Gulzar : A Lyricist Who Pens Ahead of Time



Mera kuch samaan
Tumhaare paas padaa hai
Saavan ke kuch bheege bheege din rakhe hain
Aur mere ek khat mein lipti raat padi hai
Woh raat bujhaa do
Mera woh samaan lauta do…

‘Mera Kuch Samaan’ , a song written by Gulzar in 1986 from his own directorial venture ‘Ijaazat’, was regarded as the most modern form of lyrics which was written much ‘ahead of time’ during that age. Such is the lyrics of Gulzar that defines his versatility and sets him apart from all the trending writers of the current era. He is the only lyricist in India who won The Academy Award (Oscar) in 2009.

Originally known as Sampooran Singh Kalra, he adopted the pen-name of Gulzar after he decided to start off his writing career. Gulzar was born on 18th of August 1934 in Dina of Jhelum District under the rule of British India. Presently the place is in Pakistan. His family belonged to the Kalra Arora Sikh origin. His father was Makhan Singh Kalra and mother was Sujan Kaur.

Being from a complete non-filmy background, Gulzar never got any encouragement from his family when he expressed his views about becoming a writer. In 1947, he came to Mumbai and worked as a car mechanic.

In 1962, he started assisting Bimal Roy in his film ‘Bandini’. Knowing about his talent in writing, Roy gave him the opportunity to write a song ‘Mora Gora Ang Layle’ from ‘Bandini’. The song was well received by the audiences. Sachin Dev Burman was the composer of the song.

A Young Gulzar

A Young Gulzar

The song gave Gulzar the required break he needed. He penned down beautiful lyrics for S. D. Burman, R. D Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan, Vishal Bharadwaj, Anu Malik, A. R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and others. However, most of Gulzar’s success stories lie with R.D. Burman and A.R. Rahman.

Din ne haath thaam kar idhar bithaa liya
Raat ne ishaare se udhar bulaa liya
Subah se shaam se mera dostana
Musafir hun yaaron na ghar hai na thikaana
Mujhe chalte jaana hai bas chalte jaana…

Composed by R. D. Burman and sang by Kishore Kumar, the above lyrics were penned by Gulzar for his own movie ‘Parichay’ starring Jeetendra, Jaya Bachchan and Pran. ‘Musafir Hun Yaaron’ still lingers in the mind of the current generation audiences. The words are incomparable and they surely would have an undeniable connect with any lone traveller.



Tere Bina Jeeya Jaaye Na, Tere Bina Jeeya Jaaye Na
Bin Tere, Tere Bin Saajna, Saans Mein Saans Aaye Na

Rendered by Lata Mangeshkar, this is one of the brilliant song penned by Gulzar for ‘Ghar’ in 1978. The song still remains to be popular and showcases the strong association between Gulzar and R. D. Burman.

Apart from being a lyrics writer, Gulzar was a director, script and dialogue writer as well. His directorial ventures include Mere Apne (1971), Parichay (1972), Koshish (1972), Achanak (1973), Aandhi (1975), Khushboo (1975), Mausam (1975), Kinara (1977), Kitaab (1977), Meera (1979), Chatran (1980), Sahira (1980), Angoor (1982), Namkeen (1982), Suniye (1984), Aika (1984), Ek Akar (1985), Ijaazat (1987), Libaas (1988), Lekin (1990), Maachis (1996) and Hu tu tu (1999).

Adaptation of Films from Novels and Social Issues
Most of Gulzar’s directorial ventures are adapted from novels. The novels include national and international works as well. ‘Mere Apne’ was inspired from Tapan Sinha’s 1969 movie ‘Apanjan’. ‘Parichay’ was influenced by the popular English movie ‘Sound of Music’. ‘Achanak’ was inspired by the sensational murder case of 1958 between Naval Commander K. M. Nanavati v/s The State of Maharashtra.

Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Aa Gaya Hai
Nahi To Charago Se Lau Jaa Rahi Thi
Jeene Ki Tumse Wajah Mil Gayi Hai
Badi Bewajah Zindagi Jaa Rahi Thi
Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Gaya Hai

Gulzar along with R. D. Burman created magical tracks for his film’Aandhi’ in 1978. The melodies of ‘Aandhi’ remains to be evergreen even today.

Aandhi (Poster)

Aandhi (Poster)

‘Aandhi’ was based on Kamleshwar’s Hindi novel ‘Kali Aandhi’. It is said that ‘Aandhi’ depicts the real life story of Tarkeshwari Sinha, who was the first female Deputy Finance Minister of India. His next venture ‘Khushboo’ was inspired from Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s ‘Pandit Mashaayi’. ‘Mausam’ was inspired from A. J. Cronin’s ‘The Judas Tree’. ‘Angoor’ was an adaptation from ‘Comedy of Errors’ by Shakespeare.

His movie, ‘Ijaazat’ was based on the Bengali writer Subodh Ghosh’s ‘Jotugriho’.

Apart from the adaptations, Gulzar also directed some ground breaking cult movies during the 80s and 90s era. His ‘Koshish’ is a memorable movie that touches the heart of every movie goer. The story depicts the difficulties and struggle of a couple who are deaf and mute and how they fight to lead a normal life in-spite the regular social obstacles. Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan enacted the lead roles in the movie and Sanjeev Kumar won the National Award in the Best Actor category in 1973 for the movie.

