How Gulzar Entered Bollywood...And No It Wasn't As Straightforward As You Think

There is hardly anything that you don’t know about Gulzar, the most celebrated film poet of our times. But he wasn’t always keen on joining films. A part of him wanted to stay in the academics and probably would have become a college professor, but things changed once he met Bimal Roy for whom he wrote Mora Gora Ang Lai Le in Bandini (1963).

In an old interview given to Rajya Sabha TV, he recalls his earlier days in the Hindi film industry and how his friendship with another celebrated lyricist Shailendra pushed him to go for writing songs and then directing films.

It all began in Bombay, now Mumbai’s Bilas Road, where Sampooran Singh Kalra alias Gulzar was working as a motor mechanic. He very candidly remembers how he loved to mix colours for cars that required patchwork after dents and accidents. He says that the owner of the garage knew that Gulzar wanted to become a writer.

Gulzar’s passion for literature was cut short due to the India-Pakistan partition. This pain of leaving studies midway remained with him for a long time. In fact, he didn’t ever leave reading despite hardships. He was sent to his brother in Mumbai, but their relationship didn’t take off. Eventually Gulzar enrolled himself for formal education in Mumbai again.

This was the time when he came in contact with established writers like Krishan Chander and Ali Sardar Jafri. These writers were a part of the Progressive Writers Association and had an affiliation to the left parties of India. Interestingly, Gulzar denies being a card holder of any of the left parties.

Eventually, Shailendra sent him to meet Bimal Roy. There he also came in contact with artistes like Salil Chaudhary, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Bhattacharya and many other stalwarts of Hindi films and literature. It gave him the foundation he always wanted.

Call it his short-sightedness, but Gulzar didn’t want to write for films for long at that point of time. He, in fact, said this to Bimal Roy, but Roy’s reply made him stay in the game, forever. Actually, Roy said to him that it’s fine if he doesn’t want to write for films, but the motor garage is not a place he should be focussing on. Gulzar says it made him cry and that was probably the beginning of a master storyteller in Hindi films.

Gulzar’s journey is still continued in all its glory. This year, Gulzar’s songs were heard in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon. They weren’t great hits like most of his songs, but he is still very much in the game. Despite being 83, this poet is at the top of his powers.

To celebrate his birthday, here is a playlist of 23 of his memorable songs: