Happy birthday Gulzar: How the maverick filmmaker brought women to the fore
Sampoorna Singh Kalra, better known as Gulzar, celebrates his 85th birth anniversary on Sunday. Poet, lyricist, filmmaker – he has donned many hats and been honoured with several prestigious awards in the process. He is a Padma Bhushan awardee and has been honoured with the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Apart from five National Film Awards and 21 Filmfare Awards, Gulzar also bagged the coveted Grammy and Oscar awards for his song, Jai Ho for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionnaire.
In his illustrious career that includes penning dialogues, screenplays, songs and directing films, Gulzar has often given voice to those least represented. Apart from apt depiction of the Indian rural society and the poor and downtrodden, Gulzar has often focused his lens on the emotions of his women characters.
Here, we take a look at five of his directorial ventures and how they served as the perfect platforms for women’s feelings and emotions in an industry and era that generally relegated women to black and white characters with rarely any shades of grey. .
Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, the film was centered around a young sex worker who finds herself liking an old man. However, the old man, played by Sanjeev, is stuck in the past as the young girl resembles a woman he loved and later deserted under family pressure. Gulzar’s screenplay makes us see the story through the eyes of the women in focus. It won the National Film award for Best Feature film that year.
While Rekha played the strong-headed housewife Sudha, Naseeruddin Shah’s lead character Mahendra had a young and eccentric lover in Anuradha Patel’s Maya who was equally well-represented in the movie. Unlike the trend those days, the other woman was not made into a villain and the audience got to witness her side of the story as well. While all songs from the film were a hit, Mera Kuch Samaan brought two National Film awards as well – for the best lyrics and best playback (female). Ijaazat also bagged two Filmfare awards.
Said to be based on former prime minister Indira Gandhi, the film was banned soon after the release and it saw the light of the day much later in 1977. The story focused on a politician and her relationship with her estranged husband. Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar played the lead roles in the film.
Starring Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rehman, Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar, the film tells the story of three sisters struggling to eke out a daily living and a dignified life in a rural set-up. Namkeen won National Film award for the best story that year.
Loosely based on the mythological figure of Meera (an iconic devotee of Lord Krishna who denounced all her royal privileges to follow her beloved, Lord Krishna), Gulzar turned the story into a historical one. He focused on the woman’s struggle for independence and dignity in a society that treated women nothing more than housekeepers.
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