Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu'(March 4, 1921 – April 11, 1977) was one of the most successful and influential writers of modern Hindi literature in the post-Premchand era. He is the author of Maila Anchal, which after Premchand’s Godaan, is regarded as the most significant Hindi novel.
Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’ is best known for promoting the voice of the contemporary rural India through the genre of ‘Aanchalik Upanyas’ (Regional Story), and is placed amongst the pioneering Hindi writers who brought regional voices into the mainstream Hindi literature.
His short story Maare Gaye Gulfam was adapted into a film Teesri Kasam (The Third Vow), by Basu Bhattacharya (produced by the poet-lyricist Shailendra) in 1966 for which he also wrote the dialogues. Later his short story Panchlight (Petromax) was made into a TV short film.
Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’ was born on 4 March 1921 at village Aurahi Hingna near Forbesganj, in Araria district (then Purnea district), Bihar to a Dhanuk family who are now considered to be a Dalit caste. He was educated in India and Nepal. His primary education was held in Araria and Forbesganj. He did his Matriculation from Biratnagar Adarsh Vidyalaya(school), Biratnagar, Nepal while staying with Koirala Family. After Passing out IA from Kashi Hindu Vishvavidyalay (university) in 1942 he took part in the Indian Freedom Struggle. Later he participated in the Nepali revolutionary movement in 1950 which resulted in the establishment of democracy in Nepal. He ushered in ‘Anchalik-katha’ (Regional Story) of Hindi writing. He had a very close friendship with Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana Agyey – his contemporary poet. A biography on the writer has also been produced with the name: Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’ in Unki Nazar Unka Shahar.
The intimacy in writing brought to the reader with use of local flavor of Hindi in contrast to Khari Boli Hindi was entirely new literary experience.
His very first novel which is also considered his masterpiece, Maila Anchal (The Soiled Linen, 1954), was a social novel that depicted the life of rural Bihar and its people, especially the backward and the deprived. He was subsequently awarded one of India’s highest civilian honours, the Padma Sri in 1970. He returned the Padma Sri in protest of the proclamation of Internal Emergency.
Later during Jayaprakash Narayan Andolan, he gave up his award in solidarity. His short story Panchlight (Petromax) is beautiful in its depiction of human behavior. One can find many parallels between his and Premchand’s writings.
Curiously, Katihar railway station figures in many of his writings.
He wrote descriptive prose with rapid character building. He would then go about reflecting on his characters and backgrounds from every angle. Ek Aadim Ratri Ki Mehak which is straight forward story with touchy ending, is one example his unending need for exploring pristine emotions of his characters.