Is Gulzar really going to give lectures at Panjab University? A day after PU announced that he had accepted the offer to take up its Tagore Chair, the poet-filmmaker denied having said ‘yes’, adding that he was “not sure what my role would be”.
“Heading a chair has certain benefits but it has certain responsibilities too,” he added.
Also, he categorically denied reports that he had allowed Punjabi translations of his translations of Rabindranath Tagore’s works.
When HT got back to PU vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover over the denial, he insisted that the poet had not made a categorical refusal, and then later in the day sent another offer to Gulzar, who in turn said he would “ponder over it”. Actually, in response to the Chair offer sent via email by the V-C on March 10, Gulzar had replied on March 23: “I have been travelling for some time. I received your letter when I came back. I will check up my schedules and get back to you. Thank you very much for the honour”. The university took this as acceptance and issued a press release on Wednesday, stating that he had “agreed to assume the Tagore Chair”.
In his renewed offer on Thursday evening after HT told him about the denial, Grover wrote to Gulzar that “even one event a year would be enough to do honour to the Chair”. He added that “just one visit to re-release his two books of Tagore’s translations and give a lecture to the faculty and students would be sufficient”.
At this, Gulzar told HT over phone again: “Well, the V-C is reasonable in making this offer; however I would need time to ponder over it. As for a function to re-launch the Tagore books, I would do it in my personal capacity, and it can be dedicated to the Tagore Chair.” He added that the function “should not be confused as acceptance of the Chair”.
The university had, as was clear from the announcement press release, envisaged a wide role for him.
“The university will be enriched by the series of lectures that Gulzar Sahib will be delivering and also through the meaningful interaction with faculty, students, artists, writers and intellectuals across disciplines in this region which will be organised as part of the activities of the Chair,” it had said, adding, “The students of the School of Communication Studies and listeners of Radio Jyotirgamaya, will be exposed to the literary acumen of Gulzar sahib and learn the nuances of popular writing styles for creative media.”
Gulzar was honoured by PU with its first Sahitya Ratan Award last year and he had held a lively interaction with the faculty and students. Besides being chancellor of Assam University, Silchar, he is a recipient of several academic honours, including being chosen as national fellow by the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies at Shimla.