilal Shukla) in Hindi in Class VIII – ploughing through it – for what reason, I do not remember.

        I will watch the movie soon. :-)

        • Since I was in Kendriya Vidyalaya, we had to study Hindi, whether we wanted to or not, at least up to Class X. After that, if you took Arts (as I did), Hindi was compulsory. It hadn’t been in my sister’s time – she’s 5 years older than me, and had also taken Arts. But she was able to opt for both English Elective and English Core. By the time I got to Class XII, I was told I had to take either Hindi Core or Hindi Elective; there was no chance of doing both English.

          But I was so relieved to have finally gotten rid of Sanskrit, that was fine with me! (Also, probably, because I’ve always been fairly comfortable with Hindi)

    • instead you can/should watch it on youtube available in TV series which earlier used to come on Doordarshan National channel.

  2. Madhu,
    A very perceptive review of the movie, and a very nice overview of the book. I agree the scenes of the urbanites are a distraction in the film; elaborating them to be in line with the book would have made the film more cumbersome.

    I remember when I read the book at a very young age, I would pass over the portions of Malti et el. I found it difficult to relate to them, probably I was too young to understand their political discussions. But around the same time I read his Rangbhumi, a much bulkier book, but I loved it and found it absolutely engrossing. The story was more linear. I was aware that Godaan is regarded as his greatest work, and arguably the greatest novel in HIndi, but Rangbhumi remains my top favourite.

    In the movie, Dhaniya (Kamini Kaushal) comes out as a more likeable character. Hori’s (Rajkumar) cringing and over-goodness sometime gets on your nerves.

    AK

    • “In the movie, Dhaniya (Kamini Kaushal) comes out as a more likeable character. Hori’s (Rajkumar) cringing and over-goodness sometime gets on your nerves.

      I thought that was pretty similar to the book, though of course in the book there’s one instance of him slapping Dhaniya. My overall impression of the two characters – before I had watched the film, and had only read the book – was that Dhaniya had much more spine to her than did Hori. But I agree that Dhaniya, in the film, is a more likeable (also more real) character.

      Now you have got me interested in Rangbhoomi! I have never read it, but your praise for it makes me want to. Perhaps, some day… if I can muster up the courage to read something so long.

    • I have not seen the film but yes back in my childhood I heard a lot about it, it was a critically acclaimed film. I am glad to know from your review that the director has stayed true to the essence of Premchand’s story. It is of utmost importance that the filmmaker translate what the writer wants to convey. This reminds me, oh well, by this time you know my pet peeve Shantranj Ke Khiladi, this was one of Premchand’s wonderful short stories and what did Satyajit Ray do? In my opinion he sort of messed it up.
      By the way I have noticed you have a question mark after Bipin Gupta’s name, in case you are in doubt, from the screenshot it appears to be Bipin Gupta.

      • Thank you for confirming that Rai Sahib was played by Bipin Gupta, Shilpi! I thought it looked like him.

        I have to admit I’ve never read Shatranj ke Khiladi. And it has been a very long time since I saw the film (which I saw when I was a child, and could understand only the bare essentials of the plot). It is a little surprising, actually, that a short story could have been messed up in its adaptation to screen (and that too by Ray). Mostly, I’ve noticed that screen adaptations of short stories work much better than those of novels.

        • I didn’t mind shatranj ke khilari though the ending did spoil things and diluted the liking for the rest of the film. In fact I feel that the whole short story was meant for the ending.

  3. I’m sure I read Godaan and Kafan and some short stories of Premchand, but I can’t remember any.
    This movie seems to have been made well and the characters are also so well-etched. I should read Premchand one of these days.
    Raaj Kumar in a rustic role doesn’t surprise me a bit. He was good at it even. See for e.g. his role in Mother India or Paigham. I love him in his non-jaani roles. His voice is a delight. I like Kamini Kaushal as well. what surprised me was that Raaj Kumar played father to Mehmood. Mehmood and Shubha Khote look good together as well.
    Your review makes me want to watch the film. Thanks Madhu

    • You should see the film, Harvey. It’s good, despite those irritating interruptions with the shehari babu and memsahib. Watching Raj Kumar, I was reminded of his role in Mother India. Sidharth, commenting on Godaan, said he thought Raj Kumar was a misfit – he didn’t look humble enough. I don’t think so; true, he perhaps looked not as lean as a poor farmer would be, but I think he got the demeanour right. A Balraj Sahni might have been perfect for the role (if a little predictable?), but Raj Kumar did it well.

