“AT 75, Gulzar is still the most respected custodian of the ‘word’ in the Hindi film industry.
The proof of this lies in the five National Awards; 19 Filmfare Awards, an Oscar and a Grammy – all of which he has won for his work as lyricist, poet, scriptwriter, author and filmmaker.
Ensconced in his breath-taking drawing room-cum-office, surrounded by piles of books, beautiful Gautam Buddha statues made by the renowned sculptor Bhagwan Rampure, Gulzar, dressed in his trademark starched white kurta-pyjama, with golden mojris is engrossed in writing yet another song. This one will be set to a tune by A R Rahman for the Bollywood veteran Yash Chopra.
He is so deep in thought, it is almost a shame to barge in and offer him a penny for his thoughts.
But as is our wont or should that be want, we often intrude and ask:
You have been proactive as an author/lyricist/poet in the last decade. Is it a conscious decision to move away from making movies?
One of the reasons why I’m not directing anymore is because a film takes all your time. I have lots of books to write. Writing books has always been a passion. I came from literature to cinema; now I’m going back from cinema to literature.
None of us is born with innumerable years. Life has to be divided into segments; with each segment allowing you the luxury of doing what really excites you. And I still have so many unfinished books inside me. My personal writing, my short stories, my poetry, my fiction and the books I wish to write for children.”
“You are currently writing songs for Yash Chopra’s film, the music of which is being composed by your Oscar partner Rahman.
Rahman, the genius. I call him Bal Bhagwan because his earliest photographs showed him with curly hair and slightly chubby cheeks, where he looked like Lord Krishna. So I’ve named him Bal Bhagwan.
Coming to this interesting trio – Yashji, Rahman and me (as you put it), I must say that the genius amongst all of us is Rahman, Yash Chopra is the legend and as for me, I’m also one of the oldest workers in films. It is a pleasure being with Rahman and Yashji. They are both from different schools and Adi ( Aditya Chopra) and I may be termed the catalysts. Yashji belongs to an era where songs were composed to situations with Anand Bakshi, the composers and the singers all participating in the live process. Rahman works on his computer with no live percussionists/orchestra. He doesn’t sing his songs while composing either. So the two schools are varied, but the end result is fantastic. We’ve done one song so far and Yash Chopra is ecstatic with the result. Adi maintains the balance between papa and Rahman.
They say writing is a process in isolation; do you get lonely sometimes?
Oh, that is a cliche. In the imperialistic Raj, the poets and writers had the prerogative of writing for the Nawabs, in isolation. I can write in a studio with the composer and filmmaker; or else I write sitting here in my office with some distractions as well. We are as good workers like those in any other profession. I seek no isolation and so I’m not lonely.
Has the journey of a wordsmith been fulfilling so far?
I have to keep writing film songs because only the film industry pays so much money. If I were to work in an office, I probably will not even earn 2000 a month. And I need to maintain my lifestyle. Jokes apart, I enjoy all my writing – be it for films or otherwise.
Noteworthy scripts have gone missing from mainstream Bollywood cinema. Comment.
I think it is very wrong to say that Bollywood is making average fare. I think our cinema is going through a phase where the visuals are more important than the words. The attempt is to keep you engaged in your seat; not allow you to blink or think. One doesn’t have the answer straight away to what exactly is happening in our cinema. I think we are adapting to another language of cinema. We are fascinated with images. I admit that cinema that came closer to literature has taken a backseat.
Are you aware that Angoor is being remade?
Yes, I am aware that many have tried to make it in the past. And, I know a lot many guys are trying to make it again.”
“And what about family time?
Well, the two most important women in my life are Raakhee and my daughter Bosky. They are the most difficult to handle also. They are my worst critics on anything I do. Raakhee spends most of her time on her farm in Panvel. On the weekends, she comes here to Bandra. She cooks the best fish in the world (or at least in India) and also makes a mean sweet dish. What is even meaner is the fact that she doesn’t allow me to indulge my sweet tooth! Both Bosky and she eat sweets, leaving me out. My son-in-law Govind is the collector of the best malt whiskeys. He is always urging me to try a new malt.
But the apple of my eye is my 18-month-old grandson Samay. My second exercise, besides tennis, is chasing him around. He is a fascination, at this time he is the obsession. I don’t think I have been as involved even in my affair with Raakhee as I am in my time with my grandson. I wrote books for Bosky; now I am writing for my grandson. But his books are not coming along as fast as they should.”