Man of letters
Poet-writer-lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar has his take on all issues, whether it is Indo-Pakistan relations, culture or films.
ARTICULATE: Gulzar, a keen observer of the world around him. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
GENERAL Musharraf has come and gone, reaffirming that the peace handshake was genuine. The cricket euphoria is over and visitors from Pakistan, will for long remember the friendship and affection they received at Chandigarh, Delhi and other centres.
Poet-writer-lyricist-director Gulzar, a victim of Partition and a long-standing advocate of Indo-Pak friendship, is happy with the developments. "These feelings of friendship had always been there but now that they are out, I am very happy," he said. "You see, such a relationship between different communities existed before Partition. Now it is being renewed."
According to Gulzar, politicians brought about the hatred and madness of Partition. "The Partition of 1947 was the rape of a nation, but it did not break the traditional friendship between people."
Despite many wars, he says, history does not teach hatred. He quotes Jonathan Swift, "Burn everything that comes from England except its coal and people!"
Strangely, says Gulzar, groups that were least affected by the Partition like the Shiv Sena continued to oppose any signs of friendship with Pakistan. "Such groups exist in both the nations," he pointed out. "They organised protests for political mileage, incited people to whip up a fear psychosis."
Such spoilsports, however, could not prevent cultural exchanges. "Do you know that Pakistan has a film magazine like our Stardust?" asked Gulzar.
Pakistani historian Rashid Malik recently pointed out that though Gautam Buddha was born in Nepal, his influence had spread far and wide. Similarly, Sikhism may have been born in India, but Guru Nanak belonged to humanity.
When asked if the choice of Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister would make the Sikh community forgive the Congress for "Operation Blue Star" and the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, Gulzar replied, "Forgiveness should happen on its own, from within." Sikhs were large-hearted, emotional people who got hurt easily but also forgave easily. Forgiveness was part of history. From the 1970s, the minorities have lived under the shadow of fear. There cannot be real secularism under such circumstances.
No active politics
Gulzar is not into active politics but admires the Marxist leaders and their philosophy. "They are secular, they are loyal to their political beliefs and not power hungry. Further, they are the least corrupt political group in the country."
He agreed that Marxism had failed in the West but pointed out it still had relevance in India, a nation of huge inequalities. "Which other political group in India believed and implemented land reforms and offered protection to the working classes?" he asked
Gulzar has directed 22 films since "Mere Apne" in 1972. How much has he developed as director? Some of his earlier films, he felt, were rather verbose because of his close association with literature.
Today he has learnt to talk visually leading to taut narration in films like "Maachis" and "Hu Tu Tu". Gulzar has not made a film for nearly five years, as he has been busy finishing two volumes of poetry, TV scripts like "Mirza Ghalib" and children's books, which fetched him the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Working for nearly 14 hours a day, he has been scripting the stories of Tagore and Munshi Premchand for television serials. "This work is satisfying," he said, "in fact, I would love to film some of Tagore's short stories."
He was never keen to make big-budget films with a huge star cast because producers would put pressure on him to keep within costs and curb his creativity.
Asked about his reputation for making so-called "non actors" like Jeetendra and Suneil Shetty "act", Gulzar laughed and pointed out that he saw the actor in Jeetendra, despite his image as a Jumping Jack. An actor was as good or as bad as the script he was given.
Jeetendra was Gulzar's neighbour and the producer of films like "Parichay" and "Khushboo".
Opinions on acting
"Since I believed in his talent, I could prove he was a capable actor. Similarly when I worked with Hema Malini, I realised she was a director's dream," explained Gulzar. And Amitabh Bachchan? "He is the most complete actor in Hindi cinema, more versatile than Dilip Kumar, though they performed in different eras," observed Gulzar.
There were a couple of occasions when the two could have worked together but somehow it did not work out. Gulzar also rated Sanjeev Kumar very highly as one who could play any role and did not even want to see the scripts when Gulzar offered him roles.
Comparing two of his favourites, Tabu and Jaya Bachchan, Gulzar explained that Tabu was almost a new find in "Machchis". "She was superb in understanding the character she played in "Hu Tu Tu". She knows how to develop a character and live with it. Jaya has that spark of spontaneity. Tabu works hard on her roles, without revealing the efforts she puts in.
Asked to name some of his favourite foreign films Gulzar mentioned David Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Becket", "On Golden Pond" and "Godfather".
On the impact of the TV serials "Ramayan" and "Mahabharat" on Indian viewers, Gulzar explained, "`Ramayan' was a comic book narration, like someone telling the story of Robin Hood through comic books. But it lacked the dignity associated with a great epic. `Mahabharat' was different. It had more conviction and dignity because it was scripted by a man of letters, Dr. Ali Masoom Raza."
Films: Mere Apne (1971); Parichay (1972);Achanak (1972); Koshish (1974); Khushbu (1975); Aandhi (1975); Mausam (1976); Kinara (1977); Kitaab (1978); Angoor (1980); Namkeen (1981); Meera (1981); Izaazat (1986); Lekin (1992); Libaas (1993);Maachis (1996); Hu Tu Tu (1999).
Books: Triveni; Raat Pashmine Ki; Bosky KA Panchtantra; Autumn Moon (Translations by JP Das); Raavi Paar and Short Stories; Pukhraaj (Collection of Poems); Silences (English Translation of Poems); Mera Kuchh Saaman (Collection of Film Songs); Dastkhat (Short Stories); Meenakumari ki Shayri; Kuchh aur Nazmein; Dhuaan (Short Stories)
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