His poems and lyrics were like a whiff of autumn sunshine. For generations, his songs evoked romantic feelings like in “Dil Dhundta Hai Phir Wohi Fursat Ke Raat Din” in the film “Mausam” and “Tere Bina Zindagi Se” in “Áandhi”, or in a philosophical strain like in “Musafir Hoon Yaaro” in “Parichay” or pure eroticism like the number “Bidi Jalaile” in “Omkara”. He had something memorable for everyone, cutting across all ages.
So, it's but natural that poet-lyricist and film director Gulzar has been chosen for Indian government's top film award Dadasaheb Phalke award for the year 2013. And that is somewhat ironical for the award by the Congress-led UPA government has gone to a man whose directorial venture “Aandhi”, starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, was banned during the Congress government rule way back in the 1980s because the main role essayed by Sen was perceived to be modelled after Indira Gandhi.
At the age of 79, any other award may not have meant much for Gulzar especially after the song “Jai Ho” penned by him for multiple Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” won both the Academy award and Grammy awards.
But the Dadasaheb Phalke award, as he says, “is special” for him because “it is a national honour. It is a feeling of fulfillment of not one song, screenplay but the total body of work one does. I feel blessed,” said Gulzar, whose name was unanimously recommended by a seven-member jury.
Born as Sampooran Singh Kalra in 1934 in present-day Pakistan's Punjab, Gulzar and his family were among the many victims of the partition. The family moved to Amritsar but Gulzar came to Bombay and began to work as a garage mechanic while writing poetry in his spare time.
Gulzar started his career in 1956 and as a lyricist got his first break in Bimal Roy's “Bandini” and the song “Mora Gora Ang Lai Le” filmed on Nutan, became an instant hit. The music was by the inimitable SD Burman.
Gulzar's finest work, both as a director and a lyricist, are sensitive manuscripts of the human heart as evidenced by films like “Koshish”, “Aandhi”, “Maachis”, “Achanak”, “Mausam”, and “Ijaazat”. He has also made films with a political content like “Mere Apne” (on youth unrest), a Hindi remake of Tapan Sinha's Bengali film “Aponjon”, “Maachis” (on Punjab terrorism), “Aandhi” and “Hu Tu Tu”. And his television series, “Mirza Ghalib” is regarded as an all-time classic.
Over the years, Gulzar teamed up with composers like Salil Chowdhury, RD Burman, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Madan Mohan, Kanu Roy, Shankar Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Madan Mohan, Rajesh Roshan, Anu Malik, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, AR Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Along with lyrics, he has also contributed to several films as script, story and dialogue writer.
Gulzar was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002, and the Padma Bhushan in 2004. He has won a number of national film awards and 20 Filmfare Awards.
Gulzar's poetry has been published in three compilations: “Chand Pukhraaj Ka”, “Raat Pashminey Ki” and “Pandrah Paanch Pachattar”. His short stories are published in “Raavi Paar” (also known as “Dustkhat” in Pakistan) and “Dhuan”. He is also credited with having created a new type of stanza in Urdu poetry named 'Triveni' (a stanza of 3 lines).
Gulzar is married to leading yesteryears actress Raakhi. The couple has a daughter, Meghna. When their daughter was only one year old, they separated but never divorced. Meghna grew up with her father and, after completing her graduation in films from New York University, went on to direct films like “Filhaal”, “Just Married” and “Dus Kahaniyaan”. She also authored the biography of her father in 2004.