The Life and Times of Poetry in Motion – Gulzar

Written by Vijay Sridharan on 19 August 2020

Motivating oneself to take a challenge head-on is not easy; it takes a different mindset to go ahead and achieve the impossible. The tale of the creative genius, Academy award-winning legendary lyricist Gulzar, is one in a billion – that of an outsider who conquered all odds to make it big. His work reflects a sensitivity towards human sensibilities, revealed through his literary work and films. Today, he is a source of inspiration for millions of his fans and upcoming creative professionals worldwide.

The poet, writer, lyricist and director was born Sampooran Singh Kalra on 18th August 1934 in Dina, Punjab, British India (now in Pakistan). The horrors of the Partition hit his family too; as refugees, they relocated to Delhi. Throughout his school days, he was inclined towards literature and poetry, listening to Hindustani music, particularly stringed instruments. 

His father vehemently opposed him becoming a writer. But Sampooran Singh Kalra was not afraid to embrace pain and thrive on a challenge. Drawing inspiration from Rabindranath Tagore’s book “The Gardener,” he decided to become a writer and never looked back. 

Mumbai, the city of dreams, can test the nerves of the toughest. Sampooran Singh Kalra came to Mumbai and worked as a mechanic in a garage at Worli, barely surviving on his income. But, deep down in his heart, he was craving for creative work. Like a magnet, he was drawn towards Hindi cinema through Bimal Roy’s film “Bandini” in 1963. Subsequently, he wrote for Directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Asit Sen. The song “Humne Dekhi Hai In Aankhon Ki Mehakti Khusboo” from the film “Khamoshi” (1969) was a chartbuster. As its lyricist, the transition of Sampooran Singh Kalra to the pen name Gulzar Deenvi (Gulzar) was complete. 

Strong lyrics combined with the mesmerising composition are the soul of a song. The Gulzar-Pancham collaboration is unparalleled in Hindi movies; their offbeat style of working is what bonded their friendship. The songs – Beeti Na Bitai Raina from the film Parichay (1972), Tere Bina Zindagi Se from the movie Aandhi (1975), Aaj Kal Paaon from the film Ghar (1978), Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani from the film Masoom (1983), and Mera Kuch Samaan from the film Ijaazat (1988) still captivate the hearts of Hindi movie music lovers.


Gulzar is a writer of meticulousness. He was very strict about how dialogue should be delivered; the only actor who could improvise without changing the intrinsic structure and natural beat of the line was Sanjeev Kumar. The Gulzar-Sanjeev Kumar partnership created some sensitive work – Aandhi (1975), Mausam (1975), Angoor (1981), and Namkeen (1982). 

Gulzar wrote the dialogues for films – Khamoshi, Anand, Mehboob Ki Mehndi, Andaz, Bawarchi, and the screenplay for Namak Haraam. Amidst the noise and bustle of Hindi cinema, silently, Gulzar contributed to the stardom of legendary actors – Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, and Amitabh Bachchan. 

His other directorial ventures include Mere Apne (1971), Parichay (1972), and Koshish (1972). At the peak of his career, he married actress Rakhee in 1973. 

Other prominent works of Gulzar are:

– Written the anthem “Nazar Main Rehte Ho,” as part of the Aman Ki Asha campaign, recorded by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shankar Mahadevan.

– Penned for the albums Marasim (1999) and Koi Baat Chale (2006) for the Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh.

– Written dialogues for TV serials like Alice in Wonderland, Potli Baba Ki, Hello Zindagi, etc.

– Created the song “Chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai” for Jungle Book.

National Film Awards (5), Filmfare Awards (21), Academy Award for Best Original Song (2008), Grammy Award (2010), Sahitya Akademi Award for Urdu (2002), Padma Bhushan (2004), and Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2013), the list is endless. Rising from humble beginnings, Gulzar has made the nation proud. This creative genius will be etched in the hearts and minds of his admirers forever; through his work, he has achieved immortality.