His own brand of cinema was about human relationships entangled in social issues, but veteran writer-filmmaker Gulzar believes the present generation of movie makers have more courage to express things in an open and bolder way.
In a discussion titled Kal Aaj Aur Kal at the 13th Habitat Film Festival, Gulzar, dressed in his trademark white kurta-pyjama, sat down with filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, to discuss the era gone by, the present and future of cinema in the country.
Looking back at the time when the new wave cinema had started, Gulzar reminisced: “Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and films of Sahni sahab (Balraj Sahni) did it… This was there in that era that there was a desire to say something, and the anxiety to be like, ‘If you get a chance, say it, express it’. This bechaini (restlessness) had taken birth for all creative people… Whether it was literature or cinema.
“A political comment had started coming in…There was also a fear as there was strictness of the censor board and government…That has been there and that strictness and we have seen it up to date. But today’s common man, he raises his voices.
“I got a chance to work with Vishal in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, which was on land grabbing…It’s an open expression which started coming in with this generation. I say I am with this generation holding their hands. Earlier it was that I was walking ahead, and now I am walking with them.
“Today’s cinema is an expression… this kind of cinema happens far and between, but making a musical on land grabbing and making it like that, is great. And Rakeysh’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is on sanitation issues…This generation is saying it openly and saying it boldly. I salute your generation.”
Gulzar’s own directorial credits include films like Mere Apne, Aandhi, Koshish, Ijaazat, Angoor and Maachis.
On the changes he has observed in Indian cinema over the years, the 83-year-old writer said: “When I came into cinema, films were about storytelling…I was very verbose, and used to have very exaggerated dialogues… But today’s generation relies more on visuals and they trust it to convey what they intend to.”
He said even the cinema halls were full of noise either of the food and drinks vendors or the projectors.
“Technically, our cinemas were handicapped,” he said, adding how today’s generation of filmmakers don’t have to grapple with such issues because of how advanced the techniques and equipments have become.
Touching upon how people keep brooding over the difference between old and new melodies in Indian cinema, Gulzar pointed out how it only — like the films — reflect life.
“People listen to old melodies and say they have a ‘thehrav’ (stillness) which is beautiful… But that was there in the life back then and in the stories of life. It can’t be that your life’s pace changes and the music remains the same. It will be out of sync.
“So, it will have to change with time and with the pace of life, and I feel it has changed beautifully.”
However, he said to have the physical presence of music in some form — as LPs, EPs, cassettes, CDs and now even pen drives are going out of fashion — lends a sense of nostalgia to the experience of listening to it.