New Delhi: Poet, lyricist, author, screenwriter, director – there isn’t any aspect of Hindi films and literature that hasn’t been impacted by Gulzar’s magic touch and now the maestro is penning his memoirs of the greats he has worked with because memories never dry up and “keep floating somewhere”.
It’ll be the perfect complement to a compendium of 365 poems, one for every day of the year, by 279 poets in 34 languages written over the seven decades of Independence and appearing in English and Hindustani that he describes it as his “tribute to the many languages of India that happen to be local yet form a part of our national identity”
“Memories don’t dry up really. They keep floating somewhere between the conscious and the subconscious mind. It’s a great feeling to swim there sometime. Pick up a few bubbly moments and cherish them again,” Gulzar says of “Actually… I Met Them: A Memoir” (Penguin) in which he recounts his encounters with the stalwarts of Indian cinema, art, literature and music.
“I was fortunate to be born in the era of some of the greatest masters, and was lucky that I actually met them. I got a chance to work with a few. There were Gurus, friends and colleagues among them,” he adds.
In this fascinating book, Gulzar shares candid anecdotes from his association with some of the most eminent people he had known and worked with over a long period of time – from Satyajit Ray to R.D. Burman, Kishore Kumar, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Mahasweta Devi and Samaresh Basu, among others.
In addition, there will be chapters on contemporary filmmakers, writers, poets, musicians, singers and actors. The book will open a window for readers to get to know some of the doyens of Indian art, culture and cinema through the lens of the gifted artist as he shares his special memories and experiences of working with them. Studded with rare photographs and scintillating humour, this book will be a compelling tale for a wide spectrum of readers.
“We grew up with Gulzar Saab’s works. His lyrics, poems, short stories and movies are a part of our upbringing and legacy. He is a wizard with words. Actuallyï¿½I Met Them will be a valuable addition to India’s publishing landscape. Just as the author, this book, too, shall be lively, freewheeling, almost lyrical and utterly engaging. We are thrilled to have Gulzar Saab with us,” said Premanka Goswami, executive editor, Penguin Random House India.
The verses in his other work, the 976-page “A Poem a Day” (HarperCollins), have been personally chosen by Gulzar himself, and feature the works of poets from the north, south, west and east of India, as well as the northeast, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, presenting kaleidoscopic view of history, human experience and poetic expression since 1947.
The book began “as a thought – why not have a poem to read for every day of the year, selected from the wonderful Indian poetry that has been written since 1947? I started with some of my favourite poets, but almost before I knew it, we had poetry by 279 different poets writing in as many as 34 languages,” Gulzar said in an audio message on the occasion.
“I firmly believe that poetry doesn’t know any borders, so, along with poets from Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala, Goa, Odisha, I included poets writing in Tamil in Sri Lanka, in Bangla in Bangladesh and in Urdu and Punjabi in Pakistan,” he added.
“The poems appear in English translation, which is a language that, thanks to our history, a majority of Indians are familiar with. But I wished to make the poems my own, and to write them again in my own way in a language and idiom that is truly our own; therefore I transcreated the poems (except the ones that were originally written in Hindi or Urdu) in Hindustani, the language in which I write.
“This was a massive project but a very rewarding one too. The poetry of India can be truly known only if one takes into account the poetry of all its languages. ‘A Poem a Day’ is my tribute to the many languages of India that happen to be local yet form a part of our national identity. It is also a personal selection of the Indian poetry that contributed to my journey of becoming a poet, and the poetry that I have found the most memorable,” he said.