From a garage worker in Mumbai to reign over million hearts, it was the czar of words, Gulzar who turns 79

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | August 19, 2023 IST

gulzar

D N Singh

‘Ek akela is shahar mein, raat ho ya do paher mein, khabo dana dhoondta hai, asiana dhoond ta hai…’( a lonely man in this mundane world, be it day or night, searches for sustenance and shelter)  

Only a man of Gulzar’s quality can make us fly back to years when desire to live clashes with the bottom rock bottom realities.

Those spectacular lines are from a man and a magician of words who always scripted on the canvass of realities, to lead to where we belong to..Gulzar who has raced no-stop to turn 89 years.

Painting scraps in garage to smoothen million hearts 

Hindi cinema's most celebrated lyricists after being better known in his years as a struggler after Partition in Mumbai for his expertise in re-painting cars mauled in crashes.

The one that seems most credible, however, has come from him. Despite his skill with car colours, Gulzar's first love was the written word and he was a regular at the Progressive Writers Association (PWA), which was then a creative hub of just about every Titan in Hindi and Urdu literature.

During a lucky encounter with the great lyricist in a book fair in Bhubaneswar when I asked from where does he get inspired to portray the pain and emotions of life?

His reply in Urdu was crisp and eye opener, ‘kuch panne apne par biti hui dard se aur kuch pal dusron ki kadmo ki nissan..bas unmen se’( some leaves from my own live’s pensive moments and some by walking on the footprints of others who saw pain), then he smiled back at me as I was short of words.   

It was at PWA meetings that the undiscovered poet struck up a friendship with lyricist Shailendra, who introduced him to Bimal Roy, who, in turn, told him that he was wasting his time and talent at a car workshop.

Roy drafted Gulzar, till then known as Sampooran Singh Kalra, for his last film, 'Bandini' (1963). It was for 'Bandini' that he wrote the lyrics for his first song in Hindi cinema -- 'Mora Gora Rang Le Le' -- picturised on Nutan and memorably sung by Lata Mangeshkar to the music of Sachin Dev Burman.

The film's star cast also included Ashok Kumar and another rookie, Dharmendra. The song was a hit and Gulzar was not even 30.

This is of course how Gulzar would like to remember his entry into Hindi cinema. Apparently, it was not so straightforward. Shailendra, the film's official lyricist, had  a tiff with Burman, and he refused to write more songs, leaving Roy in the lurch. A desperate Roy requested Shailendra to complete the assignment. Shailendra, instead, recommended Gulzar.

It is a recommendation that generation of cinema goers and top music directors, from Salil Chowdhury to Rahul Dev Burman to A.R. Rahman and Vishal Bharadwaj, would thank Shailendra for.

Born in a Sikh family on August 18, 1934 to Makhan Singh Kalra and Sujan Kaur, at Dina in Jhelum District (now in Pakistan), Gulzar got addicted to writing when he read the translations of the works of Rabindranath Tagore in school.

Following Partition, he had to stop his studies and come to Mumbai to join his elder brother. The two did not quite get along and Sampooran started painting cars to support himself in the big city.

After 'Bandini', Gulzar's path wasn't one of tinsel glory, although he was establishing his reputation for his "daringly defiant" Urdu poetry, but over the years, his oeuvre has ranged from the prayer song of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 'Guddi' ('Humko man ki shakti dena') to the anthemic 'Jai Ho' from 'Slumdog Millionaire' and the lyrical 'Kajra re' from 'Bunty Aur Babli'.

In between, his words have provided the soul to songs as different as the Amir Khusraw-inspired 'Ay hairathe aashiqui' for Mani Ratnam's 2007 Hindi film 'Guru' (music: A. R. Rahman) to the all-time hit song, 'Chaiyya Chaiyya', from 'Dil Se...' (another Ratnam-Rahman joint venture), based on the Sufi folk song 'Thaiyya Thaiyya', with lyrics by Bulleh Shah.

Gulzar may have got his break in Hindi cinema because of his way with the Urdu language, but his films as director have left behind an equally big mark.

They range from the Khwaja Ahmad Abbas-scripted 'Achanak', based on the Nanavati case that shook Mumbai's moral fibre in 1958, to 'Aandhi' (Sanjeev Kumar and Suchita Sen), which was banned during the Emergency because it was too uncomfortably close to Indira Gandhi's life, to the Shabana Azmi-Naseeruddin Shah-starrer 'Libaas', whose portrayal of an extra-marital relationship was considered too daring for Indian audiences -- it has been screened only twice in India, both times at the International Film Festival of India (1992 and 2014).

Gulzar started with Sachin Dev Burman and it was the music legend's son, R.D. Burman, who composed the music for almost all the movies directed by him in the 1970s and 1980s ('Parichay', 'Khushboo', 'Aandhi', 'Angoor', 'Ijaazat' and 'Libaas').

Many of the hit songs of these films were sung by Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. And these include 'Musafir hoon yaron' ('Parichay'), 'Tere bina zindagi se koi' ('Aandhi'), and 'Mera kuchh samaan' ('Ijaazat').

A multi-faceted, evergreen force in Hindi cinema, and in Urdu poetry, Gulzar can never grow out of fashion -mind it.  

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