Gulzar is a famous Indian poet, lyricist, and film director. He is often termed as ‘Gulzar Saab.’ Gulzar is one of the most celebrated poets in India. He has penned down the lyrics for many popular films like ‘Aashirwad’ (1968), ‘Anand’ (1971), ‘Mere Apne’ (1971), ‘Namak Haraam’ (1973), ‘Khubsoorat’ (1980), ‘Rudaali’ (1993), ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008), ‘Raajneeti’ (2010), ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (2012), ‘Raazi’ (2018), and ‘The Sky is Pink’ (2019).
Gulzar was born as ‘Sampooran Singh Kalra’ on Saturday, 18 August 1934 (age 85 years; as in 2019) in the Dina City of the Jhelum District in Punjab, British India (now Pakistan). His zodiac sign is Leo. He used to study in a local school in his village in Pakistan. Due to the partition of India in 1947, his family had to split and move to Delhi. He did his schooling from The Delhi United Christian School. His family used to live in Delhi’s Sabzi Mandi area. In Delhi, he started working at a small shop.
He attended the St Stephen’s College in Delhi. After which, his father sent him to Mumbai to make a career for himself. To make a living in Mumbai, Gulzar started taking up many small jobs in Mumbai including the job of a mechanic and a supervisor at a garage at Vichare Motors on Bellasis Road. Gulzar used to paint accident-damaged cars by mixing shades of paints there. According to Gulzar, he loved to paint as it gave him enough time to read, write, attend college, and be involved with the PWA (Progressive Writer’s Association). He was mentored by Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the Pakistani poet.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Hair Colour: White
Family, Caste & Wife
Gulzar belongs to a Kalra Sikh Family. The Poet as the Father- The Tribune His father’s name is Makhan Singh Kalra, and his mother’s name is Sujaan Kaur. Gulzar’s father married thrice, so, he has many stepsiblings. One of his elder brothers was an MA in Literature, with whom he used to consult about various literati. Gulzar got married to Rakhee Gulzar on 15 May 1973. The couple has a daughter named Meghna Gulzar (Bosky), who is a film director, producer, and writer. When Meghna was just one year old, the couple got separated due to the differences between them.
As a Lyricist
Gulzar was working with PWA (Progressive Writer’s Association), where he met the veterans Shailendra and Bimal Roy, who encouraged him to work in films. He started working under the directors Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Gulzar started his career as a lyricist with the film “Kabuliwala (1961).” Although, he was noticed after he worked for the film “Bandini (1963),” in which he had penned down the lyrics of the song “Mora Gora Ang Lai Le.”
In the film, almost all the songs were written by Shailendra and he insisted Gulzar write a song for the film. Gulzar earned recognition after he wrote the lyrics of the song “Humne Dekhi Hai Un Aankhon Ki Mehekti Khushboo” from the film “Khamoshi (1969).”
He has written songs for various films such as “Aashirwad (1968),” “Anand (1971),” “Mere Apne (1971),” “Namak Haraam (1973),” “Khubsoorat (1980),” “Rudaali (1993),” “Slumdog Millionaire (2008),” “Raajneeti (2010),” “Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012),” “Raazi (2018),” “The Sky is Pink (2019),” and many more.
As a Director
Gulzar made his directorial debut with the 1971 film “Mere Apne.”
He has directed several films such as “Parichay (1972),” “Koshish (1972),” “Aandhi (1975),” “Mausam (1975),” “Libaas (1988),” and “Maachis (1996).” The last film directed by Gulzar was “Hu Tu Tu (1999).”
As a Poet/Writer
Gulzar’s poetry is mainly in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi, and several dialects of Hindi such as Braj Bhasha, Khariboli, Haryanvi, and Marwari. His poetry is characterised into Triveni type of Stanza. His poems have been published in 3 compilations, which are ‘Raat Pashminey Ki,’ ‘Chand Pukhraaj Ka,’ and ‘Pandrah Paanch Pachattar.’
Gulzar published his book “Raavi Paar,” a collection of short stories in 1999.
He has published many books such as “Triveni,” “Pukhraj,” “Autumn Moon,” “Magical Wishes: The Adventures Of Goopy & Bagha,” “Half a Rupee Stories,” and many more. Gulzar published his first English novel “Two” in 2017.
The novel was originally written in Urdu with some words in Punjabi and some other dialects. Gulzar initially didn’t like the English version of the novel and kept the book for a while. Later, he decided to publish it after a few modifications. Gulzar has himself translated the book.
Gulzar worked for the television for the first time for the Hindi dub of the Japanese series “Fushigi no Kuni no Alice,” in which he wrote the lyrics for its title song. He wrote and produced the famous TV series “Mirza Ghalib (1988).”
He made his directorial debut in Television with the Children’s puppet series “Potli Baba Ki (1991).”
He was also the co-producer and writer of the series. He has also written the lyrics for the title track of the popular children series “Son Pari” and “Motu Patlu.”
