There is no end to the number of books written about Gulzar. But there is something unique about the latest release, Because He Is. It’s penned by the one who is part of his being.
By Nidhi Raj Singh
Gulzar is undisputedly the most soulful lyricist of our time. He is also one of the most intuitive filmmakers the industry has seen. A few of you may know that he was born Sampooran Singh Kalra and sported a turban in his adolescence, but how many of you know that he used to tie his daughter’s shoe laces? You might have observed his obsession with white kurtas, but did you know that for a brief period of time, he wore a dhoti too? You must have read about the love he shared with actor Rakhee, but you might like to know that there is serious confusion between the former couple about the place they first met. These are not just trivia we have collected but facts revealed by his daughter, Meghna Gulzar… Bosky to him. But, this book is not about scandals and titillating details of his life.
Her book, by her own admission, is not an exploration of her childhood either. It is about him, his life, her Papi. She feels that her childhood was a stage in his life and his love for her mother is the longest short story of his life. The subject is always him.
The book is also about a changing India, from the eyes of a bewildered Sikh boy. And about a changing Pakistan, the country he was born in, from the eyes of an ageing poet.
In the first chapter of the book published by HarperCollins India (in both English and Hindi), Meghna writes: Someone once sent him a picture of his house from Dina in Pakistan and wrote that the front door was still the same! But Papi said, the house seemed smaller, the door not as towering as it seemed when he was a little boy. That’s one of the reasons he resisted returning to Dina for the longest time — he did not want the memories and the images to become smaller than how he remembered them, when he was a little boy. He wanted to cherish and protect them from the onslaught of time and reality, yet they are vivid in his mind. It was only in 2013 that he actually travelled to Dina – an experience that overwhelmed him.
While father and daughter shared many books over years, Gulzar admits to never having imagined that his Bosky would, one day, write a book on him. Excerpts from the interview with filmmaker and author Meghna Gulzar:
Your father, Gulzar, is a very private person. What was his first reaction when you told him that you would like to write a book on him? Was it difficult to convince him?
Actually, there wasn’t much convincing involved. He gets very enthusiastic every time there is anything related to my writing or getting published. Also, I think because he trusted my approach and sensibilities, he was comfortable with the idea.
And maybe this is why Because He Is is unique?
Everything that’s been written about him is by those who are not his daughter (laughs). In my book, there are insights and perspectives, his choices, how a song or a film came about. There are anecdotes and insights that I was also a part of, not as an outsider. The book, I think, would be an emotional experience for readers.
As a grown up, we know sometimes we show a different side of the story to our children for their own good. Did you revisit some of the incidents from your life or his life that were etched very differently in your memory?
There are revelations that have happened, but I can’t say I have reinterpreted anything or seen things differently from what I remembered them to be.
Is this book from the perspective of a daughter or an admirer of his work?
I think I can’t separate one from the other. There is objectivity when I talk about his work, which I can’t ignore because I am his daughter. I want to make it clear that it is not an official biography of the personality that he is. It talks about his life, his
mind and his journey through the lens of a daughter.
How has he shaped your psyche, your understanding of the world? Do you think you are closer to him now than ever, thanks to your conversations with him as an adult?
On the contrary, I think sitting together and having conversations was a lot more frequent few years ago. Now with my work, family and other things that demand my time, it is not an option as it was perhaps say, before I had my child.
He shaped my psyche not by instruction, but by example. I have picked up things that I have liked about him and incorporated them in my personality. With him as a father, it never came down to ‘you have to be this way’ or ‘this is how you have to do this’. It is a very equal way of parenting.
What according to you is that one word that describes him and why?
Fragile. Somehow, I associate it with him because I know he is a very soft and sensitive person. His writing is extremely sensitive. His writing, emotions and expressions are so fragile that if it was a glass it would break under the slightest pressure.
Is there any aspect of him or his life that you have consciously not touched in this book?
No, because then it would not have been honest. I have not written an advertisement for him nor is it his manifesto. It’s his life that I have expressed in my own way. There are uncomfortable phases in our lives like when my parents separated. But, I haven’t brushed it away. I may disappoint people who are looking for scandalous details.
What is your takeaway from this book, as an author and as a daughter?
A better understanding of him, both as an author and daughter, thanks to the conversations I had with him during the course of putting the manuscript together. I understood his motivations a lot better. It’s not like I didn’t know what kind of a person he was, but I understood better the reasons that made him the person that he is. It was very enriching.
Did you record everything?
Everything is recorded, but I also noted the highlights… much like this interview.
Raazi was a beautiful film and commercially successful too. What’s next?
I am writing a script on the life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.