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Ghalib of Our Time: My Brief Meeting With the Man Whose Lyrics Made My World a Better Place

Ghalib of Our Time: My Brief Meeting With the Man Whose Lyrics Made My World a Better Place

  • Gulzar's words give me comfort and a deep sense of connection to my days gone by.

At a recent concert in San Jose, California, I had a surreal moment of meeting with poet, lyricist, author, screenwriter, and film director Gulzar, the man who shaped my thinking through his words. 

Just the mention of his name conjures up many emotions in me. His rich voice, words and wit carry the unmistakable essence of romance, mystery, heartbreak, humor, happiness and tragedy. He has given us some unforgettable lyrics to cherish. ‘Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Aa Gaya” (“Andhi); ’Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi (“Massom); “Dil Dhoondta Hai” (“Mausam”), and many more.

While growing up in Shimla, I was deeply influenced by songs written by Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi and Shailendra. Gulzar caught my attention when I was in school. His lyrics had a deep effect on me. I never could get away from the magic of Gulzar’s words. The movies he made had strong women characters, be it “Mere Apne,” “Ijaazat” or “Aandhi.” I never could get away from the magic of his words. 

Gulzar is known for his love for imagery in his poetry. His favorite muse is the moon or chand. Remember the lyrics — “ek sau solah chaand ki raatein,” of the iconic song “Mera Kuch Saamaan,” from ““Ijazat”? Or “mein chaand nigal gayi,” from the song “Namak Ishq Ka” from the film “Omkara?” His imagery transports you to a completely different world. Take for instant the line “aadmi bulbula hai pani ka.” Who would have ever imagined describing a human as a bubble? 

Born Sampooran Singh Kalra, Gulzar struggled in a car garage before he got his first break with the song ‘Mora Gora Ang Laile” in the film “Bandini,” directed by Bimal Roy in 1963. The music composer was none other than legendary S.D. Burman. 

Thus began Gulzar’s association with the Hindi film industry, which has been going on for over six decades. He always chose quality over quantity. 

Throughout his career, Gulzar has always gravitated toward like-minded people. He never adjusted to fit into any mold that he was not fully satisfied with. He worked with the people he deeply respected and loved. His personal and professional relationship with R.D. Burman is well known. He loved working with Salil Chowdhury. His affection for Sanjeev Kumar as an actor was very evident as he collaborated with him on films like “Aandhi,” “Mausam,” ‘Angoor,” and “Parichay.”

In the past two decades, Gulzar’s association with the extremely versatile film director, writer and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj has given us soul-stirring songs from movies like “Maqbool,” “Omkara” and “Haider.”

His lyrics also had a flair of poetry. A man who gave us some profound lyrics also wrote “Kajrare kajare” from the film “Bunty Aur Babli” or the childlike “Lakdi Ki Kathi.”

Gular has won five Indian National Film Awards; including two Best Lyrics, one Best Screenplayone Second Best Feature Film (director), and one Best Popular Film (director); 22 Filmfare Awards; one Academy Award; and one Grammy Award

According to Wikipedia, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award – Hindi in 2002, the Padma Bhushan in 2004, the third-highest civilian award in India, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013, the highest award in Indian cinema.

Gulzar’s greatest influence was Mirza Ghalib, the great Urdu poet born in the 18th century. Who can forget the TV series that Gulzar made on Ghalib? The magic of Ghalib’s poetry, Jagjit Singh’s music and vocals, Naseeruddin Shah’s impeccable acting and Gulzar’s tremendous love for Ghalib made the series immortal.

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I never had an inclination to write poetry in Hindi while growing up. Life happened in the meantime — getting married, having kids, coming to America, finding a balance, between work and home, etc. 

Seven years ago, I began writing a few lines in Hindi/Urdu when I felt strongly about a certain event. Soon it became my outlet and I started reading poetry written by Firaaq, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ghalib, Daag, Prasoon Joshi, and of course my favorite Gulzar. And then, I managed to publish a book “Bolti Tanhaiyan” during Covid.

Gulzar Saheb’s words make my world a better place. They give me comfort and a deep sense of connection to my days gone by.

Dard ki bai apni ek aada hai,
Woh bhi sahne walon par fida hai.

Namrita Yuhanna is a poet and San Francisco Bay Area-based host of the radio talk show “Off the Cuff with Namrita” on Bolly 92.3fm. Her recent book, “Bolti Tanhaiyan,” is available on Amazon. She believes everyone has a story to tell and the potential to enrich others through their actions.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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