Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

People who make life worth living: A Wizard called Oz!!

I first discovered Oz around 2005-2006. And I discovered Desi Train the blog before I discovered the blogger. He used to simply go by the name Oz.  Desi Train to me, remains the best desi blog ever. If you have never heard of Desi Blog, don’t try looking for it. The site doesn’t exist anymore. For reasons only known to him, Oz stopped writing and took Desi Train off the web. I guess I understand some of the reasons, he probably gut too busy with his other ventures. Even jogis have limited time.

Yes, jogi is how I would define Oz, a ramta jogi. But before we get to the jogi himself, a few more words about Desi Train. I don’t exactly remember how I discovered Desi Train, but I do remember I got hooked immediately. The writing style was unique and very fresh, a whacky sense of humor combined with unique earthy metaphors entirely his own, gave Oz complete control over his narrative. If the writing style was superb, the content was always too close to my heart. That’s probably because Oz belonged to the same generation of Indians that I did, grew up with similar sensibilities, had similar insecurities and some of the same frustrations. This is the generation that was born in seventies, a decade which saw the evaporation of all the false hope that generation prior to us carried in its hearts, hopes of newly minted independent nation. If seventies were bad, eighties were simply the bottom. It was very depressing to be an Indian in eighties, with mediocrity all around you, reflected in big bold letters in Bollywood, which in a tragic way does seem to mirror the Indian society in general. Oz and I and the rest of our generation grew up with the worst period in Bollywood and yet we were all fascinated with this rotten masala style of film making. Oz particularly seemed to have eaten, drank, smoked and digested these films. And that’s what he expressed in his blog which was at its finest when he wrote about cine related topics. Not just the frustration with 80’s cinema but Oz also expressed the sheer joy and satisfaction that 70s cinema brought to our lives. Oz expressed in words, what our entire generation felt about stalwarts like Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Salim Javed, Amitabh Bachchan, Sholay and Sanjeev Kumar etc. If Oz’s writing about 80’s torture cinema (his phrase, not mine) was hilarious and laugh riot, his poignant take on the golden period of Hindi cinema could give you goose pimples.

Week after week, I would come back to Desi Train, first reading through the entire archive and then waiting for weekly or bi-weekly updates. Every once in a while, Oz’s posts would provide tidbits about his personal life. Oz shared everything except his name. He remained, simply Oz. He did introduce his readers to t!, his Caucasian, Hindi understanding, cinema loving girlfriend of those days, later wife, that he fondly calls biwiji. Not sure if t! was the way she was and therefore was with Oz, or she became that way because she met Oz. But, overall, what a ram milayee Jodi!! Some of his personal posts about “surviving as an independent consultant”, “Review of iPhone”, his takes on 26/11 tragedy in Mumbai, in the last few days of Desi train, would be forever etched in my memory.

I slowly started discovering that Oz has moved on to another initiatives. Passionforcinema started appearing in big and bold, on his blog, he would frequently write about Anurag Kashyap, a man he would be highly inspired by and who helped him create Passionforcinema, which started as a blog and became a movement. With PFC, Oz’s influences on my life and many lives like me became much broader. Through PFC, Oz opened a whole new world for people like me, a world where we could read opinions about cinema from many Ozs, not just one. Not only that, PFC represented an opportunity for anyone with an opinion to get out there and express it and develop a writing style, all in real time. This post today is possible solely because of PFC.

I got an opportunity to meet the great man, along with biwiji t!. He met me like a friend and put his arms around me like an older brother, but I was simply awed by his presence. In my mind he remained that superb blog writer who inspired and moved me and I remained a fanboy. 3 hours were too little to spend in Oz’s company, he had so much to give. His constant take on torture cinema alone can last for days, it’s amazing how well each and every scene from these god forsaken films are in his mind, films many of which I haven’t even heard the names of. But the best description of Oz himself in my mind is that of a Jogi. He seems like a ramta jogi was born to freely roam around the earth. The fact that he is married says a lot about how wonderful and what miracle worker t is. Oz invited me to go visit him in San Diego, at his abode. But for ordinary mortals like me, who are stuck in the daily rut of life, visits to jogis only happen by luck. His world is different from mine. Plus, I have to bring the jogi inside me to go meet a real jogi like him. And, I have to keep the jogi inside me suppressed to meet my responsibilities of a normal family person.

