The Anger of Gulzar: Unlike his softly musing romantic poetry, Gulzar sahab's political verse is hard-hitting and edgy
On his birthday, a look at the poet extraordinaire's writing on communal violence, corruption, unemployment. The tone and words here are different from Gulzar's beautiful romantic verse.
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Anpnee marzee se to mazhab bhi nahin usne chuna tha
Uska mazhab tha jo maan baap se hee usne viraasat mein liya tha
Apne maan-baap chune koyee ye mumkin hee kahan hai?
Us pe ye mulk bhi laazim tha, ki maan baap ka ghar tha isme
Yeh watan to uska chunaav to nahihn tha.
Woh to kul nau hee baras ka tha usen kyon chunkar
Phirkadarana fasaadaat ne kal qatal kiya...
(He did not choose his religion
He inherited it from his parents
How is it possible for anyone to choose their parents
The country was by virtue of where his parents lived
He had not chosen his country.
He was only nine, why was he picked up
By communal rioters and slaughtered...)
- 'Viraasat’, Raat Pashmine Ki, p 18
Gulzar, a contemporary Indian poet, is a household name.
Although he is largely recognised as a romantic poet, there is a huge body of his work on the social concerns of the nation.
He himself is an eye-witness to the Partition and has struggled to come to terms with the gory memories of violence. What is striking is that his writings are not provocative in any form but only show his sensitivity and arouse sorrow amongst his readers/audiences.
Everyday. Yet, exceptional: Gulzar's political poetry, angry and anguished, like his romantic Bollywood lyrics, moves many. (Photo: Reuters)
Always troubled by the unrest and the killings that he saw around, there are a series of poems that Gulzar has written questioning God, titled, ‘Fasaadat 1 – 6’ in Raat Pashmine Ki.
He questions the very presence and existence of God, in his poem ‘Fasadaat 2’.
Moazza koyee bhi uss shab naa hua
Jitney bhi log the us roz ibaadatgah mein
Sab ke hoton pe dua thi
Aur aankhon mein chiraagan tha yakeen ka
Ke Khuda ka ghar hai
Zalzale tod nahin sakta ise,
Aag jala saktee nahin
Saikdon moazze ki sabne hikaayat sunee theen
Saikdon naamon se un sabne pukara usko
Ghaib se koyee bhi awaaz nahin aayee kisi ki,
Na Khuda ki, na police ki !!
Sab ke sab bhune gaye aag mein, aur bhasm hue
Maozza koyee bhi us shab na hua!
(No miracles occurred that night
All those who were in the place of worship that night
Had prayers on their lips
And the light of conviction in their eyes
That they were in the house of God
Earthquakes cannot damage it
Fire cannot burn it
Everyone had heard of hundreds of miracles
Everyone remembered God with hundreds of names
No one heard any divine voice
Neither of the God – nor of the police!
All of them were torched alive
No miracles occurred that night)
- Gulzar, Raat Pashmine Ki, p 16
And, goes on to put God on trial in the ending couplet of ‘Fasaadat 3’:
Aazmaish ki thi kal raat khudaon ke liye
Kal mere shaher mein ghar unke jalaye sab ne!!
(The Gods were under trial last night
Their homes in my city were torched yesterday!!)
- Gulzar, Raat Pashmine Ki, p 17
There is a marked difference between the kind of writing that Gulzar does for films vis-à-vis what he has published in his anthologies of poetry.
Although there are political songs for films also, especially in the films that he himself directed (such as Mere Apne, Aandhi, Maachis and Hu Tu Tu), the political poetry in his anthology is stark and blunt.
(1971) Meena Kumari with Director Gulzar during the shoot of ‘Mere Apne’. pic.twitter.com/UHlOWusx9q— Film History Pics (@FilmHistoryPic) March 31, 2018
One can come to the conclusion that with regard to the former, Gulzar is bound up with the storyline and market dynamics — but with the former, he has the free will to express his innermost anguish, his take on the socio-political reality in a manner that he wishes to. An apt example would be the manner the poet treats the issue of elections, and the intentions of the politicians, as he writes for Aandhi (1975) and for a poem. The song, 'Salaam Kijey', a parody on the elections, draws a comparison between the situation, pre and post-elections. Respect, bubbling with sarcasm, is given to the politicians who come out to reach to the masses, canvassing before the elections, in our democracy.
Salaam kijeye, aalijanab aaye hain
Yeh paanch saalon ka dene hisaab aaye hain
Hamare vote khareednein humko ann dekar
Yeh nange jism chupa dete hain qafan dekar
Yeh jadugar hain, yeh chutki mein kaam karte hain
Yeh bhook-pyas ko baton se Ram karte hain
(Pay regards, Her highness is here
Has come to answer for the last five years
Want to buy our votes, giving us grains
They hide naked bodies with shroud
They are magicians, they work in a jiffy
They kill hunger with the talk of the Gods)
When expressing his mistrust in the democratic elections in a Triveni (a three-line poem form propounded by Gulzar, where there is a hidden/unsaid meaning between the second and the third line), Gulzar writes,
Parcheeyan bat rahi hain galiyon mein
Apne qaatil ka intekhaab karo
Waqt yeh saqt hai chunaav ka
(Pamphlets are being distributed in the lanes
Choose your murderer
These are the testing times of elections)
- Gulzar, Triveni, p 33
In Mere Apne (1971), his directorial debut, Gulzar brings out the helplessness of a common man. The song, 'Haal Chaal Theek Thaak Hai', on the unemployed youth and its frustration, peppered with wit, humour and satire, and written about five decades ago, has become timeless, as the situation still seems to be the same.
Haal chaal theek thaak hai
Sab kuch theek thaak hai
B.A. kiya hai, M.A. kiya hai
Lagta hai woh bhi aiwain kiya hai
Kaam nahin hai warna yahan
Aapki dua se sab theek thaak hai
(I am doing fine
Everything is fine
I have done my B.A and M.A
Looks like, have done it just like that
I don’t have work, else
With your blessing, everything is fine)
The song, 'Salaam Kijey', a parody on the elections, draws a comparison between the situation, pre and post-elections. (Photo: Reuters)
Be it questioning God for all the killings and misery in the world, or expressing his distaste at the manner in which politicians exploit the masses, there is an inherent anguish in Gulzar’s writing when he observes the socio-political situation of the county. An apt poem to conclude would the ending couplet of ‘Akhbaar’ which expresses a certain grief and anger at the various killings and unnecessary bloodshed in the nation.
Roz subah akhbaar mere ghar
Khoon mein lathpath aata hai
(Every morning the newspaper
Comes drenched in blood to my house).
- Gulzar, Pukhraj, p 9
(The present write-up includes excerpts from the author's doctoral thesis. All translations are by the author herself)