Being an alchemist of verse, his introduction is always as a poet-lyricist. But what about the poetry in his dialogues? Gulzar the dialogue-writer has been criminally overshadowed by Gulzar the songwriter. We remember dialogues from Anand (1971) like Babumoshai, zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath mein hai… but sometimes forget that they were written by none other than Gulzar.He first used this line in the film to make his audiences laugh and later to make them weep. We are about to mourn the death of the lively Anand, when the recorder plays these lines, highlighting the transient nature of life.
Amitabh Bachchan summarises the character with Gulzar’s immortal lines: Anand mara nahi, Anand marte nahi. From a mere character, Anand became a philosophy of life.
Unlike Salim-Javed’s style where the focus was more on creating high-voltage drama and punchlines, Gulzar’s dialogues seem simple on the surface but are profound and reflective, even poetic.
Like the conversation between the estranged couple Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen in Aandhi (1975):
SS: Ye chand to roz nikalta hoga?
SK: Haan, lekin kabhi kabhi amaavas aa jaati hai. Waise toh amaavas 15 dinon ke baad aati hai, lekin is baar bahut lambi thi.
SS: Nau baras lambi thi na...
Simple lines that convey the pain of separation without melodrama. Few writers could match Gulzar’s mastery in writing about complex relationships with simplicity and finesse.
When required, Gulzar also entertained audiences with humour-laced dialogues in films like Angoor or the classic comedy Chupke Chupke, where Dharmendra questions the logic of the Queen’s language. He asks Usha Kiron, Aap hi bataiye memsaab T-O ‘to’ hota hai, D-O ‘do’ hota hai, toh G-O ‘goo’ kyun nahin hota?
While it is true that the most oft-repeated Bollywood dialogues from the ’70s belong to Salim-Javed (Sholay, Deewar, Don etc), Gulzar wrote great dialogues in the same era. His fans argue that the Salim-Javed style of dialogue writing was for the masses while Gulzar’s was for the classes.
He worked extensively with Hrishikesh Mukherjee in the ’70s, whose most popular films like Anand, Namak Haraam, Chupke Chupke, Bawarchi or Khoobsurat all have Gulzar’s sparkling dialogues.
Other Mukherjee films like Mili, Golmaal, Jurmana, Bemisaal, Aalap had dialogues by another great writer, Dr Rahi Masoom Raza. In fact, Mili was planned as the female version of Anand, but it could not recreate the magic of Anand’s dialogues.
Gulzar’s magic lay in knowing the pulse of human emotions along with a superb command over poetry. Lines like, Jeene ki arzoo mein mare jaa rahe hain log, marne ki arzoo mein jeeye jaa raha hoon main (Namak Haraam) and Maut! Tu ek kavita hai (Anand) go to the extent of romanticising death.
A famous Urdu critic’s advice to writers was Dus kilo padhiye aur dus gram likhiye. Perhaps it is his vast reading of quality literature that differentiates Gulzar’s superlative work from the current crop of dialogue writers.
Yasser Usman is a TV journalist and the author of the recently published Rajesh Khanna – The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar
From HT Brunch, December 14
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