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Gulzar: Redefining Poetry and Purpose In Cinema

May 3, 2014 | By

Gulzar’s films are not only known for their tight screenplay, witty dialogues and themes that explore intense humanism or burning political issues. They are also famous for their awe-inspiring music.

Gulzar with the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke award

Gulzar with the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke award

Celebrated poet, lyricist and acclaimed film director Gulzar was honored with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2013, India’s highest award for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema on May 3.

An overwhelmed Gulzar in his acceptance speech, remembered and thanked his mentor and “gurus”. “There are few moments in life when for a writer, whose work is to play with words, doesn’t know what words to choose to express gratitude and thank people. I want to say that no person will reach this stage without the support of several people…I was lucky that when I started, I met many people from whom I learnt – my guru Bimal Roy, who held me by the hand, picked me up from a mediocre place and took me along with him…there was Salil Chowdhary, Sachin Dev Burman, Hemant Kumar…I was lucky to begin my journey with such gurus,” Gulzar said.

The acclaimed filmmaker-lyricist has been a winner of several prestigious film awards in the past, including the National Award (five times) and also the Oscar for the Best Original Score for “Jai Ho” song from Slumdog Millionaire along with AR Rahman and Sukhwinder.

Born on 18 August 1934 as Sampooran Singh Kalra, Gulzar Sahab (pen name) is a critically-acclaimed director and a celebrated poet and lyricist.

Gulzar worked as a car mechanic before Bimal Roy gave him his first break as a lyricist with “Mora Gora Ang Layle“, picturised on Nutan in Bandini (1963). This song, which was one of the several melodious tracks in the film (the rest were written by Shailendra) signaled the beginning of Gulzar’s extensive and highly fruitful association with music composer S D Burman and later his son R D Burman.

Mora gora ang layi le (Bandini, 1963)

From Bandini started a journey of a poet-lyricist who went on to become one of the most celebrated and successful script writers and film directors of the country.

Mentored by Bimal Roy, who can be arguably called the flagbearer of neo-realistic cinema in India (as Roy’s Udayer Pathey (Bengali) and Do Bigha Zameen signaled the arrival of realistic themes and treatment on the Indian screen), Gulzar worked closely with talented and successful directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Asit Sen, to create screenplay and dialogues of some of the most memorable films including Anand, Aashirwad, Guddi, Aashirwad, Chupke Chupke, Khoobsurat, Bawarchi, and Khamoshi to name a few.

Gulzar made his directorial debut with Mere Apne (1971), which was a remake of Tapan Sinha‘s Bengali hit Apanjan – a film that explored the angst of the rudderless college-dropouts caught in the whirlpool of violence engineered by political vested interests. Following the success of Mere Apne, a film in which Meena Kumari gave one of her life’s best performances as the spunky and golden-hearted old woman, Gulzar went on to adapt some celebrated literary works on screen.

Parichay (1972), starring Jaya Bhaduri and Jeetendra was based on a Bengali novel, Rangeen Uttarain by Raj Kumar Maitra and inspired by the Hollywood and Broadway musical The Sound Of Music.

Khushboo (1975), which had Hema Malini and Jeetendra in the lead was adapted from the Bengali novel “Panditmoshai” by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Aandhi (1975), which saw two of the finest actors Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar giving stellar performances, was a screen adaptation of Kaali Aandhi, a novel by Kamaleshwar.

The Naseeruddin Shah-Rekha-Anuradha Paudwal starrer Ijaazat (1987) was based on a Bengali story Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh.

Angoor (1982), which is counted among the best comedies in Hindi cinema, was inspired from Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors. It starred Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in double roles, ably supported by Moushumi Chatterjee and Deepti Naval.

Mausam (1975) was loosely based on the novel, The Judas Tree by A.J. Cronin and fetched Sharmila Tagore the National Award for Best Actress for her double role performance. Dil Dhoondta Hai – a melodious song in Mausam sung by Bhupinder Singh and Lata Mangeshkar, featured at the 12th position on the Annual list of the year-end chart toppers of Binaca Geetmala for 1976.

Lekin (1991) was inspired from Rabindranath Tagore‘s Kshudito Paashan (Hungry Stones) and starred Dimple Kapadia and Hema Malini in stellar performances.

