By Gurmukh Singh
TORONTO: If I remember correctly, famous poet and lyricist Gulzar had told me in an interview in New Delhi in 1997 or 1998 that he would prefer not to visit his hometown Dina in Jhelum district in Pakistan.
When I asked him the reason, he said he loves the images that he has of his hometown from his childhood and he doesn’t want those images to be changed by the current reality!
We were at the India International Centre in New Delhi and Gulzar Saab was in town in connection with the launch of his poetry book titled Raavi Paar (Across the River Raavi). The river runs next to Jhelum in Pakistan.
“A part of me was left behind in Pakistan in 1947. My trauma is associated with that place. I am searching for that lost half. Watan mera yeh, desh mera woh,’’ the great man had said in that interview.
But Gulzar did visit Dina – where he was born as Sampooran Singh Kalra in August 1929 – in 2013 even though he had to cut short his visit and return to India.
Gulzar was in Pakistan on a seven-day visit and was scheduled to attend the Karachi Literary Festival as well as interact with literary circles in Lahore. It is reported that he was also to supervise the recording of a qawwali for producer Vishal Bharadwaj’s film Dehd Ishqiya.
Reports say he had to cut short his visit to his `desh’ because of security concerns after the hanging of Afzal Guru. The Indian high commission reportedly took him in their protective custody and advised him to return home.
That sounds weird because the famous man has such a following in Pakistan. I was in Pakistan during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit in 1999 and everybody I spoke to wanted to see Gulzar in Pakistan.
Below is my interview with Gulzar (in 1996 or 1997) in the Times of India Delhi:
|Poetry, not films, my priority now: Gulzar
NEW DELHI: Chatting with a Pakistani poet at New Delhi’s India International Centre, Gulzar expresses himself as only he can – through poetry: “Haath chhoote bhi toh rishte nahin chhoda karte, Waqt ki shaakh se lamhe nahin toda karte.” (Even if the hand you held slips away you don’t break the bonds, you don’t sever a moment from the branch of Time).
After a pause, the poet, film director and screen-play writer continues to his friend from Pakistan: “Phir yeh toh woh dukh hain joh bhulaye nahin ja sakte (The pain of separation/Partition is too deep-rooted to be forgotten).” This is one of Gulzar’s many poetic reactions to Partition.
“This pain sort of leaps out of me,” he says. And by way of explanation, he says, “A part of me was left behind in Pakistan in 1947. My trauma is associated with that place. I am searching for that lost half. Watan mera yeh, desh mera woh.”
And to re-establish that broken link with his past, Gulzar has decided that his next collection of poems will be titled Chand Pukhraj, Raat Pashmine. “It will be published by Baba Ahmed Nadeem Qasim in Pakistan.” He is already giving finishing touches to the collection.
In fact poetry will be the focus of his efforts now. “You know, after Maachis and Hu Tu Tu, I have decided that I will not take up film making for some time. Maybe later I will do some comedy-type movies on serious issues like corruption and political degeneration. Right now, I want to be where I started — writing poetry. Poetry has always been my ruling passion even in the midst of writing lyrics, short stories and dialogue and directing films.”
He released his second collection of poems Autumn Moon — which coincided with the wedding of his daughter Bosky to Govind Sandhu in January.
It is about his poetry more than his films that he loves to talk. “Poetry is like a relay race for me. You pick up some old poems, add some new.” It is the most satisfying form of expression, he says. “It is not something which happened to you. It is something to which you reacted as it happened to others. You internalise their experiences. If your antennas are up and you can give a wing (expression) to these observations, it becomes very elavating. Poetry is true history because there can be no manipulation in art. Poetry has a form, yet it is abstract. It is silent, yet it speaks loudly.”
Gulzar, the poet, has embarked on another odyssey — journey into the dark recesses of the cosmos. “I have no fear of the unknown. Bus aise hee cosmos main awaragardi pai nikkal jata hoon (Just like that, I go out for a stroll in the cosmos). NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) gives me a lot of information on the cosmos. So I write poems on this imagery — looking for life somewhere. Sochta hoon ke koyee avara faltu mere jaisa planet mujhe bulaye aur kahe ke ayo ek saath baten karen aur raat bitanyen (I wish some aimless planet like me would call me and say come let us talk and spend the night together.”
With Sky Music, Gulzar has come out with two story titles for children — in book and cassette form — in Hindi. “From now on, I will concentrate on children. They fascinate me because I have missed my childhood in many respects. I lost my mother when I was just one year old. My father played that role. So, I want to play that role for others. What better way than to take them (kids) into wonderland. Panchtantra and poetry, I think, are my wonderland for them.”
About the poets he was most influenced by, he says, “Shiv Batalvi. Oh, God! What an intensity he had! Take his lines: Kabran udeek diyan jiven putran nu mavan (Burial grounds await like mothers await their sons). Such intense emotions could not have come from outside. Bulle Shah, Baba Farid and Kabir wrote the simplest, direct poetry. You have to cross many horizons to reach their level.”
Going by the intensity of his poetry, he’s not too far from their level.
By Gurmukh Singh