A Scene from Gulzar's 'Koshish' featuring Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan and Om Shivpuri

A Scene from Gulzar’s ‘Koshish’ featuring Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan and Om Shivpuri

Gulzar’s ‘Libaas’ remained unreleased in India forever. However, the movie was shown in International Film Festivals and was well received by the critics. The film depicted extra marital affair of a city based couple and was considered to be extremely modern if compared to the then prevailing society. Considering the subject matter of the movie, the Censor Board of India banned it from releasing in 1988.

Gulzar with Naseeruddin Shah

Gulzar with Naseeruddin Shah

‘Mausam’ which was inspired from ‘The Judas Tree’ portrayed a father who desperately tries to make his daughter civilised as she has turned into a prostitute due to unavoidable circumstances. Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore played the primary roles in the movie.

‘Maachis’ was based on the Sikh Riots and insurgency in Punjab that took place due to the political tension of 1984. It portrays how the young generation of a nation can be used as a trigger to rampage peace. Vishal Bharadwaj composed music for the movie.

‘Hu tu tu ‘ on the other hand showcases the negativities of corruption and gives out a strong message in order to curb it.

Gulzar wrote lyrics himself for all his movies and most of the songs from the movies are composed by R. D. Burman. It was after Burman’s death that Gulzar ventured to other music directors.

As a Dialogue Writer:
Gulzar wrote some evergreen dialogues for movies like ‘Anand, ‘Angoor’, ‘Ek pal’, ‘Ijaazat, ‘Chachi 420′, ‘Saathiya’ and many more. ‘Babu moshaayi…yeh duniya ek rang much hai…’ are the immortal words spoken by Rajesh Khanna in ‘Anand’. Gulzar also excelled as a dialogue writer with ‘Saathiya’ being his last venture as a dialogue writer in 2002.

Non- Filmy ventures:
Gulzar is also a recognised poet. His poetic works that are published are ‘Chand Pukhraj Ka’, ‘Raat Pashminey Ki’, ‘Pandrah Paanch Pachattar’. ‘Dhuan’ and ‘Ravi Paar’ are his works that comprise of short stories. Also another book consisting of short stories ‘Half a Rupee Story’ is been recently launched in Delhi.

Work on Television:
Gulzar also produced and wrote the television series ‘Mirza Ghalib’ in 1988. The series aired on Doordarshan and starred Naseeruddin Shah in pivotal role. ‘Tehreer Mushi Premchand Ki’ was another series by Gulzar on Doordarshan. He also penned lyrics for some other television series like ‘Hello Zindagi’, ‘Jungle Book’ and ‘Potli Baba Ki’.

The inception of ‘Triveni’:
‘Triveni’ is a particular style of poetry that was commenced by Gulzar. Each poem or a ‘Triveni’ has three lines, two of which complement each other whereas the last line portrays a different aspect or magnitude. Some examples of Gulzar’s ‘Triveni’ is cited below:

Kaante waali taar pe kisne gile kapde taange hain
Khoon tapakta rehta hai aur naali mein beh jaata hai

Kyun iss fauji ki bewa har roz yeh vardi dhoti hai !

Uthke jaate hue panchi ne bas itna hi dekha
Der tak haath hilaati rahi woh shaakh fiza mein

Alvida kehne ko…ya paas bulaane ko!

An Untouched Project:

Gulzar has a special place in his heart for the valley of Kashmir. Although, he has no definable connection with the valley but still he is emotionally attached with Kashmir. He also decided to film a movie in the valley. The project never took off due to the untimely breakage of the Kargil Wars. If shooting happened, the film would have been named as ‘Iss Vaadi Mein’ and it would have been based on the book ‘Kitaab Ka Kafan’ by Krishna Chander. (Information Courtesy: Column by Humra Quraishi on

‘Because He Is…’ – A Biography of Gulzar by Meghna Gulzar:

Gulzar with Daughter Meghna Gulzar

Gulzar with Daughter Meghna Gulzar

Meghna Gulzar, the only daughter of Gulzar and actress Rakhee Majumdar penned down the biography of her father in 2004 and the book is titled as ‘Because He Is…’. She herself is also a poet and director who has movies like ‘Just Married’, ‘Dus Kahaaniyaan’, and ‘Filhaal’ in her kit. Her pet-name is ‘Bosky’ and it is said that Gulzar used to release one children’s book every year on his daughter’s birthday during her childhood. (Information Courtesy: The Tribune)

Gulzar with wife Rakhee Majumdar

Gulzar with wife Rakhee Majumdar

Awards and Recognitions:

Gulzar receiving Padma Bhushan from President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Gulzar receiving Padma Bhushan from President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Gulzar has bagged Eleven Filmfare Awards for the Best Lyricist and Four Filmfare Awards in the Best Dialogue Writer category. He received the Padma Bhushan from President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in 2004. He has been ¬†conferred with the Academy Award for the lyrics of the song ‘Jai Ho’ from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in 2009. He also won Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to literature. In 2013, he has been also honoured as the Chancellor of the Assam University.

One thought on “Gulzar : A Lyricist Who Pens Ahead of Time

  1. Excellent research done on him and written about him beautifully. Loved it Saheli and Thanks for dedicating this to Gulzar Sahab.

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