Koshish (1972), written by Gulzar himself, dealt with the unusual theme of the travails and tribulations of a hearing impaired couple in an insensitive society. Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar, both known for their effortless and natural acting skills performed the roles of this disabled couple with amazing dexterity.

Gulzar has been known to deal with political themes in his films since his very first film Mere Apne, which was followed by Aandhi. In fact, Aandhi was even banned for some time following a controversy about the central character of Aarti being inspired by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s life, although that was not the case.

“Tere Bina Zindagi Se” song picturised on Sanjeev Kumar & Suchitra Sen and sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar is an evergreen song that still touches a chord.

In later years, Gulzar made two more films on the raging political issues of that period – Maachis (1996), which explored the trauma of common people during the Sikh insurgency in Punjab and Hu Tu Tu (1999), which is about how families get ruined when caught in the midst of power hungry struggles for political gains.

Gulzar’s films are not only known for their tight screenplay, witty dialogues and themes that explore intense humanism or burning political issues. They are also famous for their awe-inspiring music.

Gulzar The Lyricist

Though Gulzar’s career as a lyricist started with Bandini, he came into his own with Asit Sen’s Khamoshi, a remake of the Bengali hit Deep Jele Jai. Writes Ganesh Anantharaman in his book Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, “It was with Khamoshi that Gulzar took off as lyricist, writing about what fascinated him most: relationships, and doing it in a manner that was daringly defiant. ‘Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehekti khushboo’, raised many literary eyebrows for the alleged faux paus of ‘dekhi hain mehekti khushboo’, but Gulzar was unfazed. When the song clicked, he found his identity as lyricist. The song remains his finest, at once a plea for love to exist and an assertion: ‘Sirf ehsaas hai yeh rooh se mehsoos karo/ Pyaar ko pyaar hi rehne do koi naam na do’. The music of this film composed by Hemant Kumar, including the soulful ‘Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thhi’, became a raging hit.


Gulzar’s sharp insights into relationships are visible in the exquisitely melodious songs of Basu Bhattacharya’s Anubhav where the dulcet voice of Geeta Dutt expresses the beauty of love within the institution of marriage ‘Mujhe ja na kaho meri jaan’.

The loneliness of being caught in the whirlpool of the city of Mumbai, that speeds by relentless, untiring, brutal is best expressed in the haunting ‘Ek akela is sheher mein’ (sung by Bhupinder Singh) in Gharonda although Gulzar won his first Filmfare award for its counterpart song in the same film, the light and peppy ‘Do deewane sheher mein’ which captures the joy of a couple in love in the same city.

Paying rich tributes to Gulzar, Lata Mangeshkar said, “Lending my voice to your lyrics has been an honour. The power of your writing was very deep and identifiable. Like every singer, I too occasionally felt that you wrote certain songs for me. I could be wrong, but kabhi kabhi mujhe aisa lagta tha. I felt especially the song ‘Naam gum jayega… meri awaaz hi pechan hai’ (Kinara, 1977) was written for me.” (Source: Hindustan Times)

Says Peeyush Sharma, the prolific Canada-based writer on cinema who was also the founder-secretary of Vintage Hindi Film Music Lovers’ Association in Bangalore in mid 80s, “Look at Gulzar’s first Mere Apne, what an outstanding job with Haal chal theek thak hai, the entire concept just stands out. He has always been brilliant with very few exceptions.”

Gulzar’s most prolific partnership happened with his bosom pal R D Burman and the duo came up with unforgettable songs starting with Parichay – ‘Musafir hoon yaaron’ (Parichay), Is mod se jaate hain (Aandhi), ‘Naam gum jayega’ (Kinara), ‘Aaj kal paaon zameen par’ (Ghar), ‘Aanewala pal, jaanewala hai’ (Golmaal) and ‘Roz roz daali daali kya nikhra bhanwra’ (Angoor) and non-film albums such as Dil Padosi Hai.

He picked up the National Award for ‘Mera kuch saaman tumhare paas pada hai’ (Ijaazat), composed by R D Burman and ‘Yaara seeli seeli’ (Lekin), composed by Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

Gulzar’s forte lies in weaving imagery with words that make the listener effortless visualize the poetry in innocuous moments, in the most discreet happening, in the daily walk of life.

