In India, nothing can bring people close to poetry than film songs, be it in any language. Many would remember the stunning lyrics of poets or lyricists such as Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Anand Bakshi, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar among others, often spending time to relish the beauty of their poetic lines.
In 1963, the much-reputed filmmaker Bimal Roy’s film Bandini was released. The film was a moderate hit and garnered several awards that year. The film also saw the arrival of Gulzar, poet and lyricist, on the scene of Hindi film industry.
Gulzar wrote his first song for the movie — Mora gora ang lai le, mohe shyam rang dai de (take away my fair skin, make me dark-skinned like Krishna). He chose to write the song with words in Awadhi.
“It is how people speak in North Indian villages. And so you know the character singing this song in the film is someone living in a village or a small town, just by the vocabulary,” Gulzar explains in an interview with writer and documentary filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir, the author of the book, Jiya Jale - The Stories of Songs.
Jiya Jale is a book of conversations between Gulzar and the author Kabir, focussing on the making of his iconic songs in Hindi films over the years.
The book starts with the making of the Hindi film song Jiya Jale from the film Dil Se. This was the first song that Lata Mangeshkar recorded with the maker of this song, A R Rahman. Conversation between the author and Gulzar then leads the reader through the process of the making of this song and English translations of the song. On Jiya Jale, Gulzar says the words of the song poetically describe the wedding night.
The book, entirely in conversation mode, examines the making of over 40 songs over a period of time, with English translations of these songs.
Gulzar’s work in films has fascinated movie-goers through the years with as much passion as in his earlier years. He has been able to stand apart from among the many Hindi film song writers with his evocative style and words that leave the listener awestruck.
Most listeners do not go for the lyrics straightaway. People, according to Gulzar, get attracted to the tune of the song and then go looking for the words and finally, the meaning of the song.
Gulzar speaks about many of his songs including Beedi Jalaile from the film Omkara, Dil Toh Bachcha Hai from the film Ishqiya, Dil Hoom Hoom Kare from Rudaali, Thok De Killi from Raavan, Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire, Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi from Khamoshi, Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai from Golmaal, Yaara Seeli Seeli from Lekin and Tujhse Naraz Nahi Zindagi from Masoom among others.
Mera Kuchh Saamaan Tumhare Paas Pada Hai is the song Gulzar wrote for the 1987 film Ijaazat. What was initially considered a long song and also refered to as “luggage” song by its maker R D Burman, actually went on to become hugely popular and get the National Award for the Best Lyrics and Best Singer.
The song, sung by Asha Bhosle, describes a relationship that’s ending, says Gulzar. According to him, the song came to him like a poem while writing the screenplay for Ijaazat. Jiya Jale is a repository of anecdotes that Gulzar talks about while describing his songs. While reminiscing about working with Madan Mohan, Gulzar says he was a great cook. “He was a terrific cook and cooked with great style,” he says of the music director.
R D Burman was also a great cook, and so was Asha Bhosle. Salil Chowdhury was also passionate about cooking, he says.
Jiya Jale is an easy read and allows the reader to go back and forth through the pages for the songs and the anecdotes that Gulzar fills in on the filming of these, interspersed with comments about filmmakers, music directors and their style of functioning.
For lovers of Hindi film music, especially those with a discerning interest in good poetry, this book is a must-read.