When I Met Gulzar

When I Met Gulzar

“What’s the matter?” Lulu, my parrot, asked giving me a curious look. “You were reading till midnight?”

“My friend NS Iyer surprised me with a gift, a book; ‘Gulzar – Actually I have met them’ and I put down the book only after reading it completely. ‘Binge read’ – is it what they call it?”

“Ha, ha! Gulzar must have written about all filmi people. And he understands people well.”

“Gulzar narrated in a series of interviews to somebody and it has been made into this book. What strikes me is his ability to create a picture of a person in just three or four pages. Gifted man, this Gulzar.”

“He must have written about mostly Bengalis. He is a Punjabi, and he says he is as much a Bengali as he is a Punjabi.”

“Yes, He has talked about Bimal Roy, Hemant Kumar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Salil Chowdhary to name a few. Most of them are not in this world. Except Sharmila Tagore.”

“All great persons. Do you see anything common in them?”

“They were gifted artists, but they were also like any common man. Salil Chowdhury was ‘indolent’ who focused on Table Tennis more than his work. Hrishikesh Mukherjee had a great weakness for the game of chess. Kishore Kumar was eccentric genius who ‘had heart absolutely pure, untainted. …. That hardly means he never faced any hurt, because he surely did. But whatever it was, to him it was like water off a duck’s back. Neither did he accept it, nor did he reject it.’”

“Artists are like common persons and yet not like common persons!”

“True. But it was also about the hard work. Gulzar talks about the hard work of Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy and the like. And if you ask me what one thread is common in all the eighteen persons he talks about, it is their ability to build relationships. That includes Suchitra Sen too.”


“Bimal Roy might be seen authoritarian, but he connected with Gulzar at a certain level. So did Hemant Kumar, RD Burman, Mahasweta Devi. Great persons have a way of connecting with people.”

“What are some things which will stay with you?”

“Hmmm … There is actually a lot of ‘Hmmm’ in this book, but that apart, let me think.”

“Tell me”

“I will rather read out two paragraphs from the book”


“He writes about Pancham, or RD Burman as we know him. ‘The more I am reminded of Pancham’s genius, the more it brightens up my soul. And I can’t help but reflect on what a huge personality I have worked with. However, while working together I never understood the magnitude of his genius. The fact is that when we are in a race, we hardly have any sense of our speed; we can only make sense of it when we step out and observe from sidelines. Can we guess the velocity of an aeroplane while travelling in it?’”

“Well said. Did you ever have similar feelings about your office colleagues who were exceptional?”

“Exactly. You got it right. I had the same thoughts. Now, let me read out one more paragraph.”

“Go ahead.”

“Between Pancham and I there was a silent communication that existed. Is that what they call chemistry? Or was it an absolute understanding that stems from a sense of belonging? Can it be called belonging at all? Or was it that both of us has kept a part of our own selves in safe custody with the other, which ensured our views always took on similar hues. Perhaps that’s what it was. It’s what makes most sense to me.’”

“Such a high awareness of his own feelings! Have you experienced this also?”

“Yes, Lulu. From communication our relationships move to communion; only with a few, not with all. It is special.”

“I get your point. We read a book because we discover ourselves in parts. It will surely happen when you are reading Gulzar, the gifted writer and poet. Gulzar paints a portrait of his subject, with just a few brush strokes, or rather, just a few words.”

“So true.”

“As long as you see your reflection in them and their relationships, there will be food for thought, and those stories will mean much more. Do you get me?”

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”