India, Aug. 2 -- Premchand arrived in Bombay on May 31, 1934. He was 54 years old, a father of three, the country's most famous living Hindi writer - and a man in dire financial difficulties. The losses were piling up at the Saraswati Press he'd been running since 1923; his two weekly publications, Hans and Jagran, were bleeding money. On the eve of his departure to Bombay, he wrote to a friend, "A drowning man was extended a hand, and has grasped at it." The helping hand was the offer of a one-year contract by a film company, Ajanta Cinetone. It was a somewhat persistent offer; they sent him two telegrams! They wanted him to write stories on which they would base films. He would be paid eight thousand rupees.

But he left Bombay in less ...