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Birthday tribute

Gulzar @ 75: A poet for all times


SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | New Delhi, August 18, 2011 10:48
Tags : rhymesters | Gulzar | Hindi Cinema | lyrics | bollywood | popular hindi cinema | AR Rahman |

In a world populated by instant rhymesters, he is a master of delectable imagery and delightful poetic conceits. In an industry where mediocrity reigns, his words exude the purity of the rains at the end of a hot, sultry summer.

Gulzar, who turns 75 today, has lost none of his ability to surprise us. Even when he strings words together for a peppy item number, the poet stays true to his moorings.

When an average Hindi film lyricist puts pen to paper to rustle up an item number, he has his sights set on a raunchy chartbuster. But when Gulzar composes lines for a musical set piece, he falls back on the art of the conjurer.

Gulzar has been in the midst of a brilliant phase of fecundity as a lyricist for several years now even as he has reinvented himself for the present times. He explores new modes of expression without losing touch with his personal creative credo, firmly grounded in the golden era of Hindi cinema.

So even as he writes the infectiously robust 'Darling aankhon se aakhen char karne do', the unapologetically rustic 'Beedi jalaile' and the insouciantly playful 'Kajrare', he is capable of flights of poetic fancy as stunning as those that he hits in the more pensive 'Dekhna mere sar se aasmaan udd gaya hai'(Bunty Aur Babli), 'Puchhe jo koi meri nishaani rang heena likhna' (Yahaan) or 'Naina thug lenge' (Omkara).

Everyday speech has changed just as much as popular Hindi cinema has since he debuted with the evocative 'Mora gora ang lai le' (in Bimal Roy’s Bandini, 1963). So he has moved on. His friend and collaborator Rahul Dev Burman passed away many year ago, but Gulzar has found kindred spirits in the form of AR Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj.

“A lyricist,” he says, “has to keep the characters and their backgrounds in mind. When a character in a film speaks a language that has a generous smattering of English words or folksy expressions from a rustic patois, he or she certainly won’t sing a Ghalib ghazal.”

“I have tried,” he explains, “to expand the vocabulary of the item song by going beyond 'dil', 'pyaar', masti'… and adding words like 'lihaaf' and 'ghilaaf' to the repertoire.”

“I have lived in a particular frame for too long… It’s time to move on,” he had told this writer five years ago. The past few years of Gulzar’s eventful lyric-writing career have indeed represented a concerted endeavour to “get out of the old shell and adopt a new idiom”.

And that is why neither his advancing years nor changing fads have dimmed the appeal of the only Indian songwriter to ever win an Oscar.


(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017