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Gulzar: The man on a journey!

“…. a continuous life experience a significant pillar of strength and emotional support, a source of inspiration …, a legacy that i will always try to live up to…” Meghna Gulzar

Gulzar, one that forever blossoms. Gulzar is not just a name in the history and present of Indian Cinema. It is a person who has contributed through his innumerable creations in form of songs, dialogues, and poetry. Gulzar Saab was born on August 18, 1936 according to her daughter, Meghna Gulzar. However, in some records, he was born in the year 1934. The debate over the birth however, cannot shadow the achievements of Gulzar Saab.

As much as he is passionate about his work, he is about his family. He religiously takes out time for his daughter and his grandson. Nasreen Munni Kabir, in her book, describes him as a picture of grace with his fine features, soft spoken manner and natural reserve, but someone who would find humour in his life events.

“Musafir hun yaaro, na ghar hai na thikana, mujhe chalte jaane hai, bas chalte jana hai..” remembering the mushafir, Gulzar on his birth anniversary, whose journey speaks dedication and passion and continues to inspire many on their path.

Gulzar: The Rose Garden

Rarely do people know, the real name of Gulzar Saab is Sampooran Singh Kalra. Born in a Sikh family to Sardar Makhan Singh Kalra and Sujaan Kaur, Sampooran Singh Kalra lost his mother while still an infant. He has no memory of his mother.

His ancestral home in Dina village, district Jhelum, now in Pakistan is popularly known as ‘the birthplace of Gulzar, the author from India’. He was only eleven when the partition took place, and left him a great trauma.

Gulzar saab completed his matriculation from Delhi United Christian School, Kashmiri Gate, Delhi. He was in the middle of the semester at St. Stephans’ College, Delhi when his father sent him off to Bombay (1949) to live with his brother. As a result, he couldn’t complete his studies then. Later in Bombay, he enrolled at the Khalsa College, but had to study Mathematics instead of Urdu, something he loved.

The love and passion for literature, poetry and shayari started brewing when Gulzar was only a child and at school in Delhi. He’d participate in shayari competitions, that was when his love and fondness for poetry began. Soon after, he took up the pen name, Gulzar, meaning the ‘rose garden’.

The Journey of Thoughts

In an old interview with Doordarshan National, Gulzar Saab shared how it felt to meet the people about whom he had only read in the books. While in Bombay, Gulzar Saab had joined Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and the Progressive Writer’s Association (PWA). It was in these meetings, held on the famous Bombay Trams, Gulzar met literary giants like Sardar Jafri, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Krishan Chander, Kaifi Azmi, and Sahir Ludhianvi.

He says that one learns from multiple sources and being in their company, in whatever opportunity he got, he learnt from them and made some himself.

Watch the complete interview from the archives here: https://youtu.be/8-9hxiLD18k

Career Highlights

The famous jungle-jungle baat chali hai… or the song, tujhse naraz nahi zindagi, hairaan hun mein, still bring nostalgia and are to be credited to Gulzar, a prominent figure in songwriting. He has made several actors and movies a hit among the masses, just with his immensely good song lyrics.

Before his break in the film industry, Gulzar Saab worked part time at his brother’s petrol pump. He, later on, started his career as a lyricist with music director S.D Burman in the 1963 movie, Bandini. He is still one of the finest lyricist Indian cinema has. He has, though, not just restricted himself to song writing. He is also an author, film director, poet, script and dialogues writer.

“Whether he is conjuring up exquisite lyrics, authoring delightful screenplays or directing profoundly moving celluloid odes, Gulzar, peerless poet, sensitive writer and outstanding filmmaker, is a consummate master of his craft. What makes him truly special is that he has managed to move with the times without straying from his poetic moorings.”
-Sibal Chatterjee on Gulzar

He has worked with a range of music directors, of older days like R D Burman, to newer ones like A R Rahman. As a film director, he directed Aandhi and Mausam. He also directed a TV series Mirza Ghalib in 1980s. His other creations include Kirdaar and Maachis (1996), a film documenting the terrorist movement in Punjab.

Gulzar Saab has a passion for music and arts. According to his daughter, Meghna Gulzar, in the book, “Because he is..”, she shares that Gulzar Saab took up Sitar lessons in his forties, waking up every day before the sunrise and practicing it religiously.

He is also highly inspired by songwritter Shailendra and Mirza Ghalib. An avid book reader, who takes inspiration from Tagore, has directed 17 feature films and written countless song lyrics spending more than 50 years in the film industry.

Awards & Accolades 

Gulzar Saab was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2004. He is also the recipient of Sahitya Academy Award, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award — the highest award in Indian cinema. He is also a National Award winner, winning it five times, and won the Grammy Award for A Slumdog Millionaire. He has also won more than 20 Filmfare awards.

Coming to literature, a number of compilations of his poems and creations have been published. ‘In the company of a poet: Gulzar’ by Nasreen Munni Kabir, ‘Because he is .. ‘ by Meghna Gulzar and Saibal Chatterjee’s ‘Echoes and Eloquences: The Life and Cinema of Gulzar’ are a few books written on the life and career of the lyricist.

How can one pay homage to a magnificent personality, who has achieved success and is yet grounded and hasn’t forgotten his roots? He is one of the silent achievers who continues to thrive and contribute through his art, diligently and passionately.

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