Filmmaker Pritish Nandy claims to have “lived with words” since the age of 16. He has written over 30 books and his last volume was The Rainbow Last Night (1981), after which he switched to journalism.
But as he says, poetry never left him. His latest book of poems, Again, signals a return to it. The book contains 72 poems written over a month. He credits Gulzar for his coming back from the long poetic hiatus, “Every time I met Gulzar, he’d nudge me. He even has a better collection of my books of poetry than I do. He had collected them in Kolkata over the years. He kept insisting I must write again. Hence, Again it is.”
Bollywood and poetry
The writer-politician-filmmaker, who has translated several poets’ works including Rabindranath Tagore and Kaifi Azmi, insists that poetry is “very intimately connected with Bollywood”.
According to him, films need to reflect reality: “Real movies are always about your times, people you recognise and emotions you are familiar with.” He mentions that his films like Chameli (2003), Jhankaar Beats (2003) and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003) aptly reflect that. There’s always been poetry in Bollywood,
Nandy says. “Gulzar is a shining example. Sahir (Ludhianvi), Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh (Sultanpuri), Nida Faazli have all migrated from literature to movies. Poetry is difficult to live on. I tried to make a living as a poet for over a decade before I migrated to journalism. “Then I did a decade in journalism. Now I am just about to complete a decade in movies. It has been an easy transition every time. Kaifi, in fact, wrote an entire movie in verse for Chetan Anand.”
Obsessed with effects
But he also believes that one can detach oneself from movies, but not from words. Nandy asserts, “You cannot have music and movies without poetry. Suddenly Bollywood seems so eager to dumb itself down. The brainless is the new fad in showbiz.
But that too shall change. Every creative profession is always in a flux and Bollywood is no different. Hollywood is currently obsessed with technology, SFX and 3D, but it will soon return to the script. After all, Hurt Locker outclassed Avatar at the Oscars all the way.”
Lost in translation
Nandy, who is now working on an interpretation of the Gita and a science fiction, emphasises that poetry changes all the time. “It reacts to changes in popular culture and transforms itself in every era. The poetry of (Mirza) Ghalib and Mir Taki Mir is different from that of Sahir Ludhianvi and Faiz Ahmed Faiz,” he explains.
Nandy himself loves Spanish and French poetry — Frederico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda — but rues the lack of translations available: “Bengalis have never read Muktibodh. Gujaratis have never read Jibanananda Das. Maharashtrians have never read Agyeya. Keralites have never read Namdeo Dhasal. That’s the tragedy.”
Nandy is also working on a biography of Bollywood through the eyes of “nasty” film critics. “Criticism is the greatest tribute to any art form. But filmmakers hate critics. They don’t realise that critics ultimately define an era, a genre and an art form. The more a movie is criticised, the more iconic it becomes,” he concludes.