Once the great mathematician Ramanujan said that math flows out of him onto a paper as if gifted by a cosmic power. When you look at the sheer amount of work Gulzar has written, you get the jest of Ramanujan’s statement. From one-liners to lengthy songs, Gulzar has written it all. Gulzar’s work makes writing poems look easy and effortless. His career spans more than half a century, writing over 1000 songs, poems, quotes, and essays.
Sampooran Singh Kalra was born in a Sikh family in present-day Pakistan. His family was one of the million families who were affected by the partition of India and Pakistan. His family had left all of their property and had to restart their life on this side of the border. He grew up in a financially weak household and took up small jobs at a very young age. One of his jobs was to paint automobiles in a garage. Indian trucks are famous for having clever one-liners written on its body. This is how Gulzar picked up the art of writing one-liners.
After saving up some money, Gulzar was able to attend college. He was interested in the poetry club at his college. Through this club, he later joined the Progressive Writers Association. This is where he met a writer who worked in Bollywood films. Shailendra, an already established writer of Bollywood requested Gulzar to join the film industry as well. Gulzar accepted the offer and was introduced to S.D Burman, a famous music director of his time. Gulzar wrote his first song for Burman’s movie ‘Bandini’.
As is the culture even today, lyricists hardly got any spotlight even if the song was a hit. The actor and singer took the lion’s share of popularity. After six years of writing songs, Gulzar got his first recognition. His devotional song from the movie ‘Guddi’ became an instant hit and is still recited in most schools in India. Five decades have passed since that song and Gulzar has penned down almost 800 songs. In 2007, he won the Academy Award and Grammy for writing the song ‘Jai ho’ from Slumdog Millionaire. And in 2013, he received the ‘Dadasaheb Phalke Award’ which is the greatest award in the Indian cinema industry.
Poetry never became his mainstream career but he kept writing poems every now and then. His poems are elegant and thought-provoking. He writes mainly in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. Gulzar’s poem also has hints of sarcasm and humour in them. It is amazing to see the talent of elaborating a story through lengthy songs and then doing the same with just a few lines. Both his talent for writing and the sheer amount of work that he has done makes him the greatest living poet of India.
The Indian film industry was fortunate enough to have a man of his genius at the dawn of the industry. His work has set an unmatchable standard for generations to come. His words have made millions of Indians fall in love with words and their power.