Updated: March 23, 2021 8:13:22 am
A newspaper article led to the creation of one of the masterpieces of Bollywood’s once-thriving “Muslim social” genre. Bazaar (1982) was written after its director Sagar Sarhadi read a report about young girls being married off to older Arabs in Hyderabad. At the time, he was one of the most sought-after writers in Bollywood, having scripted hits such as Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Noorie (1979) and Silsila (1981). He had refined his skill as a writer under the guidance of Kaifi Azmi and Sajjad Zaheer, titans of the Progressive Writers’ Association and had himself been a part of the Indian People’s Theatre Association. It is this lineage that, perhaps, compelled him to take a hard look at this story of exploitation. Bazaar was an unexpected box-office hit and is remembered as a classic for powerful performances and Khayyam’s immortal music.
Born Gangasagar Talwar near Abbottabad in today’s Pakistan, the writer carried the memories of his native land — the Urdu name for which is Sooba Sarhad — in his nom de plume. His family was displaced during Partition. After completing his schooling in Delhi, Sarhadi moved to Mumbai, where he began to publish short stories and direct plays. He also started to write screenplays and dialogue for films to make a living.
Despite his five decades in Bollywood, Sarhadi’s filmography is brief. It was partly the result of his own choices and partly because the kind of films he wrote, with their literary flair, well-observed psychological details and sharp dialogue, had increasingly ceased to interest the audience. But even with his short filmography, Sarhadi left a lasting impact. He had a talent for plumbing the depths of the human heart to create indelible characters; the strong women characters he scripted were brought to life by artists such as Rakhi, Smita Patil, Rekha and Shabana Azmi. His demise marks the end of a singular voice in Hindi cinema.
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