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Saibal Chatterjee's Echoes & Eloquences: The Life and Cinema of Gulzar traces the writer's B'wood journey, writes Neelesh Misra.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2007 17:25 IST

Echoes & Eloquences: The Life and Cinema of Gulzar


: Saibal Chatterjee




: RS 795

The first time I met Meghna Gulzar, I said something that I immediately realised could have offended her "Gulzar


is a very selfish writer," I had told her. I said there was a word in Hindi called


- for the joy of one's own heart - and all of his writings reflected that. He never wrote for the box-office; he wrote for himself. He did not write for the masses, but his once-lonely form of writing was so loved by the masses that it became a genre.

I am glad Saibal Chatterjee agrees with that view. His book mirrors this often lonely path that Gulzar has charted through the kaleidoscope of Indian cinema, wearing so many hats: lyric writer, director, writer of screenplays and dialogues, and of poems and fiction.

The best creative masters are lonely, introverted geniuses, and Chatterjee skillfully draws out Gulzar to reveal little-known nuggets of his journey from old India to the new, from old Bollywood to the new.

Much more than Bollywood, that lonely path was tougher to chart within his own family. As is the fate of many masters of the arts, Gulzar was a misfit in his family, which wanted him to focus on their paint and chemicals shop. But the young man was floating on a cloud of letters. Once, after being severely reprimanded by his elder brother for doing so, he told him prophetically, "One day your children will read my books."

<b1>Gulzar had to make a break from the paint shop, he began managing and painting cars at a motor garage. But he wanted to play with completely different colours. He joined Leftist writers' groups, wrote romantic poetry and dismissed poet Ali Sardar Jafri's free verse as "lecture


". But he would gradually understand the works of the great masters and break free of the regimentation of the traditional Urdu


metre himself in much of his work.

After resisting it for some time, he finally leapt into the beautiful Black Hole of Bollywood, transforming forever his own life and the way tales and melodies of romance and pain, longing and togetherness were told in India.

The choice of the title for the book -

Echoes and Eloquences

- is a bit tepid. But Rupa has made up for that with a well-produced hard-cover book containing rare black-and-white and sepia photographs and images of old posters. Chatterjee also, thankfully, resists the temptation to be too technical about Gulzar's work. He instead zigzags between a biographical account of Gulzar's life and a critique of his work, giving the reader a window to both.

The author also eloquently captures the ups and downs and varied flavours of Gulzar's life among others, growing up in a Punjab village, travelling to Bombay, his wanderings through the world of chartered accountancy and the smell of car paint, the joy of being Bimal Roy's favourite and able pupil, his romance and marriage with Rakhi and their eternal companionship despite breaking up, his closest friends, his failures and how he shrugged them off, the turmoil over the film


, and how he adapted to the changing tenor and audience of Bollywood.

This last one, in my eyes, is the greatest success of Gulzar. He is one legend of the beautiful old-world Indian cinema who refused to fade away with the new tide and new idiom of a changing Bollywood. He never gave up the old world charm of Bollywood and yet adapted deftly to the new listener - which shows in iconic songs like




, which have regaled masses and yet have eloquent poetry at their heart. Chatterjee has opened the window into a fascinating story. His admirers shall now await an autobiography from the man himself.

(Neelesh Misra is an HT columnist and also writes lyrics for Hindi films).