- Reportedly, Chetan Bhagat took up the role of an emcee at an event; his work was to introduce the panellist and raise a few questions at them. Gulzar was one of the panellists and while he was introducing Gulzar, Chetan remarked-
I have really liked the song Kajra Re which was penned by Gulzar-saab. It was a good piece of poetry.”
Apparently, the remark hit Gulzar and looking straight at Chetan, he replied-
Chetan, I am glad that an author like you has liked the song. But I don’t think you have understood the poetry that you are trying to talk about here. If you still insist, I will recite two lines from the song. Tell me the meaning of those.”“Teri baaton main kimam ki khusbu hain/ Tera aana bhi garmiyon ki lu hain. Tell me the meaning.”
Chetan found himself dumbfounded and speechless as Gulzar reprimanded him for making expert comments on his poetry. But Gulzar didn’t end there, he further added-
Please don’t say things you don’t know about. Comment about things you know.”
- His film “Aandhi” (1975) became a subject of controversy during the emergency in India (1975-1977). This was due to the resemblance of the protagonist of the film with the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.
Awards & Honours
- Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013
- Honorary Doctorate in Urdu Literature by Maulana Azaad National Urdu University in 2012
- Grammy Awards for the Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media for the song “Jai Ho” from the film “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2010
- Honorary D. Lit by Punjabi University in 2010
- Academy Awards for the Best Original Song for the song “Jai Ho” from the film “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008
- Padma Bhushan in 2004
- Sahitya Akademi Award for “Dhuan” (Smoke)-short stories in Urdu in 2002
- Lifetime Honorary Fellowship by the Indian Institute of Adv. Studies in 2001
- Best Screenplay for the film “Koshish” in 1972
- Second Best Feature Film for “Mausam” in 1975
- Best Lyrics for the song “Mera Kuchh Saamaan” from the film “Ijaazat” in 1988
- Best Lyrics for the song “Yaara Silli Silli” from the film “Lekin…” in 1991
- Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment for “Maachis” in 1996
- Best Dialogue for the film “Anand” in 1972
- Best Dialogue for the film “Namak Haraam” in 1974
- Critics Award for Best Movie for “Aandhi” in 1975
- Best Director for the film “Mausam” in 1976
- Best Lyricist for the song “Tere Bina Zindagi Se” from the film “Aandhi” in 1976
- Best Lyricist for the song “Do Deewaane Shehar Mein” from the film “Gharaonda” in 1978
- Best Lyricist for the song “Aanewala Pal Jaane Wala Hain” from the film “Gol Maal” in 1980
- Best Lyricist for the song “Hazaar Raahen Mud Ke Dekhi” from the film “Thodisi Bewafaii” in 1981
- Best Lyricist for the song “Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi” from the film Masoom in 1984
- Best Lyricist for the song “Mera Kuchh Saamaan” from the film Ijaazat in 1988
- Best Lyricist for the song “Mera Kuchh Saamaan” from the film Ijaazat in 1989
- Best Documentary on “Ustad Amjad Ali Khan” in 1991
- Best Lyricist for the song “Yaara Silli Silli” from the film “Lekin…” in 1991
- Best Dialogue for the film “Maachis” in 1996
- Best Story for the film “Maachis” in 1996
- Best Lyricist for the song “Chaiyya Chaiyya” from the film “Dil Se..” in 1999
- Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002
- Best Dialogue for the film “Saathiya” in 2002
- Best Lyricist for the song “Saathiya” from the film “Saathiya” in 2003
- Best Lyricist for the song “Kajra Re” from the film “Bunty Aur Babli” in 2006
- Best Lyricist for the song “Dil To Bachcha Hain Ji” from the film “Ishqiya” in 2011
- Best Lyricist for the song “Challa” from the film “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” in 2013
- Best Lyricist for the song “Ae Watan” from the film “Raazi” in 2019
Boskyana, 65, Nargis Dutt Rd, Pali Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
- Colour: White
- Actress: Meena Kumari
- Poets: Mirza Ghalib, Rabindranath Tagore, Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah
- Lyricists: Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi
- Writers: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Premchand, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy
- Musician: Sting
- Filmmaker: Bimal Roy
- Book: “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore
- Gulzar likes sketching, reading, writing, and travelling.
- When he used to live in Delhi, he used to visit a small bookstore near his house; from where he used to borrow detective books for four annas (former Indian currency) every day. The owner of the shop was a refugee from Pakistan who had set up a Khoka Library. One day, the shopkeeper got irritated by him and asked him-
Kitni kitaab padh lega? (How many books will you read?)”
Gulzar replied that he could read as many as he can. So, the shopkeeper handed him a dusty thick book of Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Gardener.” The shopkeeper gave him the book thinking that he will not be able to read the book in one day. As Gulzar read the book, he was so touched by it that he never returned the book. According to Gulzar, he still has the book and it was also the first book that he had stolen. Talking about it, Gulzar says-
Tagore made me a thief.”
- Gulzar’s father didn’t want him to become a writer.
- His love for Urdu poetry came through his Urdu teacher named Mujeebur Rahman, who had taught him in the Delhi United Christian School. His initial poems were very simple and described his nostalgic trip on his way to school or an empty can rolling on the road.
