I have always loved Gulzar’s poetry. Maybe during my days of growing up, it was the melody that caught my attention (after all, Gulzar’s best came with great melodies rendered by Pancham). I loved the songs because of the music but as I understood the songs more, I found that his lyrics made the songs more beautiful; so I often ended up looking for songs penned by Gulzar.
Two days ago, when I found out that Gulzar was to be in conversation with Prasoon Joshi on the morning of 28th September (today) at the Bangalore Literature Festival, I thought this isn’t something to miss. I made it to the lawns of Crowne Plaza a few minutes late. Gulzar sa’ab and Prasoon Joshi were discussing, what I thought was about the linguistic element and etymology in the nazms and poetry. Then Gulzar sa’ab talked about how he would insist on using a word in his works so that not only it fit into the narrative but also would serve the purpose of preserving the word (Since, well, using an uncommon word is actually a way of not letting it go in time). An example he used was the Urdu word, “mukhtasar”. Coming back home, I notice that the word is used by him in a song penned by him, “Tum Pukar lo” (“mukhtasar si baat hai, tumse pyaar hai”) sung by Hemant Kumar for the 1969 movie, Khamoshi. At that moment, it made me think of another movie, directed and lyrics penned by Gulzar himeself, Ijaazat.
During the Q&A session, I used my arms well by raising them as high as I could and got the microphone. Apparently then, Gulzar said that the time was up and he won’t take any more questions. I was stopped midway. Then he had a change of heart and allowed me to continue.
I started by saying that I was his great fan and carried him all the time in my iPod. This was followed by cheers from the audience that went for a long time. To which Gulzar sa’ab replied: Ab mujhe maloom ho gaya ki mera size kya hai. (Now I know what size I am!). This was then followed by a longer cheer from the audience and the applause never seemed to end.
Anyway, my question was related to their just concluded talk of preserving words, the one I mentioned above. So in Ijaazat, I think before the song “Katra Katra”, Naseeruddin Shah is talking to Rekha and explaining: “Maazi ko Maazi na banaya toh..” before Rekha interrupts him and asks, “Maazi?”, implying that she does not know the meaning of the word. Now considering that this is a movie, I found this very peculiar. Why would the screenplay writer make the actors of a movie explain words to each other in the movie? I mean, couldn’t Gulzar make it simple by using, “Jo beeta hua hai usse beet jaane do” (which Shah eventually says, clarifying “maazi” further) instead of insisting to use the word “Maazi” and then making Shah explain the meaning of the word to Rekha? By doing that, Gulzar was reaching out to the audience, maybe breaking the fourth wall indirectly, trying to make them understand “maazi” and wanting them to remember it forever. I did not have the opportunity to be so elaborate with my question as I am here but was that Gulzar’s way of preserving a word, by insisting on using it where he could, in his own movie?
Gulzar sa’ab’s first response was almost dismissive. He said something to the effect that this he used to do often during his younger days. It was not about preserving a word but just using it, where he could. The second response, and I did not see this coming from Gulzar, was that he almost reprimanded me for using an English sentence in my question. That while I had used chaste Hindi in my first few sentences and conveniently gone to English in the last line perhaps irked him (as it would, to any purist). My world came to a standstill, I thought I heard lots of laughter and I was told later that I was on the giant screens while asking the question.
Which I think, was fine. I did not get to explain that I wasn’t really used to talking to intellectuals like him, least of all in front of such a huge audience. On the bus ride home, this event captivated my mind. I concluded that while only a few hundred got an opportunity to listen to a great man like Gulzar sa’ab, only 3 of them had today got a chance to talk to him in front of such matured and educated audience. And I sincerely believed that my question to him had substance. It wasn’t stupid.
Toh, Gulzaar sa’ab, kam se kam aapne hamari hansi toh udaai. Baakiyon ko toh woh bhi naseeb na hui.