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Birthday special: From Sampooran Singh Kalra to Gulzar

His lyrics have given a voice to many unexpressed feelings one experiences through out different phases of life.

New Delhi: Born to Makhan Singh Kalra and Sujan Kaur, in Jhelum District of British India (now in Pakistan), Sampooran Singh Kalra grew up to become the most revered lyricist in contemporary India — Gulzar.

From an early age he took interest in literature as he read translations of the works of Tagore which he recounted as one of his life’s many turning points.

After moving to Bombay (now Mumbai) post the partition of India, Sampooran took up many small jobs in Mumbai — including one at a garage at Vichare motors on Bellasis road — to sustain himself. There he used to touch up accident-damaged cars by mixing shades of paint, which in his own words translate to –“I had a knack for colours”.

Gulzar during his early days in Bollywood

In an interview with Rajyasabha TV, he recounted enjoying his work as a painter as it allowed him a lot of time to simultaneously read, write, attend college and be involved with the PWA (Progressive writers association).

This job helped him earn his livelihood as he wrote poetry in his leisure time. But it is said that he was rebuked by his father for being a writer, initially.

Gulzar also used to listen to a lot of Hindustani music, especially stringed instruments, which would be practised in his neighbours’ homes. He became even deeply engrossed in music when he started going to college, and would regularly attend concerts of artists like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.

Gulzar’s work is laced with the lyrical yet psychologically adept examination of human sensibilities. His nazmas like — ‘Hazaron khwahishen aesi, ke har khwahish pe dam nikle, Bahut nikle mere arman, lekin phir bhi kam nikle’ and ‘Samne aye mere, dekha mujhe, baat bhi ki, Muskiraye bhi, purani kisi pehchaan ki khaatir, kal ka akhbar tha, bas dekh liya, rakh bhi diya’ — touches one deeply and shows the sensitivity in the author.

Since his father was not too pleased with his writings, he took the pen name Gulzar Deenvi, initially after his hometown Deena but later he simply went ahead with Gulzar. He would often hang around the film studios in the city. And in 1961, he joined Bimal Roy Productions. His first break as a lyricist came, in 1963, when Shailendra, the song writer, requested him to write a song for Bandini.

Khamoshi’s song “Humne dekhi hai in aankhon ki mehekti khushboo” brought him great recognition in 1969. Guddi, in 1971, had a prayer, which got acclaim and many school assemblies had children singing his words “Hum ko mann ki shakti dena”.

Some of his most famous works in Bollywood can be seen in the following films Aandhi, Koshish, Maachis, Ijaazat, Masoom, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Sadma, Asoka, Omkara, Slumdog Millionaire, Raazi, and Soorma.

Gulzar was awarded the third-highest civilian award in India, Padma Bhushan in 2004, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013.

He also has many National Film Awards, 20 Filmfare Awards, one Academy Award and one Grammy Award to his credit in a career spanning over 50 years.

Gulzar Dada Saheb Phalke
Then President of India Pranab Mukherjee, presents The Dadasaheb Phalke, the highest award in the field of Indian cinema, to Gulzar. Photo: AFP / RAVEENDRAN

Gulzar is married to veteran actress Raakhee Majumdar and the couple has a daughter Meghna Gulzar. She is a filmmaker with films like Dus Kahaniyaan, Talvar, and Raazi to her credit.

Gulzar is a man who pens his emotions, not words. His lyrics have given a voice to many unexpressed feelings one experiences through out different phases of life.

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