Barfili sardiyon mein, kisi bhi pahaad par,
Waadi mein goonjti hui khamoshiyan suney
Aankhon mein bheege bheege se sapne liye huey (Mausam)

These lines can carry the listener into the snow-clad mountains where the silence echoes your dreams across the towering ranges.

In umra se lambi sadkon ko,
manzil pe pahunchte dekha nahin
Bas daudti phirti rehti hai
humne to theharte dekha nahin (Gharonda)

These lines invariably come to mind when I am driving down those long, unending roads wondering when I will reach my destination.

Tum jo kehdo to aaj ki raat chaand doobega nahin
raat ko rok lo
Raat ki baat hai aur zindagi baaki to nahin (Aandhi)

Can you think of a better way to express that illusory desire to desperately hold on to time?

Jo guzar gayi kal ki baat thi,
umra to nahin, ek raat thi
Raat ka siraa agar phir mile kahin (Kinara)

The past is gone, a bit of time, but how would it be if I could find an edge of it somewhere?

When Gulzar collaborated with the King of Ghazals Jagjit Singh, it led to the creation of some of the most melodious and sublime poetry in Marasim. Mammo brought Gulzar together with Shyam Benegal and Jagjit Singh together, and with three of the most talented minds creating music the result, not surprisingly, was a masterpiece.

Yeh Faasle (Mammo)

Gulzar also has a rich repertoire of writing songs for children. Masterji ki aa gayi chitthi (Kitaab), Lakdi ki kaathi (Masoom), Jungal jungal baat chali hai pata chala hai (TV Serial Jungle Book) are among the most loved songs for kids.

“I think my style has been to write songs that children can play with; songs that are really a game,” Gulzar said in an interview to Ganesh Anantharaman for his book Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, and added, “I’ll confess humbly that I’ve learnt this art of writing children from Sukumar Ray, whom I consider the greatest poet for children.” (Sukumar Ray, the father of filmmaker Satyajit Ray was a Bengali humorous poet, story writer and playwright who mainly wrote for children and is considered the best writer of nonsense rhymes ever.)


Gulzar’s lyrics caught international attention when the song “Jai Ho” from the film Slumdog Millionaire became a rage. At the 81st Academy Awards, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Jai Ho” (shared with A R Rahman).

Gulzar is the recipient of Padma Bhushan (2004) for his contribution to the arts and the Sahitya Akademi Award (2002). He has won 20 Filmfare Awards and multiple National Film Awards. His poetry is partly published in three compilations: Chand Pukhraaj Ka, Raat Pashminey Ki and Pandrah Paanch Pachattar (15-05-75) and his short stories are published in Raavi-paar (also known as Dustkhat in Pakistan) and Dhuan (smoke).


AandhiActors: Suchitra Sen, Sanjeev Kumar, Om Prakash, Rehman, A K Hangal
Music: R D Burman
Director: Gulzar
Aarti, a charming, well educated daughter of an industrialist marries a simple hotelier but eventually leaves him to pursue a promising political career. After 9 years of separation, Aarti meets her husband again when her entourage books rooms in his hotel during an election campaign. The political gameplay that happens during an election serves as the backdrop of this mature love story.
MausamActors: Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Om Shiv Puri, Deena Pathak
Music: Madan Mohan
Director: Gulzar
Mausam explores the tireless search of successful industrialist Amarnath Gill to find the girl he loved in his youth. 25 years have passed since he had left Chanda with a promise that he would return. But he returns to find that nothing is same. And then begins another struggle, to bring back Chanda’s daughter Kajli from the brothel into a life of security and respect.
Mere Apne
Actors: Meena Kumari, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha
Music: Salil Chowdhury
Director: Gulzar
Gulzar made his directorial debut with Mere Apne (1971), which was a remake of Tapan Sinha’s Bengali hit Apanjan.
Actors: Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Asrani, Pran
Music: R D Burman
Director: Gulzar
A tutor (Jeetendra) is appointed to teach the unruly and mischievous grandchildren of Rai Bahadur (Pran). While the grandfather, en ex military man is all for spit and polish and discipline the grandchildren are bent upon driving away the tutor with their pranks.
Editor in Chief, Learning and Creativity; Consulting Editor, Silhouette Magazine As a professional business journalist, Antara spent 14 years covering business stories but alongside kept alive her passion for writing on cinema. She writes extensively on the changing trends of music, direction and filmmaking in cinema and her articles aim to provide well-researched, complete and accurate information on the legends of cinema for the movie enthusiast. She is also the Founder-Editor of Blue Pencil, a New Delhi-based publishing house and recently edited and published Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman, the biography of SD Burman written by HQ Chowdhury. Her articles have also been published in and Antara is Editor-Creative Director of Wisitech InfoSolutions Pvt. Ltd.
All Posts of Antara Nanda Mondal

