Book Review - 'Because He Is'

By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network

sheher ki bijli gayi
band kamre mein bahot der talak kuchh bhi dikhai na diya
tum gayi theen jis din
us roz bhi aisa hi hua tha
aur bahot der ke baad
aankhen tariki se maanus huin to
phir se darvaaze ka khaaka sa nazar aaya mujhe

Mid way through 'Because He Is', writer Meghna Gulzar brings to readers some of these lines written by her father which have never been published. And you instantly know that not just the lines but the book is also special since it is only a daughter who could have unearthed the true feelings of her father - The pain of separation from his wife Rakhee!

Rakhkee - The woman whom Gulzar calls as 'The Longest Short Story Of My Life...'.

However, 'Because He Is' is not just about a daughter exploring (and narrating) the relationship shared by her parents who were not meant to stay together. It is in fact the testimony of what a daughter perceives of her father by sharing her point of view around number of stories that were told. And some which went untold!

Ironically, the book was released long before 'Echoes & Eloquences - The Life and Cinema of Gulzar' by Saibal Chatterjee hit the stands last year. It was a compelling read of Saibal's book which makes one look back at 'Because He Is' and get more insight into the person that Gulzar was and is. Not that 'Echoes & Eloquences - The Life and Cinema of Gulzar' doesn't through an insight into the writer's life and happenings but when a daughter tells a tale about her father, it just makes for a much more personal read.

What makes the book special is hundreds of personal unpublished photographs (with friends and family) which have been put to display page after page. And no in spite of so many pictures and other memorabilia that Meghna shares in the book, 'Because He Is' doesn't turn out to be a picture book. Those 180 odd pages in the book have enough text spread out well in a neat layout which makes it all an engaging read. Of course, there are not many surprises in store since majority of events and happenings in the life of Gulzar have just recently been read in 'Echoes & Eloquences'. However, the fact remains that 'Because He Is' had arrived on stands earlier!

After reading the book one tends to question if Gulzar is indeed an epitome of a best human being, best family man, best friend and of course the best father that anyone could ever have? That's because Meghna truly wants to world to believe that. Truly impressed by the man that Gulzar is and the virtues he brings along with him, Meghna just doesn't see anything which she may have ever wanted her father to change! A daughter who loves her father the way he is and respects him for the values he possesses and the decisions he makes (and has allowed her to make throughout her growing up years), Meghna comes up with an emotionally charged text!

Amongst the many letters that she exchanged with her father, she carefully chooses some of the most personal, yet publishable letters. Whether they were the ones when she was not even 10 years old or the ones when she was a teenager; she makes the reader aware about how she opened up her heart in front of her best friend - her father! Gulzar too has reciprocated his daughter's feelings over the years by not just maintaining a diary about the major highlights of Meghna's life but also writing a book and dedicating it to her during her growing up years! Excerpts of this diary make way into the book.

There is a lot in store for those interested in knowing about how Gulzar had grown professionally since his childhood when he was ridiculed by his very own family for choosing literature over formal education. Trivia around many incidents in Gulzar's life also make for an interesting read as one is told:

- How Gulzar, before he became an author, stamped his name on the book of Maupassant's short stories to see how his name as an author would look
- How Gulzar and Rakhi took number of road trips or frequently met at Juhu beach or a garden near Bandstand during their courtship period
- When Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar refused to act in Gulzar's first film 'Mere Apne'
- Inspiration for Gulzar's much acclaimed film 'Koshish' being a Japanese film 'The Happiness Of Us Alone'
- How everyone forgot to appoint a 'pandit' for marriage ceremony of Gulzar and Rakhee
- When Sunil Dutt performed rituals as Rakhee's brother and Sanjay Dutt repeated the act in Meghna's wedding
- When Dimple Kapadia, as a tormented spirit in 'Lekin', didn't blink throughout the film in order to get that surreal feel
- When one of the most famous songs from Gulzar's films, 'Chappa Chappa' [Maachis], was shot in just four hours

Told in a first person narrative, 'Because He Is' has Meghna Gulzar taking a reader through the times when Gulzar was born (and named Sampooran Singh Kalra), his growing up years, his eventual success as a poet, short story writer, screenplay writer, lyricist and of course director and above all the beautiful relationship she has shared with her father over the years. Fondly calling him 'Papi', Meghna remembers her growing up years and also smartly amalgamates professional happenings and milestones in her father's career in her story telling.

Price: Rs. 995

Rating: ***1/2

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