And that brings me to Dingora, the reason, I started writing this post. Great people don’t rest on laurels. PFC was humming and was full of buzz. Leading personalities from film world were writing on PFC. Cine houses in Mumbai knew who Oz was. Yet, Oz was still searching..His head was full of millions of ideas and he wanted to move forward with all of them. But finally the world of Venture Capital did listen to him and Dingora became a reality.

I experienced my first film on Dingora, the long awaited Urf Professor, a film that was on top of Oz’s mind when I met him and without any surprise the first film to go up on Dingora, he used to get so many requests from people about the film, which he considers in the same league as Jane Bhi Do Yaro and I fully agree with him. Urf Professor never released in theatres. That’s where Dingora came into the scene.  Dingora makes films like Urf Professor reach its audience like me, sitting right in our homes on our laptops.

Dingora just worked perfect. The quality of the streaming was perfect, the initialization was quick and smooth and somehow in my heart of hearts, I got a sense that history is being made. I understand in this fast changing world of technology, everything gets copied. But as of now, I don’t think there is anything out there. Dingora was waiting to happen. Dingora had to happen. There had to be a better way, particularly for people like me, the non-jogies, who cannot go to film festivals to experience our slice of this alternate universe of art cinema. But Dingora is not just for people like me. Its audience is a huge universe, as large as the mainstream cinema, but there are not always found at one single place in a large enough number. That’s the conundrum that Dingora solves. Dingora is off to a rocking start and it won’t be before long that the mainstream studios wake up to it and want a piece of what Dingora represents. Hope that day comes soon, the day when the wizard called Oz gets his due.  I would simply pray for that because I want him to be done with his entrepreneurial stints and return to what he is born for – i.e. writing. Long live the wizard!!

Check out Passion for cinema at www.passionforcinema.com

Check out Dingora at www.dingora.com.

The site is under beta. You may need a code to activate your account. Check out Oz’s last post about Dingora on Passion for cinema here

http://passionforcinema.com/dingora-com-guru-ho-ja-shuru/

Let’s celebrate top 5 item songs of all time!

Previously published on PFC…

http://passionforcinema.com/lets-celebrate-top-5-items-numbers-of-all-time/

This is not much of a blog post really. It’s more of a call out to all the fans of big bad khalish desi style vintage Bollywood cinema on PFC, particularly those of you who like item numbers. A well done item number is like daal main tadka or sambhar mein kari patta, whichever metaphor works better for you. A well done item number can not only increase the entertainment quotient of a film but can also take the narrative and overall quality of the film several notches higher. Like every other aspect of film making, item number also requires careful planning, creative writing and crisp execution by the choreographer, dancers or actors and the rest of the crew, in addition to the music director of course. But most important, just like you cannot separate a good film from a good director, a good item number also requires the stamp of the director. For the item number to work, it should not be done on the side and later added to the film. The director must be fully involved and should know what he wants from the item number. In the absence of that, the item number gets reduced to just a filler even if it has great music and catchy lyrics.

This is a list of what I consider top 5 item numbers of all time. To be precise, my definition of an item number is restricted to songs performed on screen by an artist, who does not have a role in the rest of the film, not even a guest role. The actor or actress must appear in the film for the item number only. So for all the ‘Bidi’ fans out there, the song doesn’t belong in the list as Bipasha Basu had a full fledged role in Omkara. Similarly many of the Helen’s songs of yore also get struck out, including the all time classic “Yeh mera dil”, because she had a small but well defined role in those films. With that, and before any further delay, let me get started with my list.

Number 1- Khallas from Company

If I can write in great Oz’s language, this one can really be called the ‘Baap of all the item numbers’. Item numbers don’t get spicier than this one. The fast paced music by Sandeep Chowta is top notch, the singing out of this world. Sapna Awasthi does a great job, Sudhesh Bhonsle reprises RD Burman in his yemma yemma style, with the deep throaty raw voice but what makes the song special is the use of Asha Bhonsle.  Oh man, does she deliver? Lyrics are superb with Khallas as the catch phrase but also with a two layered , almost anti-Sufiana narrative that allows the song to be interpreted either as a song about love or underworld, both being full of danger, the central theme of the song .

