'Ek Din Aapke Bal Bachche Meri Kitaabe Padenge' (One day your children will read my books').
Till date Gulzar remembers the proclamation he made in front of his elder brother when he ridiculed Gulzar time and again for his literary bent of mind. The statement made by him around half a century back today holds good as not just his books and other pieces of art are inspiring millions worldwide; number of books are also being written on his life and accomplishments.
'Echoes & Eloquences - The Life and Cinema of Gulzar' is one such book. Can one ever imagine that the man who has given shape to close to couple of dozen memorable projects was once called as 'nikamma' (good for nothing) and 'anpadh' (illiterate) by his own family members? Author Saibal Chatterjee's indepth tale of the journey of Gulzar from his childhood days to the present times uncovers little facets like these and a lot more in this 250 page book.
A senior member of the print media with more than a couple of decades of writing experience behind him, Saibal Chatterjee, narrates the tale of filmmaker and lyricist Gulzar through the usage of language which is neither too simple nor too complex for an average reader to comprehend. It maintains a style of it's own while keeping the writer's narrative style intact but still remains interesting enough for a reader to keenly anticipate what's next in store.
The book balances the personal and professional life of Gulzar quite well. While it focuses on the relationships built by him over the years, it also delves deep into the kind of movies made by him, the thought behind penciling in on a particular tale, his style of working and how there was a sea change in the way he moulded his career over the years.
Another highlight of the book is a detailed look into how the man has managed to maintain an identity of his own without making compromises and bowing down to market diktats in spite of being in the business for more than four decades.
Coming to the personal and professional relationships developed by Gulzar, especially in his growing years as a filmmaker, Saibal Chatterjee goes all the way to his roots and explores his journey from the bare minimum. The story behind the memorable 'Mera Gora Ang Lai Le/Mohe Shyam Rang Dai De' for the film Bandini is detailed out since the song happened by accident. Gulzar was roped in to write his first film song ever when composer Sachin Dev Burman and lyricist Shailendra developed serious differences.
The reader is exposed to Gulzar's initial reluctance behind joining the film world and how over the years it became an inseparable part of his life. So much so that he explored various mediums like song, dialogues, script and screenplay writing and even assistance in direction before making a foray into full fledged direction.
Not many are aware that Gulzar had a troubled childhood while being surrounded by a step mother and horde of step-brothers and sisters. As explained and established in the book, quite a few of Gulzar's works had influences from his own life though none of his works were auto-biographical. Under guidance of legendary Bimal Roy, he learnt the finer points of filmmaking and went on to be one of his finest protégée while sharing a great relationship with him.
While taking a reader in detail through each of the films directed by Gulzar, the book also makes an interesting point about how Gulzar was one of the pioneers in narrating a tale through flashbacks. When a single flashback to be dished out in a screenplay was considered as a challenge, Gulzar adopted as many as three flashback references (one flashback leading to second and the second leading to third) in Achanak. This turned out to be not just an isolated incident as except for Namkeen, each of his other directorial ventures had flashbacks forming an integral part of story telling.
Overall, layout of the book is quite eye friendly as the text is well spread out with some very good (and rare) photographs from Gulzar's films as well as behind the scenes happenings creating nostalgia. A good mix of text and photos ensure that neither the reading becomes a drag nor 'Echoes & Eloquences' turn out to be a picture book!
In the true spirit of taking a reader through 'The Life and Cinema of Gulzar', the book lays down some interesting factoids and trivia. Something like:
- How arrival of Amitabh Bachchan spelt doomsday for Gulzar's career as a director
- How Dimple Kapadia was the first choice for Guddi
- How the evergreer number 'Musafir Hoon Yaaron' was composed
- How even Gulzar never felt that Aandhi was based on Late Indira Gandhi's life
- How Sanjeev Kumar's screen name J.K. in Aandhi was inspired by a waiter with the same name whom Gulzar had closely interacted with
- Why was his dream project Devdas starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore shelved after a brief shooting stint
- The highs and low points of Gulzar's film career which seemed to hit a deadlock with Kitaab, Namkeen and Meera
- The number of screenplays written by Gulzar for first time directors
- Why Om Puri was willing to play even the role of a waiter for him
- How his comeback project Hu Tu Tu was destroyed in the hands of his producers
What strikes immensely while reading the book is that the writer being a film critic himself comes in quite handy. Also, he loves Gulzar's cinema. This is pretty evident in the way he effortlessly describes finer nuances in the scenes of each of Gulzar's films and brings out subtle references which may most likely go unnoticed by an average viewer. He takes the reader through some of the best scenes of the film and the way he catches hold of films, especially Ijazat. One therefore wonders, whether the film was more powerful or Saibal's observations?