This master’s voice
It was day eight of the Spring Fever festival by Penguin Books India at a jam packed amphitheater in the Capital’s India Habitat Centre. Audience was brimming with excitement and the lovely session on lyrics started with a beautiful song by Shaheen. On the panel were Sanjoy Shekhar, known translator and scriptwriter, Jai Arjun Singh, blogger on Indian Cinema and of course, Gulzar. Udayan Mitra, editor at Penguin Books India, began the session by an attempt to introduce Gulzar to the audience.
“I don’t know how to introduce him, all I can say is that you all have known and loved his work as a lyricist, screenwriter, director and as a poet. He is someone who has written songs from Ganga Kahan Se Aayi Ho to Bismil from Haider today”. Gulzar couldn’t help himself but add, “It indicates my age, I’m quite an antique piece.”
Jai began the session with letting the audience know the structure they were going to follow for the next hour. They played a song, Sanjay offered his translation to that song and Gulzar provided the context for the lyrics. Jai put forth a question about lyrics and poetry being different to Gulzar.
Gulzarsaab laughed and said, “I was always scared of difficult questions since school, and you have asked me one. But lyrics and poetry are not different, lyrics and poems are Gaana and poetry are the same till the time you’re a poet.” And went to answer the question, “Shayari’s sensitivity remains the same but one is limited- there is a story, a situation within a story, a character within a situation- all these are limitations of lyrics, fifth being the tune you’re already given to write words for. While you have your own freedom in a poem which is not a commissioned work, a nazm is your statement of life and commitment.” But he said, “If you’re clever like me, you can still say what you want.”
Gulzar also offered his thanks to Vishal Bhardwaj. He said, “ Vishal is keeping me young, he has held my hand before the old age could strike. I know the nuances of this period through him. When Pancham left me, my ‘haalat’ was that of Ek Akela Iss Shahar Mein. He read the lyrics for Dil toh Bachha hai Ji to a thunderous applause and said that if you feel a child in you, it is a good thing. He added, “This song is not for a child, it’s for you know who. Don’t put it into nursery rhymes.”
Gulzar also shared about the difficulties that a lyricist has to face today. “Songs today are just not picturised on the main actor or actress, even the other character have their own feelings, own language and songs. Songs now have even gone into the background. Cinema has become slick.”