However, it’s the picturization that applies char chaand to the song and that’s where the genius of RGV shows. The set up is very realistic page three type party; the camera movement is fast, jerky but with a voyeuristic focus on key figures among the crowd. Isha Koppikar sizzles in her red outfit and does a perfect job of an item girl. There is not much skin show, yet Ms. Koppikar looks sensuous and hot.

One way to judge the item song is by its impact. This format of crowded dance floor, full of alcohol and smoke and an item girl dancing in skimpy clothes got copied over and over again in substandard films, never quite reaching the level that Khallas did. Khallas itself borrowed the format from Tezaab in which Madhuri dances on stage surrounded by a room full of people. RGV brought the item girl down into the crowd. Overall, a great song in audio and video and my choice to lead this super list.

Number 2 – Kajrare from Bunti aur Babli

If Khallas is the baap of all item songs, this one is clearly the ma. Item songs don’t get bigger than this one.  The music of this film was a hit before the film came out. The song already sounded well orchestrated and started being noticed even without the visuals. The Kawwali, almost pinjrae wali munia style of singing where some lines are sung or rather repeated in high pitch was great. Llyrics were extra ordinary by the great one and only Gulzar sab.

But, we had no idea what was coming until we watched the song in the film. God, this was mind blowing stuff. They had all the ingredients, the two Bachchans for the first time together in a song and Aishwarya Rai, great music by SAL and sensuous voice of Alisha Chinoy. Combinations don’t get hotter than that. But you may have all the ingredients, it still takes an expert chef to turn it into a mouth watering dish and that’s exactly what this one was. Aishwarya Rai simply rocked. I am not a big fan of her acting; at best it comes across as labored and well rehearsed. Her dancing is slightly better but the woodenness doesn’t quite go away. But in this song, she was in a completely different zone. Every body movement of her was out of this world, she was dressed right and looked equal amount a cheap item girl yet graceful, scorching hot and sexy yet beautiful like a dream.  Big B was, well, just Big B and Chhote B didn’t disappoint either, he just seemed to be having a good time, which is what he was supposed to be doing anyway.

This song has so much going for it, that it’s hard to pinpoint any one aspect. But if we don’t mention Gulzar sab’s lyrics, we missed the soul of the song. I mean, who inserts, Kali Kamli wale, a reference to Krishna and Ballimaran ki galiyan, a reference to Mirza Ghalib in the same song, and yet maintains the tempo of a typical item number. Yet, that’s exactly what Gulzar sab achieves. Hats off to him! This song would remain unsurpassable for some time. Great all time item song!

Number 3 – Mehbooba from Sholay

I promise you this will be my last ma-baap type metaphor. But this song has to be really the grandpa or grand ma of all item songs.    In a film from which million other stuff became part of the Indian folklore forever, the fact that this song survived the test of the times and is still unsurpassable is amazing. It’s a not a great song, not even the best song in the film, that has to be Yeh Dosti. In fact, watched in isolation, without the context, it even appears half baked and done in a hurry. Yet, there is something to this song. To me, it has to be the combination of Helen and RD Burman (both voice and music) and everything else such as Gabbar, dakus and stuff just add on the fun. Anyway, this song had to be on the list, otherwise my list would have been incomplete without the all time queen of item numbers, the great immortal Helen.

Other than Helen, the song also deserves its place due to the sheer impact it has had. The format of villan’s adda and a girl dancing to racy music has become an iconic image in Hindi cinema and has been repeated and copied to the hilt. In fact, I have seen the format making it to non-cinema mediums such as Ramlila where typically they show a girl dancing in Raawan’s court.

