Jiya Jale, The Stories of Songs by Nasreen Munni Kabir: Review

Book: Jiya Jale: The Stories of Songs

Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Pages: 199;

Price: Rs 499

“Sukoon-e-dil ke liye kuchh toh ahtemaam karoon Zara nazar jo mile phir unhein salaam karoon Mujhe toh hosh nahin, aap mashvara deejiye Kahaan se chhedoon fasana, kahaan tamaam karoon.”

(Let me do something for the soul-satisfaction/ If I get to see her, I’ll greet her/ I’m perplexed, you’d better suggest/Where to start the story from and where to end it)

–Shakeel Badayuni

Shakeel’s aforementioned quatrain articulates the dilemma of Nasreen Munni Kabir who chose to interview none other than Sampooran Singh Kalra ‘Gulzar’ to prise out a wealth of anecdotal life-experiences the versatile genius is a repertoire of. There’s so much to say and share for Gulzar that a narration can never end. ‘Zamana bade shauq se sun raha tha/ Humeen so gaye dastaan kahte-kahte’ (The world was listening to me with rapt attention/Alack, I fell asleep narrating my story).

Gulzar is a very venerable name in the film industry. A poet, lyricist, director, script-writer, story-teller, he’s all rolled into one. Nasreen Munni Kabir chatted with Gulzar and like a diver into the deep sea, came out with pearls of wisdom, anecdotes, fresh perceptions, reactions and replies of a man who’s widely regarded as the last remaining pillar of supreme creativity in Bollywood cinema and music.

Those who have earlier read Nasreen’s chats with Waheeda Rahman, will not feel let down after reading this conversational account. She asked interesting questions which reaffirm the saying that who asks intelligent questions often get absorbing answers. Kabir’s relevant questions evoked crisp replies and elicited from Gulzar, a cascade of free-flowing replies. In other words, the book is very animated. It’s a chat-book with due dignity. Here’s an example: Nasreen Munni Kabir asks Gulzar: Do you enjoy cooking? Gulzar says, “I can’t even boil an egg! I can make tea for myself. And that’s because I use a tea-bag (both laugh).” (Page 97)

The whole narration and the question-answer sessions bring out the honesty of Gulzar, who has been a witness to the very best in the past and has also seen the growing mediocrity in the tinsel-town. After reading this book, a discerning reader concludes that Gulzar is full of optimism. Never does one find even a streak of cynicism in him. That’s why, he adjusts himself to working with new and young talents and refrains from casting opprobrium on them. He’s open to new idioms, challenges and issues and doesn’t dwell upon the past and lost glories. This contemporary outlook makes him stand out. In other words, Gulzar hasn’t become an anachronism even in his eighties.

A lovely book for those, interested in Gulzar’s persona and brilliant craftsmanship. Full marks to NMK for this magnificent book.

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