Because Gulzar saab’s songs are wonderful – no doubt. But also because, they are not just songs – they are the lyrics, the music, the choreography, the acting woven together to form something which lasts a lifetime. Especially in our country, Hindi songs are not just art – they are emotions. They manifest so differently for different people. For the lover - songs are his expression of love. For a devotee - they are his “Bhakti”. For an artiste – they are his “Riyaaz”. For a truck driver – they are his companion through the journey. For a soldier – they are his inspiration. For a hard working woman – they are the solace in the times of crisis. And Gulzar saab’s songs have tapped almost all of these genres.
Gulzar always says that if a lyricist is clever enough, he can push his own thoughts and intentions in the song even if he is adhering to the situation in the film. Good poets always have layers to their poems with deeper meanings. A good reader is the one who can scratch those upper layers and read between the lines. The good poem is the one which can broaden the horizons of the reader’s understandings. Mera yaar mila de from Saathiya especially is one song with all three facets intertwined beautifully together. Its Sufi. It has layers. On the surface, it’s a song of a lover who is frantically in search of his beloved. But once you dig inside, it is in fact a quest for God.
Take this beautiful song from Khamoshi. It was released in 1969 – when Gulzar was 35 years of age. I feel like “chullu bhar paani mei dub jao” when I think about what I have achieved in my life of 35 years. It is from a film which was praised for some of its brilliant songs and melodious music. And from the humongous list of wonderful Gulzar songs, i could not find any better choice to place on top of my list. This song is haunting. It is beautiful. It is melodious. But apart from it, this 50 years old song created an entirely new paradigm of imagination. It is impossible yet its beauty makes it all believable.
It was a movie released in 1982 starring Sanjeev Kumar, Deven Verma in double roles along with Maushami Chatterjee and Deepti Naval. It is based on Shakespeare’s comedy of errors. Its unique in a way because this is the only movie where Gulzar had attempted something in the comedy genre. Where all other movies are serious and explore complex human emotions, Angoor is light, funny and is full of situational humor. While other films are already well known and critically acclaimed, Angoor is not that popular. And in spite of being a brilliant film, I am not sure why it was not a hit. Utpal Dutt and Shammi have two twin sons who are named as Ashok. And they also adopt another set of twin boys and name them Bahadur. In a ship accident, the family gets separated where one Ashok and one Bahadur stay together each. Years later they come together coincidently in a city and from there starts a hilarious tale of confusion, misunderstandings and errors which finally ends in a happy reunion.
Khushboo is story of Kusum (Hema Malini) and Brindavan (Jeetendra) who are engaged at a very young age. However, due to some family feuds the engagement is broken off. Brindavan grows up to be a doctor and one day coincidently meets Kusum and comes to know that she is still unmarried. However, Brindavan now is a father to a child named Charan. He had to marry Lakhi (Sharmila Tagore) in some difficult circumstances and who now is no more. From here, Khushboo is a journey of Brindavan and Kusum and their eventual union. It is about Kusum - a strong willed woman who doesn’t want to be taken back out of mercy. She wants back her rightful place in Brindavan’s home but with respect. It is about Brindavan, who is torn between his feelings for Kusum, for his mother and also his duty as a doctor. And within all this, it is also about Brindavan’s and Kusum’s mutual bonding and respect
Ijaazat, at the time of its release was considered “Art-House”. But I find it extremely mainstream and relevant. In fact, it is so natural and real, that it doesn’t feel like a movie at all. Mahendra is Mahendra not Naseeruddin Shah. Sudha is Sudha - nothing like the Diva she was. And considering the extremely dramatic, over the top and gross movies released in the 1980s, Ijaazat was a breath of fresh air. Gulzar saab has very stringently maintained the somber and sublime mood of the movie throughout. And there is beautiful maturity between his characters that never goes away. The movie is slow, but not boring. There is a “Thehraav” yet it makes you constantly curious. Be it other movies Aandhi or Parichay or Khushboo – this maturity, this “Thehraav” is always there. It lingers and stays. And months after you have watched the movie, you still remember it and feel good.
Book lovers all over do create a bond with their books. The books become a part of them, their lives, their being. And only true book lovers can feel the ache of not being able to enjoy their treasures. I look at the book case in my living room every day and sigh at the number of books still untouched, waiting to be read. And sometimes I do feel like they stare back at me accusingly. I randomly remember the titles which I had decided to read long ago but couldn’t finish just because I had more important things to do. And so I agree – my books get restless. It is all true really. And yet its surreal.
Gulzar – or Sampooran Singh Kalra was born in Dina in Jhelum district in British India now in Pakistan. His family migrated to Delhi during partition when he was just 13 years old. And like countless others, he too experienced the agony and grief of abruptly getting uprooted from his origins. His life in his young age was not a happy one at all – when he had to stop his studies, when he had to work in a garage and support his family. His father was against his becoming a writer and he had to go through phases of conflicts, silences and struggles to come into his own. Guess he overcame some of his earlier sorrows. However, the pain of separation from his birthplace – the place where he spent his childhood kept on lurking through his poems often. He has written extensively about the partition – about the hatred, the deaths, the loss, the emotional turmoil and the vanity of it all. In one of his interviews he had also said that he would not like to visit Dina because he “loves the images of his hometown and doesn’t want those images to be changed by the current reality”.
Picking up a bunch of best Gulzar poems is like finding a needle in the sea. If one has to select only a bunch of flowers from the vast gardens of Amsterdam, isn’t it injustice with the remaining treasure full of equal beauty and purity. And talking about Gulzar, it is definitely bigger and deeper than one can ever imagine. From such a massive treasure of nazms, ghazals and trivenis, its extremely difficult to pick up some. Firstly, one should have read at least 75 percent of his poems if not all. Secondly, one should have understood them. And thirdly, one also should possess a good command over the language. Sadly, I do not fit any of the criteria. And yet, I am being arrogant enough to handpick his best collections. In my defense, I will say here I am posting some of my personal favorites. There is no logical reasoning behind selecting these poems. These are just my favorites.