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17 thoughts on “Gulzar: Redefining Poetry and Purpose In Cinema

  • Debasish Bhattacharya

    My best favourite lyricist……. salam Gulzar Saáb….. humne dekhi hai in ankhon ki mehekti khushbu….only you can visualize and pen down like this Sir……

    Among my favourite lyrics penned by Gulzar Sa’ab:

    Mera kuchh saaman…tumhare paas para hai (Ijazat)

    Aaj ki raat charagon ki lau uNchi karlo…..Ho sake to dil ki aaga jal mein bharlo……….Andhere mein jwalna hoga…Aaj akele chalna hoga (Khamoshi 1969)……

    Kabhi chhote chhote shabnam ke qatre……..Dekhe to honge subah savere…..Ye nanhisi aNkhen jagi hai shab-bhar……Bahut kuchh hai dil mein, bas itna hai lab par…… from the song Kabhi pas baytho kisi phool ke pas….. ……Jahan pe sawera ho, basera wohi hai (Film: Basera) ….. Gulzar Saáb ka kalam, Pancham Da ka sur aur Lataji ki gayaki…. deadly combo

    Surmayee sham is tarah aye…. Sans lete hai jis tarah saye (Lekin) /
    Do naina aur ek kahani…..Thorasa badal, thorasa paani aur ek kahani (Masoom) /
    Koi hota jisko apna gham…….. (Mere Apne)

  • Irvind Saluja

    Gulzar sahibji is a man who make anyone visualize the depth of relationship thru his lyrics.. as he writes muhje jaan na kaho meri jaan and on the other he writes musafir hoon yaaron and then he says roz roz daali daali..and khoi hota jisko apna ghaam…
    Antara you have compiled it all so well…i like to read your illustrations again and again..

  • Antara

    Thank you so very much Irvind…. writing about these stalwarts is just so delightful, revisiting their films, their music and their passion for creativity gives me such joy and when that receives such wonderful support from you people, it really makes me feel the effort was all worth it.

    Thanks again!
    I would like your comments on the latest post on Basu Chatterji… Each rare picture used in the article opens in a separate page with one of the evergreen hit numbers from the same film… Please take a look

  • Jyoti

    There is a saying in Hindi… Khoon chakha sher baar baar laut ke aata hai. (Once a tiger tastes human blood, it keeps returning for more.)

    After reading about Sanjeev Kumar and Geeta Dutt, I could not resist looking through your list of articles to see if you have written about any other of my favorites… Gulzar, Sahir, Jagjit, Hrishikesh Mukherjee…

    I was not disappointed. 🙂

    I have no recollection of when I fell in love with Gulzar’s works. I did not even know it was his work when I would pick songs from the mix bag of songs Chitrahar, Rangoli or from the movies aired on DD, Zee, Sony. It was only as a teenager that I connected the dots. My guess is after Maachis.

    Then Marasim(Jagjit Singh’s album) followed. By this time I was already a die hard fan of Jagjit and was into reading Sahir and Majrooh’s works. I think I read Sahir’s non-filmy work for the sheer kick of reading something I knew none of my peers did. But Sahir’s work was so heavy… I had to constantly refer to dictionary and ask adults to explain. It felt like I was preparing for an exam.

    By this time, thanks to amma, I had had an ample doze of Gulzar as a director with Sanjeev Kumar movies… Koshish, Angoor, Parichay, Mausam, Aandhi… and in Hrikesh Mukherjee movies as a lyricist. But I never made the lyricist connection. It was always a Sanjeev Kumar song or a Kishore Kumar song or a RD Burman song. It was even a Hrikesh Mukherjee movie song but never a Gulzar song.

