Earlier, Gulzar was only known to me for his populist lyrics and poetry. Like millions of his fans, I was also an admirer of his written songs. I knew not why his other masterworks remained veiled to me, perhaps because I did not think of them. Yes it’s like that.
Living in Hyderabad [Pakistan], I have been privileged to visit places like Regal Chowk, Karachi, where, on each Sunday, a Bazaar for old books is set, and where you can own almost a dozen of books in less than ten American dollars; and there is no lie in it.
From there I bought a book entitled “Aalmi Urdu Afsanay (International Urdu Ficton)”. When I was putting these newly bought books in my little home library, unconsciously, I opened this book and started looking at the content. To be honest, I was astounded to see Gulzar’s name on it with his short story “Kis Ki Kahani (Story of Whom)”. I read the story, and that was truly a masterpiece.
I discussed his story in our literary group. My fellows introduced me to his other short stories like “Line of Control (LOC)”, “Dhuan (Smoke)” etc. I went through each. Gulzar had put human feelings and emotions in his work drastically. And that is the beauty his writings create.
Almost his all work is based on the social issues in which lives of humans are entangled, particularly of the Indian poor.
Gulzar’s contribution in Bollywood is exceptionally remarkable. He directed almost 17 movies, wrote stories for more than 50 movies and penned down lyrics for numerous songs.
Anand was a movie for which he had written dialogues, and he received Filmfare award for it. Right after that movie, his name became familiar to the renowned movie directors, who desirously worked with him. Today, getting awards is a phenomenon very common for Gulzar. Apart from other awards, he was also awarded Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India.
Koshish, Mausam, Namkeen, Maachis and Ijaazat are names of his few masterpiece movies. However, none of his films proved commercially successful. Perhaps because he emphasised more on what he was giving to them not what they were giving to him. That is the thing that made him exceptional among his contemporaries.
Gulzar had been influenced by the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet who won Nobel Prize for Literature for his book of poems “Gitanjali”, and Mirza Ghalib, the famous classical Urdu and Persian poet from Mughal Empire during British colonial rule. Gulzar himself confessed that the book which changed his way to look at life was “Gardener”; it was a translation of Tagore’s poems.
In an interview, he was asked if it was necessary to have a broken heart for writing poetry and to become a poet. Very calmly he responded that it wasn’t. One must have the knowledge of life from all its perspectives and dimensions. He/she must approach the basic human interest that is the core principle of creativity in literature.
To show his loyalty to Ghalib, he had written, directed and produced a biographical television drama on the life of Mirza Ghalib in which Naseeruddin Shah played the leading role. The drama was aired on DD National, the state-owned general interest television channel in India.
Kirdaar was a television series of short movies which was aired on DD National from 1993 to 1995. In this series, Gulzar came with the new idea of making short movies based on short stories of various writers like Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi, a famous Urdu writer from Pakistan, Malti Joshi, a Hindi writer, and Samaresh Basu, a celebrated Bengali writer. Along with kirdaar, He also directed Tehreer Munshi Premchand ki, which also eventually influenced the masses in India and became popular television series among common people.
Gulzar has not only written scripts for Bollywood movies but also lyrics for them. At the same time, he is a director, lyricist, screenwriter, producer, poet and author. He is a man to be praised for his masterworks. There are very few who have that multiple qualities unilaterally, and Gulzar is, undoubtedly one of them. The quantitative and qualitative work he solely accomplished was the work of an institution.
Gulzar is not an individual, he is an entire institution.