Number 4 – Main Aaayi Hun UP Bihar Lootne

If songs were selected based on international popularity, this would come out on the top. This song has had a weird destiny in many ways. On one hand, this is quite a racy song in an otherwise serious film and actually provided good relief from Manoj Bajpayee’s extra serious acting in the film. But more than that, this song should always be remembered for resurrecting the career of an out of favor Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. For those of you who don’t read gossip magazines(God, what do you read then?), Ms Shetty used this song in her Big Brother appearance in UK and danced to victory, straight through the heart of the confused and guilty conscious Britons. They saw the innocence of our entire Bharat Mata in Shilpa Shetty and decided to repent for all the sins of their forefathers that they had incurred on poor Bharat Mata. Rest is history, the full details of her journey from Big Brother to IPL queen and big time celebrity can be read in the chronicles of Narnia. Sorry, for the bad humor, here’s the song

Number 5 – Sheher Ki Ladki – Rakshak

For many of you, this may be a surprise on the list. But once upon a time, we used to have a great action hero in our industry called Suneil Shetty, who we always believed financed his own films, being a rich hoteling industry tycoon in real life. We didn’t mind that, after all it was his money. But then, he wouldn’t stop at that. Borrowing inspiration from Sunny Deol, he would also insist on dancing. With his great dancing skills and ‘dhai kilo ke hathode jaise paer’ he would murder many otherwise decent songs. He almost murdered this one too, but it survived because of Raveena Tandon. With this song, Raveena started a trend of mainstream heroes and heroines appearing in item songs. This was also the time Hindi film heroines started to drop their loud, gaudy saris in favor of Manish Malhotra dresses and mini-skirts became permanent part of their wardrobe. If you don’t remember the song, I don’t blame you because the film was an utter flop, like most Suneil Shetty films. But you can still enjoy the song- for Raveena or for Suneil Shetty. Either way, it’s a classic.

Ok, so that completes my list of top 5 item songs of all time. There were many others that didn’t make it for one reason or the other.

–          Kaal Dhamaal – Kaal, what sounded like a great idea on paper came didn’t work in execution. That applies to the film as well as to this song.

–          Dilli ki sardi – don’t remember the name of the film- only the words were great. Amrita Arora sucked as item girl.

–          Koi  jaye to le aaye – Ghatak, Anyone remember Mamta Kulkarni? This film started her link up with Rajkumar Santoshi that lead to China Gate and finally to her ouster from the gate completely. But she was great in the song.

–          Chhamma – China Gate, Mamta’s loss became Urmila’s gain. After Santoshiji got upset with her for opening her mouth, her role got reduced to miniscule and this song was handed over to Urmila Martondkar. There was something missing in the song. It didn’t quite work for me.

–          Humma-Humma – Bombay. This one wasn’t bad. Manisha and Arvind Swami playing suhagrat-suhagrat in the background was picturized very nicely. Sonali Bendre did a great job. Somehow, the song didn’t make any impact outside the film and to me, it didn’t move the narrative forward either. So, looked like a song added just for the sake of it.

–          One Love – Rakt. This was a turnaround song for Chhote B. For the first time he looked comfortable in his skin and cool on screen. The song remains a nice watch, but no one noticed because the film was an utter flop.

Ok, so that’s my list. Hope you had fun reading it and at least found one of your songs in the list. Hope to hear back from you all soon! Enjoy the summer!

Ek Hulchul Si

It’s rare that we get a perfect film soundtrack in Hindi film industry. Dev D is one such album. The problem with a perfect album is that there are so many gems in it, not every one of them gets its due. Ek Hulchul si, didn’t quite get the attention it deserves, because there were bigger catchier numbers in the album such as Emotional Atyachaar and Saali Khushi.

Try listening to this golden nugget, in high volume in your car, on a long drive.

Agar dil mein hulchul na jage de to kehna

Enjoy!

Kash Laga!

Zindagi ke kash laga

Hasrataron ke rakh udaa

….

Choodi hui bastuyan jata hun bar bar ghoom ghoom ke

Milte nahi hain nishan, chhode the dehleeze choom choom ke

Only Gulzar saab can write like that!

Only Vishal Bhardwaj can compose like that!

Only Daler Mehdi and Sukhwinder can sing like that!

You’ll have to watch the whole film, if you want to make sense of the video.

My Issues with 3 Idiots

Previously published on Passionforcinema – http://passionforcinema.com/my-issues-with-3-idiots/

Recently I heard Raju Hirani, giving an acceptance speech after receiving either the Screen or Filmfare award. I can’t make out which one is which, now a days. In this quote-he dedicated his award “To the teachers who teach from heart”. Somehow I sensed a bit of self righteousness this time in one of my favorite directors. The kind of smugness you achieve when your flawed product achieves huge box office success. That’s when you tune yourself off from any murmurs of complaint from any corner and start believing every ounce (and some more) of the praise that comes your way. I think the best example I can think of for comparison was Sanjay Leela Bhansali after Devdas. Devdas was a highly flawed film, a fact well known by now, but was hugely successful when it released. In his interviews right after, SLB would smugly talk about how he went about creating the classic and would spit at all the critics who were pointing to the flaws in the film. The result of that attitude resulted in Saawariya. I hope that’s not the case here with Raju.

