Gulzar Saab learnt the poetic meter from Pakistani poet late Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi. Meena Kumari impressed him to convert to Islam
By Goher Iqbal Punn – Hindi Film Critic, Columnist & Bollywood Analyst – Showbiz Bites
Although I used to watch Gulzar Saab’s movies when I was child, but the first time I got introduced with the creative genius was in early 90s era. Gulzar Saab was the central talk of the literary circles of Urdu where I used to sit since I also belonged to the world of literature apart from my Bollywood journalism profession. The people who inspired me in life were his fans and they all the time talked big about this super genius who always focused the ordinary things and common people in particular in his creations. Gulzar is the one who makes ordinary things special – the things we most of the time ignore by not giving them importance. He is amongst those people who spiritually mesmerized me, inspired me and simply stole me from tip to toe.
I remember the night way back in early 90s time when a friend of mine, who I respect like an elder brother, asked the music shop owner to play the song ‘Tujhse Naraz Nahi Zindagi’ in full volume. The requester was in a sad and depressed state of mind and wanted to do catharsis with this song. Both of us were standing outside the shop and Lata Ji was singing with much zeal and in her usual magical brilliance in the background on Gulzar Saab’s beautiful and heart-touching poetic lines composed by another music virtuoso late R.D Burman that we both stood still as if we were lifeless. The moment was magical and I still can visualize it and see the big circles of smoke coming out of our puffing of cigarettes. Almost for around 8 to 10 times, the shop owner had to play the song repeatedly since we were not in a mood to let him play any other track. From that day on, this track has become one of my hot favorite songs. Whether I feel low or am in a happy state of mind, this number spells magic with me.
There will be hardly any movie left which I have not watched churned out by Gulzar Ji. Even I have watched his TV serials many a time including his most popular one – ‘Mirza Ghalib’. His books too are in my collection just like his movies. ‘Dastkhat’ and ‘Chand Pukhraj Ka’ are the books I have read a number of times. ‘Zikr Jehlum Ka Ho Baat Ho Deny Ki, Chand Pukhraj Ka Raat Pashminy Ki’….’wow’!
When Gulzar wrote the everlasting and evergreen song ‘Mera Kuch Saaman’ for the movie ‘Ijaazat’, he took it to his best buddy Pancham Da (R.D. Burman) for the composition. Reading the song, Burman straightly refused Gulzar saying “tomorrow you will ask me to compose the headlines of Times of India”. Pancham found it meter-less and out of composition. This depressed the lyricist, but the same day at night around 2:30 a.m., Burman was right there outside Gulzar’s home. He was so excited and kept his hand on horn button. The moment Gulzar Saab came into his balcony, Burman asked him to immediately come to his car. While driving, he was constantly beating the dashboard to generate the tune for ‘Mera Kuch Saaman’. The prodigy had arranged the tune for the song. Once it was composed and out, it shook the music scene and added more values to Gulzar Saab’s already established career. The song today is called ‘timeless’.
Not many know that Gulzar learnt the meter of Urdu poetry from renowned late Pakistani poet and litterateur Ahmad Nadeen Qasmi whom he used to call ‘Baba’. He also shares a very good relationship with Qasmi Sahib’s family.
Jhelum, a Pakistani city in the region of Punjab, is very close to his heart and this is because Gulzar was born in Dina, District Jhelum. And in his creative works, he mentions ‘Dina’ and ‘Jhelum’ a lot. About his date of birth, he says that parents never used to note down the date of birth of the kids when he was born therefore he is not sure about his exact birthdate.
Gulzar was born to Sikh family and was named Sampooran Singh Karla. Hardly any people know that Gulzar converted to Islam because of Meena Kumari who he loved the most. It is said that while she was still in Kamal Amrohi’s nikah, she and Gulzar came close to each other. Meena (Mahjabeen Bano) was Muslim like her husband Kamal (Syed Amir Haider Kamal Naqvi) and she used to say prayers even on the sets. It is also mentioned that she used to recite Quran after her arrival on the sets – this impressed Gulzar Saab a lot. Mahjabeen was very stick to fasting and when she was in the hospital, Gulzar fasted on her behalf (according to media reports). There are other reports as well which suggest that due to his love for Sufism, he developed liking for the religion Islam.
In an interview with Dunya TV of Pakistan, when the host of the show visited Gulzar Saab at his residence in Mumbai, the host asked ‘Are you Muslim?’ To answer this question, Gulzar said ‘kya apko mery Musalman hony py shaq hai?’ (Do you have any doubt of my being a Muslim?). To a question ‘Does he still fast?’ he replied ‘I fast for the whole month of Ramdan, but now due to being old, he often misses fasting’.
No matter whatever his religion is, the thing that matters he is simply loveable. “Iss more sy jaaty hain kuch sust kadam rasty kuch tez kadam rahein”…simply magical – only a creative poet who loves nature can write it. Hats off to you Gulzar Saab – you are a legend Bollywood and Urdu literature have ever produced!