Gulzar – 50 Years of Sheer Magic
By Siraj Khan
Boston, MA


The moon, a recurring motif in Gulzar’s work, made its first appearance when he got a break from Bimal Roy to write just one song of Bandini in 1963. The imagery-rich Mora gora rang laile was conceived while staring at the moon. That song turned out to be not just Gulzar’s ticket to a dazzling career, but also brought Lata and SD Burman to work together after almost six years, after a misunderstanding. The rest, as they say, is history.

Call him a creative fountain, a one-man institution or a painter without a paintbrush, easel and color palette. In a manner of speaking, this is how Gulzar has charmed his readers: he creates a scene with readily understandable words, illuminates it by using familiar images from everyday life and rounds it off with an inquisitive undertone.

The poetic tools he uses help him range from subtle paradoxes to delightful personifications. He treats inanimate objects like living beings, pieces of puzzle which are not hard to arrange. Each film of his is a masterpiece, touching some aspect of life for which, in our everyday humdrum of life, we normally do not have time to stop and observe.

But in Gulzar’s cinema, the complexities of life are never reduced to formulae. Even in the violence-ridden 70s, his films were as refreshing as rain-drenched leaves. Gulzar’s work has a piquant appeal because it is informed with a lyrical, yet psychologically adept, examination of human sensibilities. Sensitivity has been a part of Gulzar’s mental make-up right from his school days. The loss of his mother at the age of one affected him deeply and as he grew up, he began pouring out his feelings on paper.

Soon after his directorial debut with Mere Apne in 1971 with the support of his close friend Meena Kumari, Gulzar eschewed the burgeoning 70s art movement and within the commercial realm, fashioned his own style. From Parichay to Koshish to Achanak, his films were artistic yet accessible. Stars like Jeetendra and Hema Malini flocked to him to gain respectability. He staked new parameters with his films Aandhi, Khushboo and Mausam where his perceptions recorded a high degree of psychological verite. Uncannily, each of these films showed Gulzar’s fascination for characters letting life slip by, waiting for their own particular form of fulfillment. In addition, he did one of the most outstanding jobs for the small screen, the TV serial  Mirza Ghalib, a tribute to the legendary poet. Mirza Ghalib will remain one of the most memorable TV productions for its music, direction, dialogs and portrayal of Ghalib by Naseeruddin Shah.

Although films gave him a mass recognition, poetry always remained his first love. In later films like Ijazat and Lekin, it was Gulzar’s lyrical output Mera kuchh samaan and Yara sili sili which won more attention than his directorial abilities. His first poetry collection Ek Boond Chaand was published way back in 1962. A collection of Gulzar poems titled “Raat, Chaand aur Mein” was also released, covering poems related to only Raat and Chaand. Another poetry collection Raat Pashmine ki has recently been published in Pakistan. The Indian version of Raat Pashmine Ki is released later on Roopa-Harper. Mera Kuchh Samaan and Chhaiyya Chhaiyya are the two song collections of Gulzar.

WhenTriveni was first published a little more than a decade ago, it managed to take the genre to a level where the scholars of poetry, Urdu poetry in particular, accepted it as an innovative addition to literature itself, as far as its content was concerned.

Gulzar said, “I call it Triveni because the first two lines meet up like Ganga and Jamuna and complete a thought. But there is another stream beneath the two rivers, Saraswati, which is hidden and can’t be seen. Triveni’s job is to bring Saraswati to light. This means that the third line is concealed somewhere between the other two lines.”

This world and its blessings are His

This house and its inhabitants, everything belongs to Him

Ask God, why can’t He visit His own house?


Another one…

I wish someone lent an ear to the poet

His words will take his life

I saw him tasting moonlight all night long

His storytelling techniques are also evident in these Trivenis. He tells a whole tale in the following three lines:

The boy cut his foot with broken pieces of bangles

He was playing barefoot in the courtyard

Yesterday his drunkard father had once again twisted his mother’s arm.

The Dil Padosi Hai album, created passionately with Asha Bhosle and RD Burman, is considered a masterpiece, which turns the musical into magical. More recently, daughter Meghna Gulzar has come up with a biographical sketch of Gulzar in the form of a book titled “Because He Is". He also penned the theme song “Lau se lau jalti rahe” for Olympic Torch Relay event at New Delhi and “Chalo Dilli chalein chalna hai” for the Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi in 2010.

Gulzar has won five national awards and 20 Filmfare Awards. Filmfare honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 2002. He was given the Sahitya Akademy Award in 2003 for his collection of short stories Dhuaan. The  Government of India has conferred Gulzar with the national honor of Padma Bhushan.

Earlier this year, a few months before his 80 th birthday and his completion of 50 years in the Bollywood circuit, Gulzar was selected to be crowned with the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest official recognition for film personalities in India.

It has not always been smooth sailing though, as many would tend to think. Like anyone else, Gulzar too experienced personal and professional disappointments in the many lean patches and twists and turns of his life. However, a talent like Gulzar’s cannot lie low for too long. Not as long as there is a full moon in sight, peeping from behind the dark clouds.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.