Writer and filmmaker Gulzar on winning the Dadasaheb Phalke award, his hopes for the new generation and the realism of current cinema.
You’ve got so many awards, but does being felicitated with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award feel like something else?
Yes, this one evokes a different feeling. This award has summed up my lifetime’s work — it’s not just for one song, film or composition. You know, my father was very disappointed when he got to know that I wanted to write poems. I remember, he said, “Saade ghar eh marasi kithon jam paya? (How did an entertainer take birth in our family?)” I wish my father were alive today because then he would know ki uss marasi nu manzil labh gayi (that the entertainer has found his destination).
You were telling me that your father was the first person you wanted to talk to after you heard the news.
Yes. I just wanted to tell him that I hadn’t done too badly for myself. We come from a vyaapari (business) family. In those days, going into the film industry was not considered a compliment. I wanted to be a poet and a writer; films were never my dream. My father couldn’t understand what was the need for me to go away, if I just wanted to write. He used to tell me, “Kitaaban likhniya ne taa ghar bai ke likh le, par hatti te taan jaana payega (If you want to write books then do so sitting at home, but you have to go to the shop).” I was tickled to read that something like this had happened to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too. He was busy reading his books when his father asked him, “Majj da gataava othe rakh de (Go and keep the buffalo’s mixture there).” He was so immersed in reading that he didn’t hear his father. So his father said, with a note of exasperation, “Inaa ki padh raha hai tu, kaida pradhan mantri ban jaana hai? (Why are you studying so much, are you going to become the prime minister?)” (Laughs) This is what happens. Pata thode hi hota hai (nobody can foretell).
When was the first time you realised you could write?
Yaad kahan rehta hai (One forgets). But it’s only in the last 15-20 years that I got the confidence that I could write.
Really, just 15-20 years ago?
(Nods) Tees-chalees saal lag jaate hain vaagh pakadne mein (It takes 30-40 years to hold the reins). Gaane toh achche likh raha tha (I was writing good songs) and that gave me a feeling of fulfillment, but then I used to think ki iss baar toh ho gaya lekin next time hoga ki continued…