Gulzar: An intellectual highbrow

In 2014, I was in Pakistan’s Punjab province. My familiarity with Pakistan is akin to knowing the back of my palm. I was in district Jhelum. From there, I went to Dina, the birthplace of Sampooran Singh Kalra, ‘Gulzar’. He was born there on August 18, 1934. So, it was his 80th birthday.

It was indeed heart-warming to see the celebrations at the Government College, Dina to mark the 80th birthday of Gulzar, who’s equally loved in both the countries. The words of the principal Mr Tariq Abbas still reverberate in my memory: Gulzar sahab ek mukammal kaaynaat hain (Gulzar sahab is a complete universe). He sure is. Ali Sardar Jaffri said of Mirza Ghalib, ‘Iss qadar tera daayra-e- tasavvur tha/Koi shai teri nazar se achhooti na rahi’ (Such was the expanse of his thinking/Nothing remained untouched by his vision).

Without a hyperbole, the same applies to the creative vastness of Gulzar. Nothing remains untouched by his magical quill. Despite the profundity of his persona, depth of his poetry, richness of language and delineation of inner feelings and relationships, Gulzar’s poetry is not delphic. It talks to you and strikes an immediate rapport with the readers and listeners. Gulzar is arguably the only poet alongside Raghupati Sahay ‘Firaq’ Gorakhpuri who can claim to convey the poetic messages in the simplest language.

Urdu critic Dr Gopichand Narang aptly said, ‘Gulzar ko samajhne ke liye aapko lughat ki darkaar nahin’ (to understand Gulzar, you needn't refer to a dictionary). Simplicity is his métier and candour is his forte. His fabulous poetry is shorn of Persianzed vocabulary, but enriched with delicate metaphors like ‘Aankhon ki mahakti khushboo’ or ‘Aawaaz mein pad gayeen daraarein.’

In his quaint visual imagery, eyes can have fragrance and voice may develop cracks and crevices. Just think over the figure of speech: Aawaaz mein pad gayeen daraarein. The word ' Daraarein' is not mere cracks, but cracks with crevices. Gulzar is a past master in using expanding metaphors with layers of connotational possibilities.

There’s always a beautifully enshrined psychological twist to his lyrics. Remember the immortal song, ‘Jab bhi ye dil udaas hota hai’ (Film: Seema, Rafi-Sharda, 1971). There’s a lovely couplet in it which is pregnant with meanings: Koi vaada nahin kiya lekin kyon tera intazaar rahta hai/Bevajah jab qaraar mil jaaye, dil bada beqaraar rahta hai (There was no promise, yet why I wait for you/When peace descends effortlessly, heart is always restless). With this amazingly deft couplet, Gulzar explains the mind's dilemma and heart's restlessness so masterfully.

Gulzar’s equal mastery over poetry and prose makes him uniquely creative because his works have a lyrical quality of poetry and gravitas of purple and chiseled prose. That's why, Gulzar seldom stoops and always maintains the gravity of creativity. Just like his sombre personality, his oeuvre is also equally dignified. To encapsulate, Gulzar is an intellectual highbrow. Yet, he doesn't browbeat with his fascinating creativity. Long live, Gulzar sahab.

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Free Press Journal