Gulzar sahib: a literary legend When there is so much to express about anything that you fall short of words, then you can always read, refer and review literature by Gulzar sahib. But if anyone hasn’t heard about the legend or his works, he’s surely an alien to literature. Although the word ‘Gulzar’ literally means a blossoming garden, yet it is not enough to describe a literal legend like Gulzar. Smita Dwivedi brings you the essence of Gulzar’s creativity – as a poet, author, writer, lyricist, film producer & director, screenplay writer… a perfectionist in every role.
Always draped in his signature style white kurta pyjama and jutis, Gulzar has a personality second to none. His well modulated voice engages your senses and keeps you asking for more. Philosophical yet simple…Gulzar’s every word leaves an impact on human thought process. Born as Sampooran Singh Kalra in Dena (now in Pakistan), Gulzar always had a burning desire to be a part of Mumbai cine world. After trying many professions, he settled for literature to satisfy the writer within. He started weaving his thoughts into words…and today, even after five decades, he happily does the same.
Gulzar fondly remembers his youth, as he loved being part of Progressive Writers’ Movement. It was a progressive literary movement in the pre-partition British India, consisting of a few different writer groups around the world. The groups were anti-imperialistic and left-oriented, and sought to inspire people through their writings, advocating equality and attacking social injustice and backwardness. It was one the strongest movements in the history of Indian literature, which contributed some of the finest pieces of fiction and poetry. “I have been a part of the Progressive Writers’ Association in my younger days… though it doesn’t exist in the same structure as it used to be….but progressive writing continues…even today,” shared Gulzar.
Gulzar’s recognition as a lyricist was through the song “Mora Gora Aang” from the movie Bandini, which gave him instant fame and the much-awaited appreciation for his writing talent. Having a career spanning over five decades in Hindi cinema, he still feels that he is the ‘Man of Literature’. “I like writing…it helped me in expressing myself. Literature has been my background….from literature I went to movies and again came back to literature. I have been writing mainly in Urdu…it’s my medium of writing. But now my works have been translated to several other languages,” added Gulzar.
His short stories’ collections majorly describe his personal experiences and feelings. The pain of Indo-Pak partition (1947) is quite evident in his stories. “I was born in Pakistan and was a small kid at the time of partition. I’d witnessed the pain, suffering, misery and death. The smell of half burnt human bodies affected me for long. Ugly pictures of partition flashed in my mind for years. I am a writer, and so it’s obvious for me to pen down all those wandering thoughts within me,” he reminisced. His books on short stories include: Raavi Paar (1999); Dhuaan (2001); Kharaashein (2003); Addha (Translated), Habu Ki Aag (Translated), Khauf (Translated), Michelangelo (Translated); and Seema (Translated) in 2005.
Gulzar also loves to translate, which he feels is the form of literary work. Having translated poems of Marathi poet Kusumagraj and others, he is now translating the book by Pawan Kumar Verma, who has translated Gulzar’s work as well. “I am working on the book, which he has compiled and written in the form of sonnets,” shared Gulzar.
“I have also completed translation for Sukrita. The collection is called ‘Poems Come Home’. I enjoyed doing Sukrita’s translation as she brings to you the scent of the soil,” he explained.
On asking what he likes most about his writing, he gave a confident reply…‘Poetry’. He added, “I have written fiction, plays, poetry, screenplays, stories etc.…but poetry remains my lifeline…it’s my bloodline.
I am always a poet by heart. I have volumes published in Urdu and Devnagri.” Gulzar’s poetry soothes the soul. He has the great ability to express intricate human emotions with simplicity. Through his poetry, he not only conveys love and emotions but also addresses serious issues and subjects.
Some of the masterpieces of his poetry are: Kuchh Aur Nazmein (1980); Autumn Moon (Translated) (1980); Pukhraaj (1994); Silences (Translated) (1994); Triveni (2001); Raat Pashmine Ki (2002); Raat Chand Aur Main (2004); Chhaiyyan Chhaiyyan (2004); Splinter (Translated) (2005); Mera Kuchh Saaman (2005); Selected Poems (2008); Yaar Julaahe (2009); and 100 Lyrics (2009).
It might a surprise for some readers that Gulzar loves to write for kids as well. He is regarded as one of India’s finest writers of children’s literature. His kids collection include: Ekta (1989); Suno Kahani (2002); Bosky Ka Panchtantra (2002); Bosky Ki Ginati (2003); Bosky Ka Kauwanama (2003); Bosky Ke Dhanwaan (2003); Bosky Ke Kaptaan Chacha (2004); Bosky Ki Gappein (2004); Gopy Gayen Baga Bayen (2010); Ek Mein Do (2010); Kaayeda (2010); and Mangu Aur Mangli (2010).
‘Bosky’ is the nickname of Gulzar’s daughter Meghna. It is also an eponym for his bungalow, ‘Boskiana’. So all his series of kids’ literature is actually for Bosky. “My daughter Bosky is really special to me. While she was growing up I penned all those kids’ fantasies,” shared Gulzar.
In 1988, Gulzar introduced common people to renowned Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. He paid tribute to the legendry poet by producing a television series – Mirza Ghalib. The lyricist-director, who took retirement from directing movies to devote time on books, said the idea behind making a serial on Ghalib was to introduce people to the poet. “I feel it was one of my finest works and I loved it,” he happily added. He has also written a book based on the serial, in which he presents Mirza Ghalib’s life in the form of a scenario. Not based on the conventional format of a biography, the book is a glimpse into Ghalibs life and his poetry.
Gulzar’s favourite poet is Mariusz Zaruski (1867–1941), a brigadier-general in the Polish Army, a pioneer of Polish sports yachting, an outstanding climber of the winter and caves of Tatra Mountains. He was a photographer, painter, poet, writer, traveler, conspirator, legionnaire and lancer in Polish cavalry and an adjutant of Polish president.
His favorite writers include: Kurshid Chander, Mehender Singh Bedi, Malto, Sahir Ludhainvi, Sardar Jafri, Balraj Sahni, Subir etc. “I am in touch with writers of many languages, not just one,” he shared.
Presently, he is working on Rabindranath Tagore’s literature. “I wish Tagore should become a part of Indian school syllabus. People should grow with it, and it should be in every household…we should not forget that he’s our national writer and poet,” he added.
A proud recipient of five National and 17 Filmfare Awards, Gulzar has also been awarded with the Sahitya Akademi Puraskar, besides the third highest civilian honor in the Republic of India – Padma Bhushan. He also won the Oscar award with AR Rahman in the ‘Best Song Category’ for his song “Jai Ho” for the record-breaking film: Slumdog Millionaire.
Gulzar is very fond of COSMOS. “I am regular visitor at NASA. I feel that universe is so vast and we are just a bit of it. I have this fascination to find out the secrets of other world. I want to explore more and more about stars, planets, galaxies, universe…I love it,” he disclosed.
Today’s e-age has minimal effect on Gulzar – the writer, till today, writes with pen on paper…and everyday he adds something to his creativity…by reading, writing and listening…so he has just one simple message, “Keep working and keep reading”.
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