Few in Indian cinema today can claim to be called a legend, as rightfully as Sampooran Singh Kalra aka Gulzar does. The 77-year-old Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner of this year, charmed one and all with his quick wit and mesmerising poetry during a recent visit to HT City.
From an 11-year-old who saw the painful partition of India to a 19-year-old garage mechanic in Mumbai, to receiving the highest honour in Indian cinema at 77.
How would you describe the journey?
Ek maali ki zabaan mein kehta hoon: Hare patte bhi the, sha shabz thi shaadab thi tehni; tasalli tab huyi jab shaakh par ek phool aaya.
What was your reaction at being told that you’ve won the Dada Saheb Phalke award. Who did you first share the news with?
Mujhe jis waqt is ki khabar mili, yakeen nahi aaya. Because a few days ago, I had read in the newspaper that Jeetendra (actor) was likely to win it. A friend called that my name has been proposed. I still didn’t believe it, till the secretary (I&B) called to officially inform me. Tab ek lambi saans li. I then called my daughter Bosky (filmmaker Meghna Gulzar) and told her. It was a lovely moment.
Is it true that you’ve been writing a book for your daughter on every birthday, since she was born?
I started this from her first birthday onwards, ek kitaab bachchon ke liye. We have a shortage of good children’s literature, and authors think ki bachchon ke liye likhna baayein haath ka khel hai. It is not easy, because you need to write in the language that the child speaks in. Main chhotey bachchon ke liye likhta hoon toh totli zabaan mein likhta hoon.
How have you managed to keep pace with the new generation?
You have to pace up with time. I don’t want to be looked down at, ki dekho purane buzurg baithe hai. I am happy that this generation has held my hand and taken me along, kyonki mujhe chhodd ke aap jaa nahi sakte. Aur yeh thodi si chaalaki bhi hai, woh sochte hai ki unhone mera haath pakda hua hai aur main jaanta hoon ki maine unka haath pakda hua hai. You have to change with the times. SMS aur Facebook ke zamaane mein dakiya daak laya nahi likh sakta, yeh mein jaanta hoon.
You are a Punjabi and we know Punjabis to be colourful people. Why did you switch over to a white kurta pyjama? Is the dress-code why you didn’t attend the Oscars as well?
Oscars mein nahi gaya kyunki kaala coat nahi tha (laughs). Zindagi ke sab rang jhad gaye, bas safed reh gaya. College ke zamaane se hi safed bhaa gaya tha. But, I don’t wear a kurta pyjama. I wear regular white trousers with a kurta. Bas abhi yehi libaas hai.
Your fans listen to your songs when they are sad. What does Gulzar listen to, when he is sad?
(laughs) Main koi Bunty aur Babli ka song ya lauta de mera ticket to Hollywood (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, 2007) sunta hoon. Sad gaane nahi sunta.
‘Can’t live in nostalgia’ You must be the only one who has not faced criticism for offensive lyrics. Did you ever fear your songs being called item numbers?
Logon ko kehte suna hai ki Gulzar ne yeh gaana likha hai toh aap kuch bol nahi rahe, par kisi aur ne likha hota toh mitti kharab kar dete. There is a reason behind those lyrics. Film ke gaane ko isolation mein rakh kar mat dekhiye kyonki who film aur uski script aur characters ke liye likhey jaate hai. This is the case with Beedi Jalaile Le (Omkara, 2000). Wahan pe cigarette jalaile nahi banta. Is tune par mera gaana gora rang le le nahi fit hoga. Time period, as well as sense of humour has changed. Today’s generation is more independent. Pehle khusar pusar zyaada thi. This generation is much more honest and transparent.
You have fans in all age groups. How do you adapt so well?
You can’t live in nostalgia ... ki woh tulsi mere angan mein ... kaun si tulsi, kiski tulsi? During those times, romance in the films was depicted through cycles colliding, that does not happen anymore. Today it is like, ‘hey mom, this is Radhika, she is a friend of mine and we are going out. Paise do na.’ The society has changed and women are independent. Pehle heroine gaane gaane ke siva kuchh nahi kiya karti thi ... atleast aaj kal ek profession toh diya jaata hai. That’s an improvement. Aaj kal ki mummy bhi pehle waali nahi hai. Films are a reflection of our society.
Which is the toughest song that you have penned till date?
Actually likhte huye toh saare kafi tough lagtey hai. Kuchh situation ki wajah se aur kuchh meter ki wajah se, kyunki gaane music banne ke baad likhe jaate hain. Aye Zindagi Gale Laga Le (Sadma, 1983), uski scanning bahut hi intricate hai aur original Tamil music par likhna tha. Uske note kuch aise the ki maine us par ‘hai na’ laga diya. I was not sure if Illayaraja (music composer) would accept it. But he agreed to include what I had written. He is one of the greatest composers and genius of a man.
What keeps you young?
Young rakhne waale toh aap hai. Aap logo ki zabaan main seekhta hoon. Aloof hokar baithne ki wajah nahi hai. Iss daur mein hoon aur I love this generation, aur main unke saath hi rehta hoon. I am best at spoiling kids. I end up indulging them. I am learning a lot from my four-year-old grandson. Uska third birthday tha, uskin naani aur daadi use sulaane mein lagi thi. Woh use kahaani suna rahi thi, mooh bana rahi thi, awaaz nikal rahi thi. He later told me that aapas mein jab baat karti hai toh theek lagti hai, mere saamne tutlane lagti hai.
- Navdeep Kaur Marwah