- He was not good at academics, and Mathematics was his least favourite subject.
- During his college days, he used to wear a turban.
- His elder brother wanted him to study for CA and when he passed his college, he was given the option of joining the Navy. As Gulzar hated uniforms, he did not take it up and moved to Mumbai.
- When he started out as a writer, he adopted the pen name ‘Gulzar Deenvi,’ which he later changed to Gulzar.
- Gulzar wrote two songs in the 1971 film “Guddi;” one of them being “Humko Man Ki Shakti Dena,” which is still recited as a prayer in many schools in India.
- His hunger for poetry and writing further strengthened through his association with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), where he had befriended Basu Bhattacharya, Salil Choudhury, Debu Sen, Shailendra, and Sukhbir (a prominent Punjabi-Hindi poet).
- Gulzar initially wanted to become a teacher as it would’ve given him enough time for reading and writing.
- Since his childhood, he has been close to Bengali culture. He learned Bengali just to understand Rabindranath Tagore’s work better. He considers Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee as his Gurus, and it was through them that his strong love for Bengali Culture intensified.
- Rabindranath Tagore’s works inspired Gulzar to read and write. He has also translated several works of Tagore from Bengali.
- Amongst all of his works, most are based on the turmoil of the Partition of India. The reason is that he had himself faced the outcome of the partition and thus, his experiences are reflected in his compositions; one of such books is “Footprints on Zero Line,” which is a compilation of poems about his experiences of the Partition of India.
- Gulzar has a strong liking to Lawn Tennis and enjoys playing it in his spare time. He even won a trophy in Tennis in a local club tournament in 2015.
- The song “Ay Hairathe Aashiqui” from the film “Guru (2006)” was written by Gulzar and to write the song, he took the inspiration from Amir Khusrow’s “Ay Sarbathe Aashiqui.” The song was composed by A. R. Rahman.
- The famous song “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” which is written by Gulzar was inspired by the Sufi folk song “Thaiyya Thaiyya” by the poet Bulle Shah (a Mughal-era Punjabi Islamic philosopher and Sufi poet).
- “Angoor (1982),” which was directed by Gulzar was based on Shakespeare’s drama ‘The Comedy of Errors.’
- The anthem “Nazar Main Rehte Ho,” which was sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was written by Gulzar for the joint peace campaign ‘Aman ki Asha’ started by Pakistan’s and India’s leading media houses.
- In an interview, he revealed that he liked the colour white so much that he always like to wear white clothes. He adds-
I’ve been wearing white since my college days. I like colour, but if I wear coloured clothes now, it would feel like I’m being false. And that’s the worst thing I could be. Something other than myself. Either in work, or in life.”
- In an interview, giving further details about his affection with the colour white, he said that he wears Kurta but have never worn a Pyjama. Talking about his attire, Gulzar said-
I have never worn a pyjama! This is a regular pair of trousers, with the front crease and everything. Earlier, I wore a dhoti quite often, and thankfully, nobody ever pulled it down,” he laughs. “I still wear a shalwar on itvaar (Sunday), the Punjabi-Pathani one, like they wear in my home town of Deena, now in Pakistan. It’s just because I’m an Urdu poet that people assume I’m wearing a pyjama with my kurta. You can finally break this misconception.”
- In an interview, Gulzar revealed that the musician and actor Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE, popularly known as Sting, has inspired most of his works.
- Gulzar has also worked for Karadi Tales. He has authored and narrated the audiobooks for Karadi tales such as “Rangeela Geedhad,” “Besura Dhondu,” “Raja Kapi,” and more.
- There are several biographies made on him such as “In the Company of a Poet: Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir” by Nasrin Munni Kabir, “Echoes and Eloquences: The Life and Cinema of Gulzar ” by Saibal Chatterjee, including one written down by his daughter Meghna Gulzar titled “Because He Is…”
- Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi was his mentor in literature. Gulzar used to call him ‘Baba.’ Qasmi published Gulzar’s poem in his magazine Funoon. Even the first collection of Gulzar poems was published by Qasmi’s daughter under Qasmi’s guidance.
- Gulzar won the Academy Awards for the Best Original Song for the song “Jai Ho” from the film “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008, but he did not attend the function to collect his trophy. Citing the reason, he says-
Because I didn’t have a black coat [laughs]. On a serious note, I may tell you that the timings didn’t suit me. I had earlier commitments to fulfil.”
- Apart from being a good writer, he is also an artist as he makes sketches whenever he gets spare time.
- In April 2013, Gulzar was appointed as the Chancellor of the Assam University.
- Gulzar was so impressed with the bust of Mirza Ghalib displayed at the Ghalib ki Haveli in Old Delhi that he sculptured the same for himself and has kept it in his house.
- Gulzar also has a huge interest in music and knows how to play the sitar.
- He wrote the famous song ‘Chaddi Pahen Ke Phool Khila Hai’ for the film series “Jungle Book.”
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