      Actually, I thought Mehmood was a poor choice for Gobar. Gobar, in the book, is supposed to be 17 when he first meets Jhuniya – and Hori is 40 (which I think Raj Kumar is fine for).

  4. Brings back memories, Madhu. I first read Godaan when I was in school. I’m glad I did, because I’m not very sure I would have read it today. I watched the film on DD if I remember right – because my memories of watching it are interwoven with my memories of my grandfather telling me stories of tilling the land and the inescapable burden of debt that many poor farmers faced. I agree with you that the urban scenes were a total misfit in the film. There just wasn’t enough of the narrative to warrant its inclusion.

    Godaan is a bleak story; and a bleak film. Again, I’m glad that I watched it earlier; I doubt I would be able to sit through it now. Though your review makes me want to revisit it. :)

    • I am impressed that you actually read Godaan in school, Anu! I would never have had the patience to read something that long – in Hindi – back then. I think the longest book I read while I was in school (though it wasn’t in our syllabus) was Chandrakanta – and that, of course, is a different ball game altogether.

      I rather liked Godaan (the film) despite its bleakness. Perhaps because it was so well-made (barring those urban characters).

      • For some reason, the state syllabus in Karnataka at the time, had Hindi as our first language (and they scored it out of 150), English as our second language, and Kannada as the third. Of course, when you got up to high school, you could switch from Kannada to either French or Sanskrit.

        We had a very good teacher for Hindi, and she was the one who lent me the book, At that point in time, I think I read anything and everything I got my hands on, whether it was in English, Hindi or Malayalam.

        I agree that Godaan is a finely-crafted film; it’s just that today, I think the film would depress me. :(

        • “Of course, when you got up to high school, you could switch from Kannada to either French or Sanskrit.

          Interesting. Did you switch? And to what, if you did?

          Thanks to CBSE and Kendriya Vidyalaya, we didn’t get much choice (the only choice was about whether we wanted to do social studies in English or Hindi – in secondary school, it used to be taught mainly in Hindi, but students could choose which language to do their work and exams in). And we had to study Sanskrit, whether we liked it or not. I hated it. :-(

          • No, I didn’t switch. Our school didn’t have a French tutor, so you had to find someone to teach your privately, and I wasn’t too sure I wanted to learn Sanskrit. Most kids switched to Sanskrit not to avoid Hindi but to avoid Kannada (which was compulsory – you had to pass your Kannada exam or you failed the entire year, even if you were the class topper in all the other subjects). That option (of avoiding Kannada) was given in Class IX and X, if I remember right. In any case, I ended up doing all three languages right through school. I can still read and write Kannada. I used to be able to speak it fluently, but am now very rusty due to lack of use.

  5. Godan has been translated in to several languages of the world.. i am told more than 30. a master piece of a novel. of course the movie could not match the magic of the novel. … there are certain facts about the novel and author not may know about.. the plot of godan was written in English by Premchand before it was expanded in hindi as a novel. also the book remains even till date as one of t he best sellers beating a large number of English books….movie casted mehmood in a serious role and that was something which people did not associate with.

    • I hadn’t known about Premchand having initially written the plot of Godaan in English! Thank you for that bit of trivia.

      “movie casted mehmood in a serious role and that was something which people did not associate with

      Actually, compared to some of his other contemporary comedians – like Johnny Walker or Rajendranath – Mehmood did act in some fairly serious roles. The role of Guru Dutt’s brother in Pyaasa is the one which comes most readily to mind; but there’s also Ek Saal (even though it is a cameo) and Shriman Satyawadi. Besides Qaidi No. 911, where he was the hero, and that too a distinctly non-comic one.

  6. Excellent review, Madhu. Exactly what my thoughts are about the film and the characters. Did the version you saw have Shashikala doing social work in the village? IIRC Shashikala had a bit more to do, or maybe I’m mistaken. Watched this film some years ago. Two songs from the film are my all time fravourites – hiya jarat rahe din rain and jaane kahe jiya mora dole. I remember writing about these two songs and munshi premchand when I did that list of village songs on Harvey’s blog. I’ve been a Premchand lover forever. :-)
    Raj Kumar’s gentle expressions and stoic demeanour in that song hiya jarat… are lovely. But yes, it’s a bleak and sad story. The village and villager’s life were etched out so well in his novels.

    Thank you Madhu. It was such a pleasure to read the review and reminisce.

    • Yes, Shashikala’s character did do some social work, but it was all rather wishy-washy and half-baked (she’s shown wandering through the village with a group of women, and she’s telling them to keep their babies clean in order to keep them healthy. She comes to visit Hori and Dhaniya and spends a few minutes with them, but that’s it. In the book, of course, there’s a lot more about Malti’s social work.