Somehow Raju Hirani stayed humble and true to his roots when he made one of the most difficult films in India cinema, that is Lage Raho Munna Bhai. I call that difficult because he brought up one of the most serious subjects with his audience, the subject that we in the audience keep hiding under the carpet, the kind of discussion we want to keep avoiding, the legend of Bapu that we want to keep pretending that never happened. He brought the subject up, thrust it right in our face and yet he did it in a very entertaining style, without being preachy even for one moment. Now, that was triumph! But no, back then, Raju Hirani stayed humble, not sure if it was the Bapu effect. But this time around, in a highly flawed story, with huge gaps and loopholes and if I may dare say, even a flawed message, he managed to deliver a far bigger hit, in fact if the marketing sources are to be believed, the biggest all-time hit of Indian cinema. I won’t blame Raju if he gets a bit smug and even arrogant.

I am writing this without denying that I got my full paisa wasool entertainment from the film, laughed out loud in some scenes and even may have cried in some. All kudos to the screen play writing, the dialog writing and the narrating style of Raju, he does know how to get the most out of a scene. But I cringe when I hear people, including my close friends, declaring it a masterpiece, a classic. Some of them are the friends that went to the same college that I went to, had similar experiences that I had. I am sorry I didn’t want to write another review on 3 Idiots when there were umpteen numbers of reviews and write-ups around the release of the film. But I did have something to say about the film, and couldn’t hold back any longer. So, bear with me, for another piece on 3 Idiots.

I had read the novel about 3 years back, had liked it, had found it breezy reading. Not great, but likeable enough! While Chetan Bhagat, did create unrealistic situations to drive home the humor, the premise, the plot points and the characters remained real and believable. Besides, the book wasn’t trying to deliver a message, there was a suicide in the book too, but it appeared simply as a plot point. The film maintained that mood in the beginning few scenes, particularly until Aamir Khan appeared. Aamir didn’t get Ryan’s character at all. He clearly butchered it and at times almost made Ryan look like a retard, particularly with the use of his eyes and facial expressions. Aamir in one of his interviews bragged about how he conceived that character from one of his teenager nephew. The problem is Ryan wasn’t an immature teenager but someone mature beyond his age, someone with a devil may care attitude, someone blessed with extreme self-confidence. But that’s ok, the flaws in Rancho’s characterization and acting was compensated by superb, almost perfect portrayal of Madhavan’s and Sherman’s characters. They came across utterly believable, almost straight out of an engineering college type characters. Raju also got the lingo right, the saale, kamine style of addressing friends, I think they even brought up KLPD somewhere in the dialogs.

The problem started with the central premise of the film and the characterization of the two leading characters in the film. Apart from Aamir, the other character they got wrong was that of Boman’s. Virus’s character was made into a cartoon. And he is shown as Director of the institute and is yet omnipresent. He comes into boys hostel to lecture the students on competition, a very farcical scene that almost reminded me of Amitabh Bachchan in Mohabatten. I wonder if an IIT director has that kind of time to focus on one student. Ok, you want to make a point about following your heart and teachers being too academic and not promoting original thinking, but why make the prof into a cartoon for that. Why not give him also a voice and let him make his counterpoint.

But, to be fair, if you look beyond the cartoonish caricature, they were trying to allow Virus to make his counter-point, at least in couple of the scenes where he explains that it’s his job to push his students to work as hard as they can and in another place where he explains the income levels of the parents of the three students. But the scenes were killed without letting the impact come out.

I almost rose up on my seat to acknowledge the bravery of the scriptwriters when Virus starts explaining the income levels. I was thinking, ok now it gets interesting because that’s exactly the point. To have the kind of confidence and devil may care attitude that Ryan, sorry Rancho is supposed to have, you have to be a rich brat in real life, who doesn’t have to worry about finding a job as soon as you get out. I had many such students in my own class, who could afford to question the system, some of them very bright and original thinkers like Rancho. But then the film killed the point again and again in the film.

