He is one of the rare writers who have captured the imagination of generations altogether, but veteran lyricist Gulzar today said “an old man” has always lived deep inside his consciousness.
The 83-year-old writer-poet, known for directing films such as “Mere Apne” and “Aandhi” among others, said he was never attracted to narrating Bollywood’s formulaic ‘boy-meets-girl’ romance.
Citing the example of the Rekha-Naseeruddin Shah-Anuradha Patel love triangle “Ijaazat”, he said, “I think somewhere I was always an old man.”
“Whenever a story came to me, there was no young boy or a young girl. They were all matured characters. Even at the time of ‘Ijaazat’, the film got made very late.
“People were sceptical about telling the story of a married woman. The film also was not accepted and was a dud at the box office. I always picked up those types of characters of mature men and women,” he said.
Gulzar was in conversation with directors Vishal Bhardwaj and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in a session titled ‘Reminicsing Kal Aaj Aur Kal’ at the ongoing 13th Habitat Film Festival.
The session was organised in association with HarperCollins India.
Discussing his 1975 acclaimed film “Aandhi”, Gulzar said it was for the first time that a politician was picked up as a main character, played by Suchitra Sen, in a story.
“If you have watched ‘Aandhi’ closely, you would have seen that besides (Sen’s) character, there was no other female character in the entire film. I had to orchestrate that she was the only woman. I was telling such a story… .
“Why a woman can’t play a character like that? An active, strong one who is not confined to the house, who is active outdoors,” he said.
Gulzar reiterated that the film was not based on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s life and asserted that he took the political leader as a reference point for his hero in the film.
“It was not Mrs Gandhi’s life. We all know her life. But that was the best model that I had in front of me then to take up as a politician.
“We wanted to show what sort of things happen in politics. And we had started seeing all that in day to day life. The kind of tricks that were synonymous with politics,” he said.
Mehra added that “Aandhi” was revolutionary in its approach as it broke the male dominance as the hero on-screen.
“We used to show mother-sister of the hero attending to the guests. In that time, to show the female character as the hero of the film was path-breaking for me,” Mehra, who has worked with Gulzar in “Mirzya”, said.
Bhardwaj, who is Gulzar’s frequent collaborator, said the writer often complains how he “exploits” Shakespeare’s work in his films.
To this, the iconic lyricist said, he has always meant it as a compliment.
“This is not a complaint, it’s a compliment. When I see his adaptations, they don’t look like Shakespeare’s to me. They don’t remind me of Shakespeare. It looks like an original piece of work to me,” Gulzar said.
Gulzar had penned lyrics for Bhardwaj in his Shakespeare trilogy “Maqbool” (“Macbeth”), “Omkara” (“Othello”) and “Haider” (“Hamlet”), besides collaborating on other films.
Citing the example of “Haider”, Bhardwaj’s adaptation of “Hamlet” based against the backdrop of conflict-stricken Kashmir, Gulzar said it is commendable how the audiences saw “the people of Kashmir and not its geography”.
“Though the Bard (Shakespeare) cannot be reduced, but after watching ‘Haider’, I think one can say to Shakespeare that stop listening to ‘The Ghost’ for once and pay attention to this film,” he added.
The festival runs till May 27.