This biography on the life and cinema of the inimitable Gulzar by Saibal Chatterjee has had its genesis in the mid 1980s. Saibal began his career with The Telegraph, living on a staple diet of Hindi movies and when Gulzar became one of his favourite filmmaker that included stalwarts like Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Berman and others. He admits that Gulzar was one of the few contemporary writer-directors ?whose films I could never tire of watching.?
Gulzar has undoubtedly been a path-breaker as a filmmaker. None can deny that Gulzar has a way with words, is a wonderful conversationalist, a great raconteur but ?drawing him out of his shell isn'talways easy.? He is shy and reserved and uncomfortable sharing his emotions with non-intimates. Though he has several identities?poet, short-story writer, creator of children'sliterature and an outstanding screenplay and dialogue writer, in the collective consciousness of the Indians, he is essentially a filmmaker and lyricist. His popularity rests primarily on the great films that he has directed and the countless musical numbers that he has adorned with words in a career spanning over four eventful decades.
As a young lad, Gulzar, a voracious reader, could devour any literary material that he could lay his hands on. Born as Sampooran Singh Kalra, he remembers his childhood days in a Sabzi Mandi of Old Delhi following the Partition of India in 1947. In mid-1949, in another quirk of fate, Gulzar on completing his matriculation from Delhi United Christian School was pulled out of St Stephen'sCollege in the first term and sent by his father to the bustling western India metropolis of Bombay to find a long-term toehold.
At the National College to study his intermediate, he dipped himself in the treasure trove of Urdu and Persian literature while helping out his brother at the petrol pump. Gulzar was branded the black sheep of the family for indulging in Urdu shairi (poetry) instead of looking after the family business. He walked out of his brother'shouse to take up a room in a remote suburb of northern Bombay. He joined a motor garage as its administrator. Meanwhile he came in contact with Debu Sen, who became the earliest associate of Gulzar in films. He became a member of the PWA (Progressive Writers? Association) that started its activities from poet Ali Sardar Jafri'shouse.
Bimal Roy, when introduced to Gulzar, asked him to write the lyrics for his film Bandini and he wrote the lyrics??Mora gora ang laile??and appointed him as his assistant. Writing came naturally to Gulzar as he had a fertile imagination that equipped him to tide over any creative urge. In January 1965, when Bimal Roy, Gulzar'smentor, died of throat cancer, he left a deep impact on his prot?g?. ?The catharsis that he expressed as Roy'smortal remains went up in flames helped Gulzar exorcise the indelible sense of guilt and regret that he had nurtured for several years over the fact he could not make it to Delhi for his own father'slast rites in 1961.?
Gulzar wrote the lyrics for Hrishikesh Mukherjee'sAnand which became a hit at the box-office. During the making of Benazir Gulzar met the tragedy queen Meena Kumari of Hindi cinema and both began discussions on poetry for hours, ?either exulting in the beauty of an expression or tearing a popular line to shreds.? Gulzar made Mere Apne with her role as an old widow and it became a hit film. Gulzar, the filmmaker had arrived. Soon afterwards, Meena Kumari, a habitual alcoholic died in 1972, leaving behind her diaries to Gulzar on whom she had come to rely upon.
He made Parichay with Jeetendra with whom he built a strong relationship and the two worked together in several of his subsequent films. He wrote the screenplay of Koshish, which fetched him the National Award for best script and which depicted the life of a physically challenged couple. This was followed with Achanak, the story of a convict and which proved beyond doubt ?if he already hadn'tdone so, that he possessed the capability of crafting an original piece of cinema.? His next film was Khushboo which was a super box-office triumph.
Gulzar made Aandhi which was banned during the Emergency on the ground of its female protagonist bearing a striking resemblance to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Gulzar however counters that it had nothing to do with Mrs Gandhi but ?yes, she was certainly the playing model for the character of the female politician in the film.? During the making of this film, he married Raakhee, another stellar star, but the marriage lasted only two years though they continue to be good friends.
The author says that Gulzar'sstrength lies in the fact that in the conclusion of a remarkable career, ?he knows exactly what he is looking for or, to be more precise, he is absolutely clear in his mind what he isn'tlooking for.? He adds that Gulzar has carved a place for himself in the hearts of the post-liberalisation generation of Hindi moviegoers with remarkable songs that he is penning down till today, ?though his own heart still lies exactly where it did when he started his career.? Misra adds that Gulzar is most remembered as one of Bombay cinema'smost accomplished wordsmiths in the early 1960s for that immortal ditty ?Mera gora ang laile? for Bimal Roy'sBandini.
When the author says, ?The loneliness that the sensitive motherless boy grappled with in his growing years?that sense of emptiness spilled over into his days in Delhi as well?is also perhaps one of the reasons for the spirit of profound sensitiveness that lies beneath Gulzar'sapparently composed unflappable exterior. It is the torment behind the tranquillity that drives him to incessantly explore, both in his films and literature, the ebbs and tides of human relationships?? He very appropriately sums up the life and character of Gulzar.
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