I remember my mother humming her favorite songs while she cooked. I would always sit around her because of her peaceful voice. It was much later that I was introduced to the man who gave words to my mother’s songs, Gulzar sahab.
From dialogues that would stay forever in our minds, films that set a benchmark in direction and screenplay, to songs whose lyrics bagged Grammy awards for India, this man is truly the jack of all trades who raced far ahead of his times. Looking back at his journey so far, here are a few facts about him that not many of us know about:
1. Even though he is known for his pen name, Gulzar, his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra.
2. Before gaining acclaim for his unmatched talent, he used to work as a touch-up guy for cars in a garage. After struggling for a while, he finally got his big break with the film Bandini in 1963 as a lyricist.
3. His father and brother did not approve of his writing. He was consistently rebuked for wasting his time in writing. Hence, he took the pen name Gulzar Deenvi and later shortened it to Gulzar.
4. In 1971, he penned two songs for the film, Guddi (featuring Jaya Bhadhuri). Among those two songs, one song gained such fame that it is still commonly sung as a prayer in schools. Can you guess the song? It was, ‘Humko mann ki shakti dena.’
5. He has always been fond of the Bengali culture which he was influenced to through Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherji. He considers them as his gurus. He often jokes that to proclaim his love for the Bengalis, he even married one. He is married to the famous actress, Raakhee.
6. Gulzar was always fond of reading. He started with detective novels, and one day the shack from where he would borrow books, gave him a book that Gulzar claims to change his life. That book was ‘The Gardener’ by none other than Rabindra Nath Tagore.
7. In 1973, for his movie Koshish which narrated the story of a deaf and dumb couple, he learned sign language so that he could connect to their emotions correctly. Since then he has been working for the deaf and dumb children.
8. He made a documentary on the legendary sarod player, Amjad Ali Khan. During the making of that film, he met Vishal Bharadwaj, with whom he later produced many memorable songs. The first of which was, ‘chappa chappa charkha chale.’
9. Gulzar sahab gave words to one of our favorite childhood songs, ‘chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai’ from Jungle book. His lyrics along with Vishal Bharadwaj’s music fused brilliantly to form a song that stayed on our lips for many years.
10. After his film ‘Hu Tu Tu’ failed at the box office, he went into a major depression. His daughter Meghna Gulzar helped him through this phase. Later he channelised the same energy for books which he recognises as his true passion.
He doesn’t pen words, but emotions. His lyrics gave a voice to many unheard feelings out there. If only we had a few more men as talented as him, how beautiful the world could be.