First they killed it, when Rancho started topping the class again and again. He then became a superhero at that moment, not a normal human being anymore. The fact is, no matter, how brilliant a mind you got, how original thinker you are, you still had to slog to get grades. Granted, you could still top a subject or two. There were some subjects such as Machine Drawing that you either get or you don’t, no matter what your IQ level is. But topping every subject, without any effort, while you are having fun drinking alcohol on the rooftop? I am sorry but that just doesn’t happen. No, I am not saying that you have to be Chatur to top the class. The reality is, the people who top the class are all very smart students, way different from Chatur, but they also have to slog harder than everyone else. I can say that, because I was a good student and slogged my ass off, still couldn’t top the class. Those who did, slogged harder than me and were brighter than me. It was never only one thing; you had to have both- IQ and the ability to work hard.

So, original thinkers like Ryan or Rancho would never top the class, but that’s the whole point. They didn’t need to. They didn’t care about grades, they didn’t need grades, they cared about something beyond that, and I can bet that some of the Ryans and Ranchos of my batch could be more successful today than the toppers, simply because they had more rounded set of skills to succeed in life outside the campus. If the message was, you should not follow grades, but gain and apply knowledge, and develop a broader set of skills that are needed in the real world, then it got killed by showing Rancho getting the best of the grades, all the time.

The character of Ranhco completely feel apart when he turned out to be a servant’s son. Why did they have to add that twist? To add to the drama? To increase the length of the film? I have no idea. He may have been smart, because you don’t need money to get the brains but where did he get the attitude of a rich brat, the confidence to take on the system, to be his own self? You don’t have this problem with Ryan’s character in the book.

My other issue with the plot was about following your heart. It’s easier said than done. Have you ever wondered what you knew and how aware of yourself you were at the age when you entered college? Did you have any clue what you wanted to do or what you liked to do at that age? I certainly didn’t and know that 95% of my class didn’t either. We probably had some idea about what would be cool but was that something we would love doing, we had no clue. In fact, there are very few people who are lucky enough to know what they want to do in life and even fewer who figure that out so early in their lives. To me, they are clearly Gods’ children. Even in the field of Sports or Show business which are full of stories of people who just followed their dreams, there are very few people like Sachin Tendulkar who knew at an early age what they wanted to do in life. Remember that dialog in the film Iqbal, where Naseer explains to the parents of Shreyas’s character, what a special thing it is to know what you want to do in life. That’s so true. I am in my late thirties and I still don’t know what makes me happy and what would have been an ideal thing or profession for me. I wish it were as easy as they show in films, click a few pictures of animals and voila you are a born wild life photographer! For most of us in real life, it’s a lifelong journey to know yourself, to figure out what works for you as an individual. And, some of us will never figure it out.

Now let’s examine that from parent’s perspective. I am sure, any loving parent would be happy to support their kids if they knew what would make their kids happy. But the problem is how do you figure out if the kid really knows what he or she wants? How do you figure out if it’s not an infatuation that will soon fade with the first brush of reality? Unfortunately, our system and society in general doesn’t give you a second chance. Even in USA, where youngsters take slightly longer to figure out what they want in life, people change their profession sometimes two or three times in the early part of their life, parents are extremely cautious and try to manage and guide their kids to focus on options they have in front of them, instead of chasing some wild dream. My ex manager, a white American recently described me how his entire family was completely stressed out for almost 3 months because one of his daughters suddenly declared that she wasn’t interested in joining college. Instead, she wanted to join Marine Corps. Where she could play in band and start making money as a musician from day one. Her logic was, “Why bother going through college when all I want to be is a musician and I am getting the opportunity to be one now instead of several years later”. I believe that parents also want their kids to chase their dreams, but they know from their own life experiences how hard it is know which dream to chase.

In the end, my objective wasn’t to trash the film, but just to raise few points that were going on in my mind and wanted to see if others feel the same way. As I said, I enjoyed the film a lot and have already watched it two or three times.

People who make life worth living: Gulzar

Previously published on Passionforcinema – http://passionforcinema.com/people-who-make-life-worth-living-gulzar/

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 www.gulzaronline.com, 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.