The ever verdant garden of Gulzar

Some individuals are so versatile that it becomes difficult to define their entire persona. Sampooran Singh Kalra, better known as Gulzar, is one such creative genius, whose boundless creativity makes it well-nigh impossible to delineate him in one definite statement because in the words of the Urdu poet late Shuja Khawar, ‘Teri qalam ka jaadoo kisi jumla-e-tahseen ka mohtaaj nahin’ (The magic of your pain doesn't depend upon a mere sentence of appreciation).

The 85-year old Gulzar is arguably the last greatest pillar of Urdu-Hindi poetry whose quill is still very much active and alive, enthralling scores of admirers.

Gulzar, as his nom de guerre suggests, is a garden of poetic flowers, unwithered and undaunted by time’s vagaries and vandalism. What amazes one is Gulzar's uncanny ability to try all the genres of creativity and immensely succeed in them.

Whether it's poetry, ghazals, film lyrics, prose, short stories, film direction, screenplay, among others, the genius has distinguished himself in all the spheres as if he has been solely made to serve and enrich the world of written words.

The taciturn Gulzar’s pen speaks to us in a manner only the connoisseurs can relate and reply to. Gulzar is a very sensitive man who has seen the vicissitudes of life and those myriad experiences brought profundity to his creativity.

Life’s unpleasant experiences didn’t embitter him. Rather, they matured him. A poet has to be innately sensitive to be sincere to his craft. When he talks about his life and poetry in his inimitable baritone (by the way,

Hemant Kumar called Gulzar’s baritone, the ‘musical resonance from the heavens’), one just listens and forgets all else. Only an ultra-sensitive poet like him can write, ‘Humne dekhi hai inn aakhon ki mahakti khushboo, haath se chhooke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do’ (Film: Khamoshi, 1969).

Here’s something that's bound to make the listeners think. No wonder, William Radiche (a British scholar of Bangla, who re-translated Tagore’s Gitanjali into English) learnt Hindi just to fathom the depth of this immortal number that has never appeared or sounded filmi.

The more you dwell upon this song, the more you get enveloped by its subsuming mojo. That true love is actually Platonic and it must be, can only be realised by listening to this hauntingly beautiful number in the solitude of one’s own self.

That a man can write it from the perspective of a woman and do away with all traces of carnality from love is not just incredible, it shows the perfectly hermaphrodite evolution of a poet's tenderest and most gossamer thoughts and imaginations.

Amrita Pritam cried after listening to this song because her relationship with Sahir Ludhianavi had the element of the type of sacredness, Gulzar described in this number.

No wonder, Lata Mangeshkar considered this number as one of her three best songs. Or just listen to ‘Jab bhi ye dil udaas hota hai, jaane kaun aaspaas hota hai...’ (Film: Seema, 1971) sung by Rafi and Sharda (concluding line).

One wonders the paradoxical metaphors so deftly used by this wizard of words: Koi vaada nahin kiya lekin, kyon tera intezaar tahta hai/Bevajah jab qaraar mil jaaye, dil bada beqaraar rahta hai! (Made no promise, yet I wait for you/ When one finds peace effortlessly, heart becomes all the more restless!). 

Gulzar is a maestro of metaphors and a master of musings. His poetry impacts with oxymoronic images and conceits (far-fetched ideas), albeit in a very simple language. In Urdu, Gulzar is known as a ‘shayar-e-tahtul-alfaaz’ (a poet of simple but effective words).

There’s no lush wordiness in his works and every couplet is intelligible to the readers. The beauty of Gulzar’s poetry is its disarming simplicity. Nowhere does he sound patronising or condescending, yet he’s affably didactic.

According to Nasreen Munni Kabir, who interviewed him, Gulzar is the most uncomplicated and transparent person she ever came across. Always in a crisp white kurta-pyjama, his inner fabric surfaces with the same intensity, sanctity and purity.

Gulzar knows how to keep pace with the changing times, climes and ethos. He, therefore, started using the metaphors, intelligible to today’s generation.

That’s the reason, even youngsters quote his poetry and are able to relate to him. This is a rare quality. Ken Sherdon opined that, ‘Flexibility makes a writer/poet relevant.’  Gulzar has enough flexibility to suit the moods of young readers and cine-goers.

And that has helped him remain in the mainstream with the same degree of effectiveness, elegance and eminence. Long live, Gulzar sahab. May your eloquent pen continue to spellbind us with exquisite poetry and prose. Today is Gulzar’s 85th birthday