Does a Garden (Gulzar) Grow Old ?
Ali Peter John
It is my strange observation with which I give you the freedom to agree or to disagree. I strongly believe that any child, a boy specially, who loses his mother at a very young age grows up to be a very disturbed human being, a man forever in turmoil, craving and even crying out for his mother’s love. He also grows into a voice that bursts into expression of his pent up feelings as a painter, a poet, a writer or a philosopher or is sometimes even branded as a mad man for his thinking and his feelings. M.F.Husain’s mother died when he was ten. Sahir Ludhianvi’s mother died when he was eight. Javed Akhtar’s mother died when Javed hardly knew what death was. The legendary Dev Anand lost his mother when he was twelve. This writer for whatever he is worth lost his mother when he was twelve and has been living troubled lives ever since, looking for his lost mother in every woman, knowing very well that he will never ever find her. I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts with all the great men who I have named above and they all shared their agony and pain of living life without a mother. They have grown into the men they are, the sensitive men with scorched emotions and tortured feelings and even seething with anger against the inhumanity of man, of the evils of the system, the society, the country and the world. And if you ask me the one man who has been most affected by the loss of his mother is the poet – writer – lyricist, painter and filmmaker, Gulzar who lost his mother when he was just one.
Gulzar (original name, Sampurnanand Singh) was born in a village called Dina now in Pakistan in a middle class family. His father was a man with strong ideas who considered things like writing, poetry and painting frivolous and a waste of time and energy. Sampurnanand (complete happiness) lost all his happiness when he lost his mother, a loss that killed that something inside him which gave birth to all kinds of feelings which he put down on paper at a very young age, something his father was against but nothing could stop Sampurnanand from giving vent to his feelings. The partition brought him face to face with the grim and gruesome realities of the brutality of man towards man and how man massacred other men senselessly. It was these scenes that he observed that led him to change his name to Gulzar and forced him to write without a stop and was one of the best known poets at a very young age. But writing poetry did not bring in the money to make even an ordinary living. He lived in shanties in suburban Versova among “dhobis” and sweepers and lived with friends who were also struggling to make it big in their own way. He later took up the job of a car spray painter in a garage where some of the best known film celebrities brought their cars. One of them was the music director S.D.Burman. It was during one of his visits to the garage that Burman Da was introduced to the young man who was busy painting a car and told him he wrote very good poetry and Burman Da decided to keep him in mind. Circumstances soon played their own part. Bimal Roy was making “Bandini” with Burman Da as his music director and Shailendra as his song writer. A time came when Bimal Roy needed a song to be sung by Lata Mangeshkar as soon as possible. It was also the time when Shailendra was out of Bombay. Bimal Roy had to record the song somehow and he told Burman Da about his problem. The music director remembered the young man at the garage and introduced him to Bimal Roy as a good poet. Roy heard him out and found him to be brilliant. He made him write the song Shailendra was supposed to. Gulzar wrote the song ‘mora gora rang lai le,tohe shyaam rang dai de’. It was composed by Burman Da, sung by Lata and picturised on Nutan all with the passion the song deserved. It was considered a gem and still is. Gulzar the lyricist had made his mark and made his good work a topic of discussion. That one song had opened the doors of the Bombay film world to him.
Bimal Roy was impressed with him and his command over languages like Hindi and Urdu and even Bengali. He asked him to join him as his assistant. It was while he was assisting Bimal Roy that he met seniors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Nabendu Ghosh, Debu Ghosh and Raghunath Jhalani and it took him very little time to pick up the art of writing scripts and even directing films. He was now waiting to take that big leap. He wanted to direct his own film. He managed to get the rights of a Bengali film, ‘Apan Jaan’ directed by Tapan Sinha. He wrote his own script based on the original. He got the support of the great actress Meena Kumari who took her time to take a decision to play what was to be the last role of her illustrious career. He had young men who were struggling to make it like Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Asrani, Paintal and Danny Denzongpa among others who had played roles which made them names to be reckoned with. The making of “Mere Apne” led to both a commercial success and a critically acclaimed film, mainly because it reflected the spirit of the angry youth of the seventies.
Gulzar now wanted to prove that he could make different genres of films. He made “Parichay” which was an inspired version of the Hollywood hit ‘The Sound of Music’ with Jeetendra, Jaya Bhaduri and a whole lot of children and the film was a huge success. Gulzar then took off with “Koshish” which was inspired by a Japanese film called ‘For the happiness of us alone’, the story of a couple played by Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya who play dumb and deaf characters throughout the film. Gulzar made an interesting film with two magnificent performances by Sanjeev and Jaya. This film together with “Achanak” based on a story by K.A.Abbas and with Vinod Khanna as the only main character established him as a director.
