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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.


       BY Ali Peter John
When Gulzar first came to Bombay from Dina in Pakistan , he was Sampurnand Singh Kalra , who was a car mechanic with a passion for poetry. He had no relatives and lived with some friends in what were known as” chawls ” in Versova where some of the better known filmmakers and even an actress like Geeta Bali had better homes . He lived in a room which he shared with other young man . He soon found a job as a car spray painter in a garage somewhere in Khar and kept traveling to his place of work in buses . It was this garage which was to change his destiny , he used to write poetry in Urdu and his friends and those working with him came to know about it . Among the film personalities who regularly visited this garage was the well-known music director S.D.Burman . One morning Burman came to the garage and was looking worried . He told the owner about his problem . Burman was working on the music of Vimal Roy’s “Bandini”which had its songs written by Shailendra .Who had some problems with Vimal Roy and couldn’t give a particular song in time . Roy was upset as he wanted to picturise the song on the leading lady of the film, Nutan,as soon as possible.Someone in the garage told Burman that there was a young man working with them, who wrote poetry and pointed out a young man in a turban and with a beard to Burman.Without taking any time , Burman ask the young man to come to Vimal Roy’s office in Andheri the next morning. There was a meeting between Burman , Vimal Roy and the young man who had a pen name in Gulzar . Roy explained the situation of the song to Gulzar and asked him if he could write a poem or a song to suit the situation and within no time, Gulzar came up with the poem -song (Mora gora rang lai le , Tora shayam rang dai de) and the rest was going to be history.The song was loved , approved and recorded and the word about Gulzar being a good poet who could be pride out as  a lyricist in hindi films spread……..
It was after the song was recorded that Vimal Roy took more interest in Gulzar and offered him a job to be one of his assistant directors which Gulzar had no hesitation to accept and another chapter in his life and carrier began. It was while he was working with Vimal Roy that he got to know other assistants of Roy like  Hrishikesh Mukherjee , Raghunath Jhalani , Debu Sen , Moni Bhattacharya and the well-known writer , Nabendu Ghosh (Whoes 103rd birth anniversary it is today )…….
Gulzar was a quick learner and picked up the art of screenplay and dialogue -writing  besides direction .
All the assistants of Vimal Roy made great progress within no time and Gulzar was no exception.He found his first opportunity to write and direct “Mere Apne “for Producer N.C.Sippy , the film which was one of the last films of Meena Kumari and had some of the bright students of the FTII and Vinod Khanna was a hit and the door to endless success opened out for Gulzar and he has never looked back since (He is Eighty four years old now ! )
He moved out of Versova and literally went places . First worked and almost lived in and around the office of Vimal Roy in the compound of Mohan Studios where there was plenty of space and rooms. He then mostly worked from the office of Rupam Chitra , the banner of N.C.Sippy under which he was to make some more memorable films which made him a big name and also made him earn enough money to buy his own house.
From Versova, he had now moved to a comfortable apartment on Pali Hill , better known as the Beverley Hills of India  .
Destiny was doing unbelievable things to him. He met Raakhee, the girl from Bengal who had made it big as a star in Bombay. They fell for each other and got married in what was described as a dream marriage . Raakhee decided to quit films as that was what Gulzar wanted and they moved into a better apartment on the same Pali Hill, where they had Jeetendra and his family as neighbours. They had a daughter who Gulzar named Bosky and whoes official name was Meghana . Gulzar for the first time started working from this new home on the ninth floor and in which he had a working place of his own . The office was designed according to his own tastes and needs . He had a large writing table and a settee behind the table, which was all white just like the clothes he always wore and still does.On the wall behind was a framed sketch of Meena Kumari done by the renowned painter and art director of the films of Raj Kapoor,M.R.Achrekar.
The times kept changing.Raakhee made a comeback with Yash Chopra’s, “Kabhi  Kabhie”and what was expected by many happened.They had a separation of ways without going for a divorce . Raakhee moved into her own house called “Muktangan  “and Gulzar took very little time to have his own Quaint Bungalow all done up in his favourite color , white.He named it “Boskyaana”which meant Bosky’s house . Bosky kept going between “Mukatangan” and “Boskyaana “. When she grew up , she went to St.Xavier’s College where she studied from morning till lunch time and then first came to” Boskyaana “to spend time with her “Pappi”(that is what she calls her father) and spent the evening and the night at Muktangan…….
Gulzar was now left alone at “Boskyaana” and soon evolved a lifestyle of his own . The Bungalow had two floors.He lived on the first floor amidst a library and paintings done by him and Bosky . The ground floor was his office and the place where he worked, wrote and met the few people he wanted to meet . The office was surrounded by the countless awards he had won down the years . Outside the windows of the office was a small and lush green gardan at which he was found fondly  looking at most of the time , which people couldn’t faithom . Raakhee was one of them . She kept visiting “Boskyaana” off and on and sometimes when she found him looking at the garden and the ceiling jokingly asked him when he worked if he was only looking at the ceiling and his garden all the time . Gulzar couldn’t explain anything to her like he couldn’t to all those who thought like her.
He had a very strict schedule for his day . He woke up at five in the morning , dressed up in his tennis outfit, carried his kit himself and a towel across his strong shoulders and drove with a doctor -friend to the Bandra Gymkhana , where he played serious tennis for more than two hours . He came back home and had a shower and then had a heavy breakfast because according to his schedule , there was going to be no lunch or lunch break.He got ready and was down in his office at ten o’clock sharp . There was not a day when he was late even though he was his own boss…
From ten, he “worked ” without a break till four or sometimes four thirty , but never beyond that time. It was during the six hours in his “office”that he wrote what he had to write or plan his shootings in his mind . He gave the finishing touches to all his scripts at the West End Hotel in Bangalore where he worked alone , he rarely gave appointments or interviews during the time , unless it was something very important or urgent . I had the privilege of meeting him almost once a week and that’s how I know all  this about him , for those who would like to know how I know so much about him.
Once he went back home, there was no talk about work . He had his evening tea and some snacks prepared by the woman (I think her name was Pushpa) who looked after his food and snacks.He red some book , watched television had a good dinner and by ten o’clock in the night he prepared to go to sleep and was lost to the world till five in the morning.
He hardly moved out of “Boskyaana”. The only times he did was when he had to shoot , in India , anywhere in India, because non of his films needed any shooting to be done on foreign locations.The only trips he has made baroad have been to America, London and Japan , where his books and poems have been translated into Japanese and where he has been honoured at two of the best known Universities , the Tokyo and the Osaka University .
He has his own editing room at “Boskyaana”, which he uses for himself and lends it out to others , only when he feels like it or finds the right people who will work there .
He has hardly changed his cars . He had a NE 118 for several years and has replaced it with a new car which too he has been using for quite some years . But his driver Sunder has been with him ever since I can remember .
The last film he directed was “Hu Tu Tu”and had vowed never to direct a film again. He has not even directed any work for television or any of the new developments in cinemas like a Web Series or anything else for that matter.
He now spends most of his time writing , thinking, feeling or gazing at the ceiling or the garden outside. when asked what he does these days , he in his still so fascinating voice says ,”Abhi hum kyon kaam karein, bhai(incidentally, he is called Bhai by all those who know him very closely ), abhi toh hamare khelne kudne ke deen hain”.
So , where does a man like Gulzar have to be told to stay home and work from home in these cruel times of Corona Virus ?