When Gulzar refused to write a song for AR Rahman in the short term: how the poet-lyricist remains timeless

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There have been many good lyricists in the history of Hindi cinema, but only a few have managed to transcend the boundaries of time to remain relevant over the decades, thus making their work timeless. Gulzar, born Sampooran Singh Kalra, is certainly that writer. Of course, it helped that the filmmaker, writer and lyricist was there to witness the transformation of what we now know as Bollywood.

At 87 years old, Gulzar is an artist who continues to perfect his profession, making it more immediate, topical and still as poetic at the same time. It’s an art few people have, or maybe they don’t work on it as much as this genius of words. But even Gulzar needs time to meditate and find something eternal. While chatting with filmmaker and author Nasreen Munni Kabir for their book Jiya Jale: The Stories of Songs, Gulzar spoke about writing Madras AR Rahman for Mozart. He said the composer once wanted him to write an extra song when they were in Chennai, but Gulzar refused, saying, “I’m afraid I can’t write like this. I need time. ”This response prompted Rahman to speak about the popular and now controversial poet and lyricist Vairamuthu, who apparently has the ability to produce a verse out of nowhere.

gulzar with burmese rd Gulzar shares a light moment with music maestro RD Burman. (Photo: Express Archives)

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But Gulzar is different, his approach is pure and simple research and observation, then combines it with his magical prowess to create haunting poetry. Here is an example of how Gulzar works – in the aforementioned book the lyricist explained how important it is to be inspired by the script of the film when writing his songs. Speaking of Omkara’s track ‘Beedi Jalai Le’, Gulzar said, “This is the script that guides you to write the song that works in the narrative. You should also match the vocabulary of the song with the speech of the characters. Omkara’s language is awadhi, just like the song.

That’s it the attention to detail that makes Gulzar who is he. And it is this very capacity that gives it its reach. Needless to say, his knowledge of the language is dense and constantly expanding. For the uninitiated, Gulzar has been writing songs since the 1963 film Bandini, where he made his songwriter debut with the enchanting “Mora Gora Ang”. His last Hindi film was the 2019 film Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar The Sky Is Pink, where he wrote all the songs for the film. In the meantime, he wrote many gems, including “Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi”, “Mera Kuchh Saaman”, “Maine Tere Liye”, “Musafir Hoon Yaaron”, “Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi”, “Satrangi Re”, “Lakdi Ki Kathi”, “Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji”, “Chappa Chappa”, “Kajra Re”, “Ae Watan” … it would be impossible to name the songs from his pen in one article.

In another book by Nasreen Munni Kabir, titled In the Company of a Poet, Gulzar talks about always being open to change. Another quality of the poet-writer who proves his chameleon ability to mold his speech, his writing and his thought according to the current project on which he could work. “You always have to be open and receptive. The subconscious is constantly accepting, rejecting, turning around and twisting everything you learn and absorb, ”Gulzar said at the time.

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From a love ballad to a catchy hymn to a seductive and sultry song, Gulzar has done it all. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there is a Gulzar song for every mood. Take for example Dil Se’s song “Jiya Jale,” which, while not filmed as a wedding song per se, conjures up similar images. The bride-to-be, played by Preity Zinta, sits gracefully decked out in white, while her hands are decorated with henna. Here she begins to sing and imagine her life with the character of Shah Rukh Khan.

Ang ang mein jalti hain

Stinger ki chingaariyan

Masle phoolon ki mehek mein

Titliyon ki kyaariyan

Raat bhar bechaari mehndi

Tale of pairs of pisti hai

Kya karoon, kaise kahoon

Raat kab kaise dhale

In the aforementioned lines of “Jiya Jale”, there is a strong element of desire and intimacy that a partner seeks with his beloved. Now here is this style in which you can talk about consumption and make it look good and pleasing to the ears. In the part where the writer talks about “Raat bhar bechaari mehndi, pisti hai pairon tale,” the visual that immediately comes to mind is of two lovers spending a passionate night together, but nothing seems so obscene and out of place. in the song. And the many memes that have been made since the song’s Malayalam chorus also speak of a wedding night, as confirmed by the book Jiya Jale: The Stories of Songs.

But we would have been deprived of these beautiful lines if Gulzar had not decided to work in the Hindi film industry. In the book In the Company of a Poet, Gulzar explained that at first he had no desire to work in films, but was forced to do so by his lyricist friend Shailendra.

In his crisp white kurta pajamas, Gulzar’s image still exudes a certain intensity, gravity, and grace, but the Grammy-winning and Oscar-winning writer also has a childish and endearing trait hidden to him. In fact, it was this facet of his personality that led him to adopt Gulzar’s takhallus (pen name). “I came up with the name for fun, it’s for fun that you get (sometimes) serious in life, but life also has to be fun,” Gulzar said in the book In the Company of a Poet. It is this mixture of seriousness and playfulness that Gulzar pours into his work; his flexible and fine thoughts, finally taking the form of poetic words that we adore.

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