Because he is…by Meghna Gulzar is a trip down memory lane into one of India’s most loved lyricist and writer-director, Gulzar’s life. While strictly speaking it’s a biography, in reality it is a heartfelt ode to a father by his daughter. Given the recent hits that Meghna has helmed, that she is a talented scriptwriter is no secret, and hence its no wonder the book plays out like a movie in front you, only the Hero here is her Father.
It probably is difficult to find anyone in this country who doesn’t like Gulzar. I have been a great fan…a man who can pen films like Aandhi as well as ‘Bidi jalaile’ is nothing short of a genius. I remember attending one of his book launches where he spoke about his childhood, not a particularly happy one, and yet he made it sound like one right out of a movie, and given that there is so little about the man out there, I for one was really looking forward to the book.
First things first, I don’t think there could be a name more apt…it sets the tone for the book. Starting with a beautifully penned forward by Gulzar himself…Meghna takes you on a journey hitherto mostly unknown. The book is divided into sections, each section taking about a particular phase of Gulzar’s life or a particular aspect of his personality…with sections named as ‘Irshad…’- the first section, ‘lights…camera…action’ – which talks about his journey as a director, ‘And then there were three’ – which talks about Meghna’s birth…
The book is dotted with pictures of Gulzar with his actors, friends, with Rakhee and Meghna, with Meghna’s friends and a treasure trove of anecdotes. What it is not, thankfully, is a catalogue of his films and successes only, the stories are essentially about him as a doting, indulgent father, his friendships, his love for tennis and the crisp white kurtas we are used to seeing Gulzar in. Meghna puts together a touching personal account of the man whose words we have loved. The love and admiration that she has for her Father is palpable in every page, in every word. The cherry on the icing is definitely the unpublished poems at the end of each section….
‘Sheher ki Bijli gayi
Band kamre mein bohot der talak kuch bhi dikhai na diya
Tum gayi thi jis din
Us roz bhi aisa hi hua tha
Aur bohot der ke baad
Aankhen tariki se maanus hui toh
Phir se darvaaze ka khaaka sa azar aaya mujhe’
But for me the biggest bonus was a peek into his non-film writings. I must admit that despite being a fan of Gulzar’s work, I have been mostly unaware of his non-film writings. I had no clue that he has written a book in Bengali called ‘Panta Bhate’ wherein he talks about his relation with Bengali directors and writers who shaped his career and writing…like his mentor Bimal Roy, singer-music director Hemant Kumar, S. D Burman & R.D Burman, even Satyajit Ray Or that one of his short story collections is dedicated to his ‘Longest Short Story’ Rakhee Or that his first Hindi novel ‘Do’ was translated to English by Gulzar himself; these of course are now on my TBR
I am of course tempted to tell you so much more, but I won’t, because you deserve to experience this book. For now I will just say that Meghna’s writing is effortless; leisurely, fluid and beautiful. I am so glad I started my year with it…what an absolutely delightful read this turned out to be.