People who make life worth living: Gulzar

Previously published on Passionforcinema –

It’s hard to explain  what a special place Gulzar saab has in my life. I have never met the man, not even attended any concert like event where I could see him from a distant, yet it feels as if I know him personally. Unlike my previous post on Manohar Shyam Joshi, (which you can read on my blog here ) Gulzar saab as a personality is much bigger and better known. He is a public personality and yet, very special for me just like his work. When did I start paying special attention to his work, I am not sure exactly. I think I was in my engineering college when I first heard of a song from Khamoshi that sounded special and different from the rest of the Hindi music, I had ever heard. The song was Humne Dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehakti khushbu. Soon, I realized that I was not alone in feeling touched and transformed every time I heard to lyrics like these that transcended the physical world and appealed to something deeper inside us, something pure and original within us. Then I started my journey into a new world, a world where Gulzar saab existed in flesh and blood, as a living being in and around my daily life, even though I have never met the man. I met friends who introduced me to more Gulzar songs, the songs from Aandhi and Mausam, the evergreen classics composed by RD Burman, sung by Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder. Around that time I heard Dil Dhoondhta Hai, a song that has stayed with me and remained fresh even today. If I dare say in Gulzar sab’s words, “nazm kabhi budhi nahi hoti…”. It definitely applies to this nazm for me. I can listen to this song anytime, day or night, irrespective of what mood I am in and it takes me to those places he describes in the song, the terrace on a hot summer night, the valley on a cold foggy winter day, the sunny porch on a balmy winter morning, the song immediately takes me there and back and soothes and touches my heart.

With a friend of mine, I once listened to the song Kis Mod jate hain, almost 10 times non-stop just to understand the full meaning of what Gulzar saab was saying and it blew our minds. Imagine those days when you had to press a button and keep it pressed to rewind a song if you want to listen again, so smitten we were that we kept doing it and almost broke the head of the Panasonic stereo player my friend had in his hostel room. Eventually I would get to hear, watch and even read more of Gulzar sab’s work. I accidently picked up Pukhraaz, gulzar saab’s poetry collection from a book sale in Mumbai. The book just lived with me for some time, ignored in a corner and slowly started to come alive. This was for the very first time that I was not only reading a poetry book, but understanding it and re-reading it. It became an obsession over time and stayed an obsession for considerable amount of time. When I fell in love, I wanted to read the book to my girl friend, which I did and bored her to death many times. If there is only one poetry book you want to read in your life, I would recommend this one. For starters, you may already know some of the poetry – the song about death from the film Anand that Amitabh Bachchan recites to a dyeing Rajesh Khanna, the song Dil Dhoondhta Hai, with all the antaras and some more and of course Kis Mode Se Jate Hain, a completely different version, much deeper and full of many meanings. If you thought the song version of Kis Mode Se Jate hain was difficult, wait until you try this one. But every penny worth it! There is an audio version of the raw poem sung by Bhupinder that came out few years back and it’s a gem. He sings many non-liner unstructured nazms of Gulzar saab and does full justice to them, interspersed by lines in Gulzar saab’s baritone voice.  There are also the collections of Gulzar saab’s poetry, composed into beautiful music by Abhisek Ray.

The book Pukhraaz also contains portraits of many personalities such as Meena Kumari, Ghalib or Puncham, and Gulzar’s heartfelt poetry for his daughter bosky.

If millions like me worship Gulzar, Gulzar seems to have a special place in his heart for Ghalib. He has created songs out of two line shayaries that Ghalib wrote. The first two lines in Dil Dhoondta hai are by Ghalib and he also used Ghalib’s lines in a song from Dil Se. Gulzar saab has even written an autobiography of Ghalib in his own words, a book that I have looked all over but haven’t been able to get my hands on.

I think Gulzar saab also inserted Ghalib in his most famous item song i.e. Kajraare. Gulzar and item song! But the maestro has proven that there isn’t a type of song that he cannot write lyrics for. I first saw this form of Gulzar in  Chaiya Chaiya, a fast paced song. He brought grace and elegance to fast paced item numberish songs like Chaiya Chaiya, Kajraare and Bidi.

Gulzar saab has touched my life and made it more livable by appearing in his many avatars, song writer being just one of them. Even his films have been unique with real-life middle class characters and situations, similar to Hrishikesh Mukherjee school of film making, except more intense and with stronger emotional content. His most intense film was his best as far as I am concerned, i.e. Hu Tu Tu. It was vast in canvas, super strong in characterization and we saw a very cynical, almost angry side of Gulzar saab. Another aspect of Gulzar sab’s films was the almost novelish style of narration where it almost feels like as if you are reading a really good good book. This style is particularly evident in films like Namkeen, Mausam and Aandhi.

This was not meant to be a tribute to Gulzar saab, it cannot be, I don’t have the ‘aukaat’ to do justice to a powerhouse of talent like Gulzar saab. There is a dedicated website to his work at, the internet is full of footprint of his work in films and outside films, fans and fan clubs paying tribute to him in various manners. Type his name in youtube and you can spend hours living his poetry and immersed in his world of words, nazms and imaginations that are so profound and so startling at the same time.  This is just my acknowledgement and my way of saying thanks to him for making life that much more worth living for me.

Finally, I have been writing on PFC for more than a year now. After some chiding, a little ridiculing and a lot of encouragement from so many of you, I felt confident enough to start my own blog. Simply because there are times, when I do not have a full blown article to write yet yearn to share a quick thought with like minded individuals. Also, there are times when i do not have much to write on cinema but have something to say on other topics. As I have acknowledged many time before, I am not much of an expert on cinema unlike most of the other writers on PFC. I started writing about cinema simply to express the joy of an ordinary audience member, and will continue to do so as long as the editors at PFC allow me to do so.


3 comments so far

  1. Shweta on

    Here is perhaps the Ghalib biography by Gulzar that you are (were) looking for

    I stumbled upon your blog today in PFC and after reading only two posts, I’m sure I would like reading others as well.

    I too am ‘kayaal’ of Gulzaar’s poetry. I’m passionate about hindi movies, but it is so disappointing to hear meaningless songs and shallow and mediocre dialogues these days. So, I’m buying Pukraaz to treat my soul 🙂

    And- good observations on 3 Idiots– I too felt that there were lots of contradictions in the plot. To me, it seemed a sequel to Taare Zameen Pe, but I feel the entire movie team took an extremely simplistic stand on Indian Education system.

    Will be back for more…


    • Wise Desi on

      Thanks for the link and your comment! Yes, Pukhraaz will be worth your money and time. If you read Hindi, do buy it in Hindi. It’s not quite the same in English.

  2. Shweta on

    Thanks! I bought the Hindi version.

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