An Elegiac Gulzar

UntitledShri-GulzarThe many treats on campus in the last couple of weeks- that included the concert by Hariprasad Chaurasia, the lectures by Sivakami, Sharankumar Limbale, C. Rangarajan and by Gopalkrishna Gandhi– were capped, as it were, by the short but intense visit of the poet Gulzar.

Gulzar (aka Sampooran Singh Kalra) came to collect the honorary doctorate that we had conferred upon him at the convocation in October this year, and in the hour-long ceremony, interacted with a full audience in the DST Auditorium. To welcome him to the UoH the Head of the Department of Urdu, Professor Muzaffer Ali Shahmiri had written four stanzas, reproduced on the left (in the Devnagari script).

Gulzar’s acceptance speech was gracious, and much of the question and answer session that followed centred around his poetry and the films that he had written and directed. As the brief discussion drew to an end, though, he let his regret show, that although he had stopped making movies nearly twenty years earlier, the audience focused mostly on that and not his books…

9780670085897And his books- there are as many as 74 listed on Goodreads, with four on the Penguin current list (in English)- are on varied topics for diverse audiences. Poems for the environment, for children, and many collections of short stories, some familiar from the movies that were made from them, but all of them touching several chords. “Kitaabain jhankti hain band almari ke sheeshoon se,” he said, a touch of sadness, “badi hasrat se takti hain maheenon ab mulaqaatain nahi hoti”.

Gulzar1-400x300So much of Gulzar’s legacy is accessible through the visual medium of the movies, but there is also the socially conscious poet and writer who insists that we need to read his work, not just to be spoken to by his songs and dialogues, in order to truly understand what he is all about.

There is much truth in that, and his books not only beckon from behind the closed doors of almirahs, they now also come to us on other devices and platforms, waiting and indeed wanting to be read. One cannot but agree;  opening a book is a good way to also open a mind…