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Of being Gulzar

Lyricist, poet, author and director Gulzar talks about movies and Munshi Premchand



VERSIFIER No break for Gulzar PHOTO: C. RATHEESH KUMAR.

It is a bright morning with the scenery washed clean after a heavy rain. But soon one is travelling the hot, dusty wheat fields of North India with a wordsmith whose evocative rich prose and lyrical lines transport readers and viewers to different worlds. Not surprising when the speaker is Gulzar and the topic under discussion is Munshi Premchand.

Dressed in his trademark crisp white kurta-pyjama and heavily worked golden jootis, the poet, author, lyricist, scriptwriter and director is all game for a freewheeling interview on films, lyrics, music directors and actors.

He effortlessly turns the clock back to recreate the world of Premchand with the magic of his words. "If he had been alive, he would have given me a pat on the back as I just finished translating his works on celluloid," he says.

The director took his unit to remote hamlets in Bijnor, on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border to recreate the ambience of Premchand's stories.

"The entire work is in digital format as it is an archival work. His masterpieces like `Godan,' and `Nirmala' are still relevant today, some 60, 70 years after they were written," he says.

Warming up to his subject he says, "Take a look at `Gahoom,' a story written in 1910. It is about a farmer who is forced to become a bonded labourer. At the end of this story, I have given a voice over to ask the viewers what has changed for the farmer?"

Does the work of production affect his work as lyricist and poet?

"No. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to rejuvenate myself. In this case, I got an opportunity to go back to a village. The trees are new, the leaves are new... I reconnect with my past," says Gulzar, alias Sampooran Singh, who hails from Deena, now in Pakistan.

"The only thing that is affected is my writing. I am a clerk who sits at my desk from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday. I write on whatever strikes my fancy and I work hard. It could be verse, stories or a script."

However, the director in him seems to have taken a break. It is on account of producers who want him to tailor his movies to suit the box office. "I was very disappointed with what was done with `Hu Tu Tu.' The entire film got changed owing to the cuts that were inflicted on it. The problem is that once a film is done, then the director has no right to it.

"On such occasions I turn to literature. It is like a shoulder to lean on."

Does he miss that golden era?

"It is no longer golden," he laughs and continues, "To be creative one needs leisure. If one is always rushing around there is no need to time to collect one's thoughts or put them down on paper."

Although the five-time National award winner is on a hiatus, Gulzar the lyricist continues to mesmerise his listeners in movies such as `Dil Se,' when he teamed with A.R. Rahman. Dwelling upon his experience of working with Rahman, he explains, "He is very original. There is an element of folk tunes in his creations. Rahman music is free and as a writer of free verse I admire his creativity."

Perhaps it is this search for fresh ideas that makes him work with many debutant directors like Vishal Bhardwaj. "I am touched by their confidence in me. Vishal (Bhardwaj, music director of `Maachis') is like a son to me."

Refusing his favourite line of work, this versatile writer says, "I am a son, father, uncle, nephew, brother... All this is me. In the same way I am a poet, lyricist, director and author. But I enjoy being a father to my daughter. Now, you can choose which is my daughter amongst all my activities," he laughs.

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

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