has, over the years, been influenced by several Bengali literary stalwarts. It comes as no surprise that he has now chosen the Bengali classic, writer Upendrakishore Roychowdhury’s Goopy Bagha, to dramatise for children.
Roychowdhury’s grandson, auteur Satyajit Ray, had adapted the same tale in 1969, making the popular Bengali film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Soon after its release, Gulzar and Ray were in talks to create a Hindi version of the film, but the project never saw the light of day. However, Gulzar translated the original work into Magical Wishes: The Adventures Of Goopy And Bagha, in 2012.
Now, he has dramatised the original story into a Hindi script. The play, titled Googli Jhanak Jaayein, is being directed by Salim Arif. It traces the adventures of two young boys who are exiled into a forest. Gulzar talks to us about children’s literature in India, writing and more.
Why did you choose this work in particular?
The story is interesting, and has every element that must be present in any children’s work. It has fantasy, music and a story that young minds will happily enjoy. Also, the story is extremely layered. There are a lot of political undercurrents, too.
Of course, we are following Manik da’s (Satyajit Ray) vision, but this work has gone beyond the realm of the movie’s narrative, and we have added a contemporary perspective to it. One of the kings in the drama is glued to his PlayStation, and there’s a pizza delivery man who does a moonwalk like Michael Jackson.
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What do you think about children’s literature in India?
It’s in a sorry state apart from some Bengali, Marathi and Malayalam writers, and a few English writers, children’s literature is non-existent in our country. There’s no writing produced for young minds in two major languages — Hindi and Urdu.
Satyajit Ray and his entire family — like Sandip Ray and Sukumar Ray — has produced brilliant works for kids over the decades. Their contribution is magnificent. Authors don’t take this genre seriously, though it’s the most difficult form of writing.
How different is it writing for kids than for adults?
You cannot think and write for children. You need to feel and write. There needs to be a certain spontaneity. A three-year-old thinks differently from a six-year-old, while a 12-year-old’s thought process is a separate story altogether. You need to involve yourself with them to understand them.
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When you write poetry, you should keep in mind that the poem is likea toy that the child will play with. For instance, ‘Lakdi ki kaathi, kathi pe ghoda’ (from Masoom; 1983); it may not be realistic, but it engages them.
You’ve been working since the ’50s and have collaborated with a sea of young talent. How do you keep up with them?
I consider myself their contemporary and of the same age group. There’s no fun in growing up. Also, with young artistes, they listen to you. Old people hardly ever listen to you.
Googli Jhanak Jaayein will be staged on June 14 and 15, at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, at 12 pm and 4 pm.