    Gulzar felt like a breath of fresh air. The ease in the language coupled with the unparalleled imagery. I was falling in love with words… his words. Then Zee TV struck the final blow. It aired Khamoshi. I think I was in 8th/9th std. I could not get over the movie. It clung to me like my own personal cloud moving with me wherever I went. With Khamoshi and Izaazat being aired on TV… for me Gulzar suddenly came out of fog like crepuscular rays. When I made the connection… I realized it was Gulzar all along. HM’s movies, RD music, KK’s voice… every song had Gulzar magic.

    I would have to replay Nida Fazli’s ghazals and make a note of the words on paper or Listen to Sahir’s words multiple times to grasp. Gulzar’s words needed no effort. They would transude and ensconce in my mind like they were long lost puppies finding their way back home. And the imagery. Uff! I don’t think I even have words to describe his imagery. Gila gila paani, dekhi hai mehekti khooshbu, Neela aasmaan so gaya, paani mein jalta charaag…

    Over time I made a point to read works of other poets. Internet made searching and reading easier. But my love for Gulzar’s words remained untainted with time.

    Like my friend likes to say… He is GOD. And I agree. 🙂

    1. admin

      Well… I am glad the tiger tasted blood on Learning and Creativity, that the stories the tiger stumbled upon had “meat” and it made the tiger hunt for more! 😀 What can be a bigger prize than this for the “meat”!!!

      I can only say, I agree 200% with everything you have said here – its like you are echoing the feelings and experiences I have had, much like what you wrote under the Geeta Dutt story. Talk about matching wavelengths!

      Gulzar’s songs had been part of everything we did – sharing our song diaries in the school bus, arguing over the meaning of nasheman as the bus took a sharp turn and all of us slid to one side, but with no let up in the debates. Gulzar’s movies were part of growing up, of understanding the deeper realities. I had heard lots of stories from my mother on the political turbulence of the 70s in Calcutta and Mere Apne took me closer to that. I had read Sarat Chandra since I was in Vth and Khushboo made me visualize why Sarat Chandra’s women characters stand apart from all the rest in courage and conviction. I had read Jotugriho and watched the classic Tapan Sinha film which had Uttam Kumar and Arundhati in the lead. But Ijaazat made me see it in a new light. Mausam, Parichay, Koshish, Namkeen, Aandhi, Kitaab – I have watched these films over and over again to the point of memorizing the whole script.

      I could not have expressed it better – I love the way you say “Gulzar felt like a breath of fresh air. The ease in the language coupled with the unparalleled imagery.” Absolutely! Following your comment, I have added a few favorite lines in the article. Gulzar’s poetry touches every corner of life. Tum pukar lo, tumhara intezaar hai or Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thhi – these songs are there still there in my diaries, the ink now smudged as I was in VIth std then and we used those bulky fountain pens.

      Zindagi phoolon ki nahin, phoolon ki tarah mehki rahe (how true!) and Logon ke ghar mein rehta hoon, kab apna koi ghar hoga (the dream of every middle class person), Apni tanhai ka auron se na shikwa karna, tum akele hi nahin ho sabhi akele hain, yeh akela safar nahin guzra … each line is heartfelt, true and eternal. Sahir’s angst has his own place, Majrooh’s lyricism his own, Shailendra’s simplicity is remarkable, but Gulzar stands apart from all of them for consistently making his pen talk to the listener directly.

      Your comment is so engaging, it should ideally be posted as an article in L&C, what say?
      Thank you for all the encouragement you are giving me Jyoti. Keep them coming please!!!


      1. Jyoti

        “Your comment is so engaging, it should ideally be posted as an article in L&C, what say?”

        LOL, What can I say? I am not as much a writer as much a reactor(I know there is no such noun to describe humans). But I find myself reacting to external stimulus. So my response was thanks to your post. Without it, as a stand alone piece, I doubt my comment would hold merit.

        Thanks so much for reading and replying with equal fervor. 🙂 It feels good to know that your comment was read. 🙂


    1. Jyoti

      Saratchandra Chatterjee.

      I had checked all your posts to see if there was one on him. Did I miss it? Now that you’ve mentioned his name… I cannot resist penning my thoughts about him.. somewhere, anywhere.

      Saratchandra Chatterjee and Bimal Mitra… the two authors that taught me to appreciate and accept human foibles like none of the other authors did.