      I had forgotten that you’d included the songs from this film in that post on Harvey’s blog! I must go back and take another look at that post. :-)

  7. Madhu ji,
    I read your review on Godaan, both the film as well the book review, last week. The first thing that came up in my mind was to read the book and watch the movie. I would like reiterate that both the reviews were good.
    Once I told AK ji that I found reading Godan in Hindi was difficult. AKji expressed surprise. If I remember right he sent me a mail with an attachment on the subject. I forgot to tell him that I did not learn Hindi during my school and college days. Tamil and other South Indian Languages were taught till graduation in Calcutta and Tamil was my first language all through. Like Bengali, I started learning Hindi on my own and after two years of endeavor, my first Hindi novel was Godaan. That was 35 years back. In fact I had three suggestions, Godan, Maila Aachal and Raag Darbari. I chose Godan. I am yet to read the other two.
    I was able to complete the novel yesterday, and today I watched the movie. Your review of the movie and the book was precise to the point and covered all that I wanted to express. In the novel Premchand delves deep into the urban characters and the poor villagers. I found both the plot and the characterization remarkable. In fact there are parallel plots and the characters emerge one after another and gradually as the story develops they play an important role. What I liked most was his depiction of the female characters. Whatever may be their outward demeanor and intention, all of them, Dhaniya, Jhuniya, Punni, Dulari, Semri, Malati, Govindi, Nohari, Chuhiya and even the young housewife in the jungle, all of them were depicted with a soft core.
    Most of these wonderful characters were missing in the film, for understandable reasons. I would say the director had done a good job in focussing the script on the two main characters Dhaniya and Hori. Both Raj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal had done a decent job in portraying Hori and Dhaniya. Sometime you feel frustrated and sometime you feel sorry for Hori. In fact in the novel I found both the characters Mehta and Malati quite interesting. As you have rightly said they could have done away with them in the film. While reading a novel we develop a unique image of the characters and with the progression of the plot we too get involved with characters. The scope and language of a film and a novel is entirely different and it is difficult to achieve this in a film. It is always easier to adopt a short story or a novelette with fewer characters and plot to a film.
    Well I have poured out whatever came to my mind. May be due to the hangover of reading and watching Godan since last week. And it may continue, because I intent to watch the twelve part serial (Doordarshan 2004) by Gulzar with Pankaj Kapoor as Hori and Surekha Sikri as Dhaniya. It is available on YT.
    Thank you once again Madhuji for the excellent review and reviving my interest on Godan.

    • Venkataramanji, thank you for having taken the trouble of reading both my book review as well as my film review – and then actually going and reading the book too. Yes, I do agree that Premchand’s characterisations are superb, down to even very minor characters. There was no way the film could have done justice to so many characters; it was a good decision to limit the scope of the film to basically the story of Hori and Dhaniya.

      I hadn’t even known that there was a Doordarshan series based on Godaan too. I am far too busy these days to find the time to watch an entire series, but I will look forward to hearing from you how it was, whenever you’ve seen it. I suspect that if it was made by Gulzar and starred Pankaj Kapoor, it’s likely to be good. Do let me know, when and if you watch it!

  8. Madhu ji,
    Last friday I completed watching the 12 part serial on Godaan. As expected Gulzar’s handling of the script and direction was excellent. It is always difficult to adapt and interpret an entire narrative novel to a film version (roughly within two hours+). So any comparison will be unfair. There are certain inherent problems in adapting and interpreting a literary work of such magnitude and it requires great deal of insight and selectivity in formulating the script. Gulzar is a veteran on both the counts. Moreover Gulzar had the luxury of 3 more hours. Even then he had focused the entire serial on Hori, Dhania and Gobar and the other characters linked to them. The other plots and the urban characters do not find a place in the serial. Pankaj Kapoor as Hori and Surekha Sikri as Dhania were exceptional. I do not have the name of the person who did the role of Gobar. He too had done a good job. I believe that the rest of the cast were from the National School of Drama. Gulzar effectively portrays the simplicity in the rural characters, the pleasure derived from small things in life and the comfort one feels when you are among your own people (near and dear ones) especially in adverse situations. In the final scene, even in his delirious state Hori recollects the few good moments in his life and departs with a smile in his face.
    I know you are too busy to watch the entire serial. It is a twelve part serial, each part takes just 25 to 30 minutes. I feel you can spend half an hour each day and complete it within 15 to 20 days. If possible please do watch it. I would look forward to your erudite views.

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