It was only after these films he made that he had to face a tough time till he redeemed himself with three films in a row, “Khushboo”, with Hema Malini in one of her most outstanding roles, “Mausam” which was a major triumph of talent for Sharmila Tagore who was a glamour girl till then who played a double role, the mother and the daughter who is forced by circumstances to turn into a cheap foul-mouthed, bidi-smoking prostitute. This two films were crowned by Gulzar when he made “Aandhi” with Sanjeev Kumar and the living legend of Bengal, Suchitra Sen. “Aandhi” was a powerful political film Gulzar created and the leading role played by Suchitra Sen strongly resembled the personality of Indira Gandhi and also her personal life which led the censors to ban the film for sometime till the Supreme Court allowed it to be screened and the result was another landmark in the career of Gulzar as a director. However, the next few films made by the same Gulzar, “Kitab”, “Kinara”, “Namkeen” and above all “Meera” the most ambitious film he has ever made with the rare music of Pandit Ravi Shankar dipped at the box office very badly. Gulzar then hit back with a rib-tickling comedy called ‘Angoor’, his own version of Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy Of Errors’. Both Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Varma who played double roles in the film made the film something to be remembered every time there was talk about great comedies made in Hindi films. He then made “Ijaazat” with Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah and Anuradha Patel which with the performances of its main actors and the haunting music of R.D.Burman made it a film to remember. Gulzar also made a mark as a director when Lata Mangeshkar decided to make a film with him as her director and with music by her brother, Pandit Hridaynath and with Dimple Kapadia in one of her most mesmerizing roles. Gulzar then made “Maachis”, a film which told the truth about the holocaust of all that happened in Punjab in 1984, a film for which he was praised by the entire Punjabi community and for which he together with his lead actress Tabu won a number of awards. The last film he directed was another political film called ‘Hu Tu Tu’ with Nana Patekar and Tabu, but the interference of his producers who knew nothing about how his mind worked and what kind of film he wanted to make ruined the making of the film and Gulzar has vowed never to work with producers who have no passion for film making. He is happy the way he is. He is being offered assignments by some of the corporate companies but he has still to consider them but the way I know him he will not surrender and make any compromises in the way he makes his films, a commitment he can never give up under any circumstances.
More on Gulzar
Ø He is always dressed in a starched white kurta and pants and wears Rajasthani mojdis. He can be spotted in any kind of crowd. He has never shaved in his life. A barber comes home to give him a shave whenever he wants one.
Ø His day starts at four in the morning; a cup of tea is followed by two hours of active tennis (even at 83). He returns home for a bath, has his breakfast, goes through the morning papers and then comes down to his office where he starts work at 10 and goes on till 4.30 with no break for lunch, the only thing he keeps himself “alive” with are large glasses of specially made green tea
Ø Gulzar has built his own bungalow on Pali Hill and named it ‘Boskyana’ named after his daughter who he always called Bosky even though she is Meghana Gulzar, a leading director today. He has another game of tennis, comes back home to watch television, has his dinner and goes to sleep at 10.00 pm sharp. He never or very rarely attends parties.
Ø Gulzar fell in love with the actress Raakhee and married her. They spent some years together and had their daughter Bosky till Raakhee decided to make a comeback in Yash Chopra’s “Kabhi Kabhi”. She had broken a promise she made to him before they got married and this led to their separation. They however remain friends and Gulzar often has dinner with her and Bosky. Gulzar also sees her off at the airport. They also share the same driver, Sunder.
Ø Gulzar wrote a book of children’s stories which he presented to Bosky on all her birthdays during the first thirteen years of her life, books she has treasured to this day. Bosky who is Meghana Gulzar has paid back her father by writing a full fledged book on him called ‘Because he is’.
Ø Gulzar has very few friends. His best friends Sanjeev Kumar and R.D.Burman are no more and Gulzar misses them whenever he is in that kind of emotional mood.
Ø Gulzar believes in keeping his body fit. He does his regular exercises and even today looks nothing more than 45.
Ø Gulzar has always been known as a ladies’ man. He has also created some of the best female characters.
Ø Gulzar rarely attends kavi sammelans or mushairas but whenever he does he steals the show with his voice and the emotions he expresses
Ø He has people who are madly in love with his poetry and those who are also crazy about the kind of poetry he writes which critics call abstract or non-poetry.
Ø Gulzar is a linguist. He is good at Punjabi, Hindi, English and is best at Urdu. He has recently mastered the Marathi language to perfection and has even translated the poetry of Kusumgraj, “the Shakespeare of Marathi”. He was also the consulting editor of “Deeputsav”, a collection of literature in Marathi. He is also known as one of the great short story writers whose works are best sellers even in Pakistan and wherever the Urdu language is known.
Ø He is also a part time painter but his paintings are only for his own satisfaction and not for public exhibition.
Ø Gulzar always sees the late Meena Kumari as one of his greatest source of inspiration. In fact Meena Kumari who was also a poetess handed over all her poetry to Gulzar before she died.
Ø Gulzar has also made some of the finest serials for Doordarshan, among them being “Terah Panne”, “Kirdar” and the most popular, “Mirza Ghalib” which has made Naseeruddin Shah immortal.
Ø Gulzar has his own favourite room at the West End Hotel in Bangalore where he gives the finishing touches to all his scripts and books.
Ø Gulzar has come out with several private albums mostly with his friends R.D.Burman and Asha Bhosle, Jagjit Singh and Bhupendra Singh and Mitalee.
Ø His greatest ambition is to make the ultimate film on the character of an Indian mother.
Ø Gulzar has also played a role with Sharmila Tagore in Basu Bhattacharya’s “Asamaapt Kavita”. He is also an expert in playing several musical instruments and is a specialist in playing the sitar.
Ø Gulzar has just one film which has still to be released,even after twenty-five years. ”Libaas” starring Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Raj Babbar.
Ø Gulzar the lyricist has worked with music directors like S.D. Burman, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Illayaraja and even R.D. Burman, A.R Rahman, Vishal Bhradwaj his own discovery, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, and Sandesh Shandilya.
Ø Gulzar the poet has now travelled to some “other worlds” to find new subjects and has been fascinated by the moon, the stars and all the planets which have still not found the right description by the best astronomers.
Ø Gulzar has won almost every award in the country and is also the winner of both the Padmashri and Padmabhushan.
Ø His favourite line – “Abhi toh hamare khelne koodne ke din hai, abhi aur bahut kuch karna baaqi hai”
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