The real over the reel

Right in the middle
Last Updated : 08 October 2022, 08:06 IST

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One fine afternoon over a year ago, my phone rang. “Am I speaking to Mulla Saheb? I’m Gulzar here,” said the person on the other side of the line. Impressed by the caller’s chaste Urdu, I guessed that it was none other than Sampooran Singh Kalra, better known as Gulzar. I had written him a letter just a week earlier. “Yes, sir,” I replied, barely concealing my excitement.

Gulzar then enquired about my deaf and dumb father, who’s no more, my hometown, its literary culture, language, climate, and so on.

I had written the letter in my admiration for Gulzar’s rendering of Mirza Ghalib’s ghazal at ‘Jashn-e-Rekhta’, a festival of Urdu poetry, which I watched on YouTube. I also expressed my appreciation for his immortal films like Aandhi, Khushboo, Kinara, Mausam, Mere Apne, Parichay, Koshish among many many more.

Among all his films, Koshish, released in 1972, was very close to my heart because its main characters were deaf and dumb, just like my father. It was my father who had taken me to the movie theatre to watch the film.

It is likely that my father derived the right lesson from the film. He overcame his disability and poverty to raise and educate all his five sons. The film portrays the couple’s everyday struggles, especially the way they raise their child and make a success out of him.

In hindsight, as I recall, I started loving my dad ever so intensely after watching the film. Sitting on the veranda, I would eagerly wait for his return from the local factory where he worked.

As soon as he returned home, I would sit down with him, communicating in his characteristic sign language.

Long after he has passed, my eyes well up, because he is no longer around to witness the successful lives all his five sons are leading. He would have been immensely happy.

My second daughter, who was sitting beside me overhearing my conversation with Gulzar, gesticulated to me that she too wanted to speak to him. Gulzar Saheb obliged her and asked about her literary pursuits.

Then to my utter bewilderment, she requested Gulzar Saheb to send an endorsed copy of his latest collection of Urdu poems. He agreed and hung up. He called back almost immediately, asking whether she knew Urdu. This time, I didn’t want to lag behind. As she was talking, I took the phone from her to lay my claim to another of his books.

Within a week, we had his prized books. On August 18 this year, I called up Gulzar to greet him on his birthday. He didn’t answer but called back moments later. “Haan, kahiye Mulla Saheb,” he said in his characteristic baritone.

I find it incredible that a multifaceted personality like Gulzar Saheb, a poet and lyricist par excellence, a fine filmmaker and the winner of many national and international awards, responded to a simple letter written by a layman like me. This only shows his greatness, his humanity, and the importance he attaches to human relations.

Published 07 October 2022, 16:49 IST

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