Millennium Post

Master of many moments

In the midst of some very cantankerous discourse on politics, which has come to identify the ongoing campaign by the rival parties to win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, came the announcement that the Dada Saheb Phalke award for lifetime achievement in Indian cinema this year was being given to Sampooran Singh Gulzar, the poet, lyricist, writer, director and producer extra-ordinary.  Gulzar may be about to turn 80 but it’s difficult to believe that he is old enough for Phalke award. This award has generally been handed over to people waiting for the boarding pass for the journey to another world.

In Gulzar’s case, there is nothing to suggest that the poet in him has allowed evening to set into his writings. Let me illustrate the point. There is this song from 2009 Vishal Bhardwaj film Kaminey, ‘Tan Taaaan... Aaja, Aaja Dil Nichode... (come let’s squeeze the heart)’ Those who followed cinema in the 1970s and the 1980s would never believe that these tapping lyrics could be from his quill. They are and no wonder the song was a chartbuster. This is not to suggest that the lyrics Gulzar penned after the turn of the millennium undermined his poetry. Rather it became more profound delineating the complexities with the simplicity of Shailendra and spiritual intensity of Sahir Ludhianvi. Be it Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire), which got him academy honours, or Sureeli Ankhiyon Wali (Salman Khan-starrer Veer), Gulzar’s poetry continues to mirror the pathos and happiness of the society like never before.

What keeps Gulzar’s writings so youthful? According to a formidable scholar of his poetry, Binod Khaitan, ‘Gulzar is master of many parts of writing but he never ever attempted writing a novel as the poet in him lives in moments and enjoys pithy expressions. For him moments have a lifespan, sometimes never ending.’ Khaitan, who teaches otorhinolaryngology (branch of medicine dealing with the diseases of ear, nose and throat) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, is among several unusual followers of the poet, whom the litterateurs overlooked for long at their own peril.
Coming back to Gulzar’s romance with moment, its best expressed in the most popular song of its time, ‘Aane wala pal, jane wala hain (the moment we were waiting for is about to leave)’ (Golmal, 1978), wherein he goes onto say ‘Ik baar waqt se lamha gira kahin, waha dasta mili, lamha kahi nahin (once a moment fell from time, and when I looked for it I found a story).

And Gulzar’s romance with the moment we live in also did not end with the turn of the millennium. In the youthful, ‘Tan, taaaaan... Dil nichod,’ he writes in the subsequent stanza, ‘Aaja, aaj kal nichode ... (Come let’s squeeze tomorrow today).’ ‘A person comes to the world with unfathomable possibilities for every moment he is going to live. That’s Gulzar’s poetry, writings,’ says Khaitan in his book – Umr Se Lambi Sadko Par Gulzar.

Gulzar the poet for five decades from his very first – Mora Gora Ang Lai Le (Bandini, 1963), has given soul to some of the most talented musicians. The geniuses of the past gave some of their best in combination with Gulzar as did Allah Rakha Rahman, who first won international recognition with Chaiyya Chaiyya (1993) and then Oscar with Jai Ho (2008).

The influence of Gulzar’s poetry can be seen across generations – Madan Mohan’s Mausam – ruke ruke se kadam and dil dhoonta hain furshat ke raat din; Jaidev’s Gharonda – Do deewanein shaher mein, Kalyanji-Anandji’ s Poornima – Humsafar mere humsafar, Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s Ghulami – Sunaai deti hain jiski dhadkan, Khayyam’s Thodi si Bewafaai – Hazaar rahein mudh ke dekhi, Aankhon mein humne aapke ke sapne sajaein hain and mausam-mausam lovely mausam, Bhupen Hazarika’s Rudaali – Dil hum hum kare and Samay o dheere chalo and Anu Malik’s Fiza – Aaja Mahiya and A R Rahman’s number Piya Haji Ali.

But it was in company with RD ‘Pancham’ Burman that Gulzar reiterated that in music resides God – Katra, katra milti hai (Asha – Ijaazat), Khali haath sham (Asha – Ijaazat), Roz, roz ankhon tale (Kishore – Jeeva), Aaj kal paon zameen par nahi (Lata – Ghar), Piya bawaari – Khubsoorat, Ek hein ki khawab kai baar – Kinara, Is mod se jaate hain (Kishore and Lata – Aandhi), Aanewala pal (Kishore – Golmaal) and Tujhse naraaz nahi zindagi (Lata – Masoom).

Gulzar’s flair for poetry also made him a very sensitive wielder of the megaphone on the film sets. Some of his early films like Parichay and Koshish were said to having been inspired by films abroad but to me the sensitive handling of the themes made them stand out. Gulzar has the extra-ordinary ability to scout for talent. As director, he could make ‘Jumping Jack’ Jeetendra act in triology –Parichay, Khusbo and Kinara; and using the same confidence he could replace a mellifluous Kishore with a baritone Bhupinder and still walk away with a hit. His biggest discovery for the film industry has been filmmaker-music director Vishal Bhardwaj. He found Bharadwaj while making children programme for Doordarshan and introduced him as music director par excellence in his directorial venture Maachis.

Coming back to his directional ventures, Gulzar came onto his own with Kitab, which did not exactly set the box office on fire. Kitab made a serious attempt to delve into child psychology, something which Mannu Bhandari did in her all-time favourite novel Aap ka Bunti. Though some may refer to Rajesh Khanna-starrer Aakhri Khat as an earlier attempt but Aakhri Khat had more to do with a toddler’s travails than a child’s adventure.

Kitab’s story dealt with the adventures of a young boy who escapes the ‘demands’ of his sister’s urban home for the ‘comfort’ of his widowed mother’s rural hut. The film had Pancham doing several successful experiments. Though the film bombed at box office, as it was ahead of its time, its music continues to resonate as it set new benchmarks with its songs, be in matters of lyrics, composition or picturisation.

The lori (lullaby) Hari din to beeta, sham hui, raat paar kara de is probably one of the best ever composed in a Bollywood production. It could only be the Pancham -Gulzar combination which could get Rajkumari, of Madhubala-Ashok Kumar-starrer Mahal fame to come out of retirement to record it for the posterity. Then there was ‘Masterji ki aagayi chithi… VIP underwear-baniyan,’ introducing the Kohlapure sisters – Shivangi and Padmini. This song could very well be called to precede chartbuster Lakdi ki kaathi, kathi pe ghoda from Masoom, again penned by Gulzar and composed by Pancham.

Kitab also had Pancham’s best as singer viz Dhanno ki aankhon mein raat ka surma. It has lived as much in public memory as Mehbooba, mehbooba from Sholay, which was picturised on cabaret queen Helen.  ‘Dhanno has a very profound meaning. Dhanno is the morning after a tipsy night,’ says Khaitan.  Probably it’s the wait for Dhanno which continues to inspire the writer and his followers alike.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post

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