      I never read the originals mind you. But then, I never realized Saratchandra or Bimal Mitra did not write in Hindi. Such were the stories, settings, characters. I had read the stories back to back, so pretty soon I could not distinguish between the plot of one story from another’s. Yet the plots had become irrelevant. The books were all about characters. Characters with flaws. Characters that had their imperfections celebrated by the author rather than brushed under the carpet. They had me wondering, why on earth would any author make the protagonist a lecher or a prostitute, or a megalomaniac. Now I know. These are the characters that have meat. Each character was fleshed out in words in such a way… they came alive and jumped out of the pages. They had me observing strangers around me to try and see if I could spot a character flaw. 😀 Were there other writers who may have done it before or after them… quite possibly. But I knew none of them.

      From the movie point of view… Saratchandra is THE Indian author to hold the distinction of having the his works made into the most number of movies and serials. 40… and still counting. And these are the direct makes based on the original works. There may be more movies, serials that have taken inspiration from him indirectly.

      Saratchandra Chatterjee, an author who ironically has one of his weaker works as the most celebrated of his works… that has been made into 16 movies.

      It’s been 25years since I’ve read those books… or a little more. It’s time to get my hands on them once more and relive the moments.

      1. admin


        You did laugh off my earlier suggestion of turning your comment into an article. But don’t laugh this one off please. This kind of writeup deserves more prominence in the website. With your permission I would like to post this as an article – in the Opinion and Movies section. I can add more details to it and relevant videos – but its got to be your article. All I need is a brief author bio from you and a picture. Please don’t say no. A “reactor” cannot write like this or express with such lucidity… This is a lovely piece and I suppose you won’t mind if I claim it for a post, would you? 🙂

        Now coming to Saratchandra and Bimal Mitra – two of my top authors. I have read Tagore and Sunil and others in Bengali literature and Tagore songs are an integral part of life, music and realisation. But when it comes to stories and novels – Saratchandra and Bimal Mitra are unsurpassed. I have seen my North Indian colleagues pick their Hindi translations from the office library and it made me very happy in a remote sort of way – because these stories and characters are just so familiar to me from my childhood, they are part of my being.

        I haven’t been able to write a detailed article Saratchandra so far (citing time constraints is the most lame excuse but thats what I can think of) but it surely is one that I mean to do someday – probably more than 1 post because a singular post is not enough. But references to Saratchandra have crept into my writings each time I have dealt on literature in cinema or on portrayal of women in films. For example, Sarat Chandra was a master in creating powerful women characters and by interpreting his works, Hindi cinema got some notable examples of women playing roles of substance, rather than simply shedding tears, and singing songs as they do in a typical hero-dominated run-of-the-mill potboiller.


        To do justice to Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novels that are famous for their strong and bold female characters, Suchitra Sen was the first choice – be it the quiet dignity of Achala in Grihadaha or the bold confidence of Bijoya in Dutta and Paro in Devdas or the title roles of Kamallata in Kamal Lata or Rajlakshmi in Rajlakshmi Srikanto – her personality and magnetic screen presence gave an added dimension to these powerful literary characters.

        As you have said eloquently, “Characters with flaws. Characters that had their imperfections celebrated by the author rather than brushed under the carpet.” I was once asked at by an interviewer at Penguin about my favorite male character of Saratchandra. I said, Satish of Charitraheen and Suresh of Grihadaha. The interviewer was surprised. “Not Srikant?” she asked, she had probably expected the staple answer. No, because the courage of Satish, the impulsiveness of Suresh, which is more human, more masculine, appeal to me more than the cold aloofness of Srikant, I said. She said, “Hmmmm” 😀

        I agree with you Saratchandra has had the most lasting influence on cinema, among all Indian authors I guess. Some, as you rightly pointed out, adapted his works for movies and TV, others drew influences – Pyaasa being one of the biggest examples – an unmistakable influence of Devdas. I had once asked Sanjay Leela Bhansali at the IFFI on why he was making Devdas, which the today’s “yeh nahin to aur sahi” generation may not be able to identify with. He said, no such fear, anyone who is in love will empathise with Devdas. The appeal is universal.

        Bimal Mitra similarly has been widely adapted in cinema. I remember the wonderful TV serial “Mujrim Hazir” which was Nutan’s swan song. Thank you for giving me more story ideas.

