Three Classic Films by Gulzar: New book serves as an initiation into filmmaker's universe, and his cinematic journey

The recently released Three Classic Films by Gulzar (HarperCollins, 2019) manages to pick up three films — Aandhi, Angoor, and Ijaazat — which on their own might not be at the very top of any ‘best of Gulzar’ lists, but stand out as great singular examples of the legendary artist’s oeuvre and also encapsulate Gulzar’s cinema, in more ways than one.

Gautam Chintamani March 25, 2019 09:58:24 IST
Three Classic Films by Gulzar: New book serves as an initiation into filmmaker's universe, and his cinematic journey
  • Many-a-times, Gulzar the poet/lyricist shines so bright that people tend to overlook the fact that the man has also been the driving force behind some of the greatest Hindi films ever.

  • As a result, it is near-impossible to name a handful of films that best describe Gulzar, the storyteller.

  • The recently released Three Classic Films by Gulzar (HarperCollins, 2019) manages to pick up three films — Aandhi, Angoor, and Ijaazat — which on their own might not be at the very top of any ‘best of Gulzar’ lists, but stand out as singular examples of the legendary artist’s oeuvre.

In a career spanning five decades there have been times when different identities associated with Gulzar — writer, lyricist, director — have placed the icon of Hindi cinema on different pedestals. Many-a-times, the poet/lyricist shines so bright that people tend to overlook the fact that the man has also been the driving force behind some of the greatest Hindi films ever. As a result, it is near-impossible to name a handful of films that best describe Gulzar, the storyteller. The recently released Three Classic Films by Gulzar (HarperCollins, 2019) manages to pick up three films — Aandhi, Angoor, and Ijaazat — which on their own might not be at the very top of any ‘best of Gulzar’ lists, but stand out as great singular examples of the legendary artist’s oeuvre and also encapsulate Gulzar’s cinema, in more ways than one.

Three Classic Films by Gulzar New book serves as an initiation into filmmakers universe and his cinematic journey

L-R: Gulzar's Aandhi, Angoor, and Ijaazat

For most Hindi film or Gulzar aficionados, there might not be anything "new" in Three Classic Films by Gulzar as most of the anecdotes, trivia, and details connected with the three films might already be known. However, authors Saba Mahmood Bashir (Aandhi), Sathya Saran (Angoor), and Mira Hashmi (Ijaazat) offer intriguing analysis of the films, besides insights into both the films as well as the genres they represent. More importantly, the manner in which all three try to highlight the fabled ‘Gulzarian’ touch in terms of the elements that commingle in the auteur’s cinema makes reading them a pleasure.

Read on Firstpost — In 'The Crocodile', Gulzar tells a story of smoke and fire during Dussehra

The box-set works very well as an introduction for newcomers into the universe of Gulzar as it covers his journey in a succinct manner. The three films cover a little over a decade between 1975 and 1987 in the filmmaker’s career but two of these films, Angoor and Ijaazat, had a longer gestation period. Reading how the filmmaker had been wanting to undo the horrors of Do Dooni Char, the film he had adapted from Comedy of Errors with Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen for his mentor Bimal Roy’s banner by making Angoor, or the manner in which he got RD Burman to compose the songs for Ijaazat gives the reader an idea of the important role patience played in shaping Gulzar’s career.

In her book on Angoor, Sathya Saran also explores the comedy genre in Hindi films, which increases the value of the narrative and also shows why Angoor holds the position that it does. Saran delves deep to peel the layers that showcase Gulzar’s brilliance as a writer of a comic tale that might have been inspired by Shakespeare but remains committed to classic Hindi film elements like songs. Inspired by Gulzar’s wordplay as a lyricist in Angoor, Saran deftly critiques funny songs in Hindi films over the years in a chapter called ‘The Song as Comedy’, which in itself is worth the price of the book.

Three Classic Films by Gulzar New book serves as an initiation into filmmakers universe and his cinematic journey

Mira Hashmi deconstructs the classic love triangle with her interpretation of Ijaazat and makes a strong case for why the film stands the test the time. Hashmi’s is a sharp treatise in understanding how Ijaazat’s narrative treads the razor’s edge as far as traditional 'Bombay' cinema is concerned, but its true to life depiction of emotions makes it peerless. When compared with Saran and Hashmi, Saba Mahmood Bashir’s book on Aandhi appears to be the weakest in the lot. Besides examining the film threadbare, she includes an interview with Gulzar, brings forth the long-winding manner in which the film’s screenplay came about, offers an illuminating discourse on the film’s stellar songs and dialogues, yet falls short in unravelling its magic. It is difficult to not be in awe of Gulzar’s work but somewhere amongst the three, Mahmood Bashir seems to be somewhat un-curious and — dare I say? — non-inquisitive.

The late great screenwriter William Goldman famously said “Nobody knows anything” when it came to the business of films. Is it then even possible to decipher why some films end up becoming iconic and are discussed decades later while others no matter how successful or popular are not granted similar importance? The short answer is yes, one can try to contextualise films in the times they released, the manner in which the audience responded across generations and decades and get an idea what makes good films great. In this aspect, Three Classic Films by Gulzar by Saba Mahmood Bashir, Sathya Saran, and Mira Hashmi is a welcome sight. At Rs 999, Three Classic Films by Gulzar might seem slightly expensive, but the lovely packaging (a big shout-out to Saurabh Garge for his cover designs) makes it a collectible.

Also read — Gulzar's life, unpublished poems presented in latest edition of daughter Meghna's 'Because He Is'

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