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.
This may sound like a very short story, but its complete. In these three lines, Gulzar gives you enough to create your own backdrops in mind. His story-telling is simple and his choice of words is unique. Sometimes you just have to listen to the words and you can bet your life that the writer is Gulzar. Its almost like as if he signs under each line he writes; for instance this one from Ek Thi Daayan ‘Muh khuli Jamayee per, hum bajaein chutkiyan’ or the melancholic ‘116 Chand ki raatein, Ek tumharay kandhay ka til’ from Ijazat. His words console you in the raucous days of Sheila and Munni. It’s not that he never wrote item numbers. Kajrare, Beedi and Namak Ishq Da are his creations; just that those songs like all other songs he wrote had grace, sense & the vintage quality.
A car mechanic in Bombay who wrote poems in his spare time and went on to become the biggest wordsmith suffered reprimands from his father who constantly embarrassed him by saying ‘As a writer you will live on the mercy of your brothers’. But that did not stop Gulzar. He was happy being an assistant on films and scripting films like Anand until his close friend Meena Kumari pushed him to direct films - so he came up with Mere Apne in 1971. From Koshish, to Achanak to Parichay, his distinct storytelling earned him respect like never before and stars like Jeetendra and Hema Malini flocked to him to gain respectability. He staked new parameters with films like Aandhi and Mausam. Where Aandhi cemented his position as one of the most prominent directors of his time, his personal life went for a toss. It’s a strange coincidence that where in his film Aandhi, Gulzar showed a non-judgemental stand when Suchitra Sen leaves Sanjeev Kumar to enter politics but when Rakhee wished to join films again, his marriage crumbled.
In the past few decades Gulzar’s lyrical output received more recognition than his directorial ventures. With films like Dil Se, Omkara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan he proved that he has no equal. It has been a while that Gulzar has directed a film but it seems like he has not only handed over the reins of film-making to his daughter Meghna but he has also shared his sensibilities and the understanding of the nuances.
Today, in his 80s he is loved by children and their parents in equal measures. His prayers are still sung in schools in India. Kids don’t take a meal till Lakri ki Kathi is played on their screens. People like me love his songs, even if sometimes the lines are too complicated to decipher such as ‘ Tinkon ke nasheman tak kis mod se jaate hein’ or ‘Khabon ke diye, anknon mein liye wahi aa rahay the’. Few years ago, when he turned eighty, he wrote a note to all his loved ones which stated ‘Tussi ho to mein Assi hu’. This was Gulzar’s wit at his simplest best. And that is what makes him unique.
Happy Birthday to the biggest wordsmith - Gulzar Sahab – the only Oscar, Grammy and National Award – winning poet.
– Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment journalist. He can be contacted on www.sidsaidso.com