        Please give me the go ahead for the article. And send your picture and author bio asap. 🙂


        1. Jyoti

          Ha ha ha…

          Do you know, when I took home the book Charitraheen from the library, the serial Shrikant and Charitraheen were already aired on TV… remember… Rama vij and Farooq Sheik Shrikant?

          I had already read Shrikant by then unknown to amma. She saw me reading Charitraheen and looked surprised. Finally when I was done with the book, she asked me what I thought… I remember saying… Why on earth did he name the book Charitraheen (Characterless). There is so much character in his book as well as his characters, he should have named it “Full of character”. Amma laughed and said… probably cause there is no word for “full of character” and said silly charitraheen means shameless.

          I was like … whatever.

          Your comment about Satish made me remember this conversation.

          God… I really do want to read the books now.

          1. admin

            I had asked the same question to my mother and she had laughed and said, Sarat Chandra himself was once asked by someone “You have named the novel Charitraheen. But all the characters are charitravaan. So who is charitraheen?” Sarat Chandra had reportedly said, with all his characteristic sarcasm that the person who reads it is charitraheen! The aghast reader had asked what do you mean and the reply he got was, if you pick up a book with such a title, it doesnt show much about your character, does it!!! Ha ha! I don’t know if my mom was joking, but one thing I do know is that Sarat Chandra had a cryptic sense of humor which comes through in his novels and characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had actually said so. Vishnu Prabhakar’s biography of Sarat Chandra Awara Masiha (in Hindi) is one of the best biographies I have read.

            When in the IXth std I wanted to read Charitraheen as I was deeply into Sarat Chandra then, my mother said no. I asked if it was a kind of novel that I shouldn’t read it at my age sort of thing. She said, its not that. You will not understand it now. I took her word and kept it away. I read it when I was in IXth though my mother had repeated what she had said earlier. After I read it, I realised she was right. When in college I read it again, this time it was clearer. The intensive discussions and debates I had with my parents over the characters were actually the eye-openers. The TV serial helped but it had very tacky production values. I remember the Abhaya-Srikanto serial which had Farouque Sheikh. There was another on Shesh Prashna.

            Bengali literature provided enough reading material so I did not venture outside much. Subodh Ghosh (who is also among the most filmed authors – sample Ijaazat, Chitchor, Sujata, Ritwick Ghatak’s Ajantrik) – is also one of my favorite authors. But Sarat Chandra rules above all. I am feeling extremely encouraged by your comments and I am definitely going to write one on adaptation of Sarat Chandra in cinema. Let’s see when 🙂 Thanks for the mega boost!


  • Jyoti


    I don’t know what to say to you about putting that comment as a post. If you think it’ll fit in, then please go ahead. I’d feel honored.

    Coming to other authors, I have not read any other Bengali author. Maybe a stray story or two of Tagore. But no other. I had read Premchand and Mohan Rakesh. I remember feeling so depressed reading Premchand. He was all about realistic portrayals and situations. It was not about the characters but their station and unique situation in life. Jay Shankar Prasad’s characters were on the other hand, if I remember right… larger than life.

    So Sarathchandra and Bimal Mitra were the only ones who made me empathize with their characters. I agree… one post will not suffice. 🙂 Looking forward to your well researched posts in future. 🙂

    1. admin

      Thanks for giving the thumbs up! Unless you give me your picture, I am going to pluck from Facebook (Jai ho FB ka). So you’d better send me the picture and bio asap.

      Completely agree with you “Sarathchandra and Bimal Mitra were the only ones who made me empathize with their characters.” They are so finely etched that you feel you have known them for a long time. Another favorite male character of Sarat Chandra is Ramesh of Palli Samaj (possibly Gramin Samaj in Hindi translation). He is strong yet vulnerable, intelligent yet innocent, courageous, romantic, big hearted and also childlike. The novel makes you detest the superstitions, the class and caste-consciousness, the rigidity and cruel mean-mindedness of the rural society and that precisely was the objective of the writer.

      Datta (Vijaya in Hindi translation) is another favourite novel – light, romantic and yet serious. The characters are just so adorable. I suppose, the 1961 Telugu film Vagdanam by Acharya Atreya is loosely based on Datta.

      Once I do my story on Sarat Chandra I would need your inputs too 🙂


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