Talent did not permit compromise – Day 2034

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Mirza Ghalib had the most extraordinary sense of humor. He had the extra-ordinary knack of narrating tragedies with cheer and this reflected in his poetry.

Once a stranger watching him drink said, ‘Don’t you know that Lord does not accept prayers of a man who consumes alcohol?’ to which Ghalib answered ‘My dear, a man who gets his quota of drink has very little to pray for!’ He was a true fakir, free spirit treading new pastures for fodder every day till he lived.

Kave kave sakht jaani, haetanhai na poochh

There is a story about when he was invited to Delhi by Tomson for the annual poetry recitation; Ghalib arrived at the venue as usual in a palki. When Tomson did not come out to receive him, he turned the palki around and returned home. Later, he commented that he had agreed to the invitation to add prestige to the occasion, but that was not possible when his host did not show basic courtesy towards his guest. Tomson called it arrogance; Ghalib said it was a natural response. His talent did not permit compromise.

To be continued…

Tragedies broke Ghalib’s heart – Day 2033

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Mirza Ghalib lost everyone he loved, his father in childhood, his brother in adolescence. He was a proud father of seven sons but none of them survived. Ghalib adopted a child, but he too died in his youth. These successive tragedies broke his spirit and his heart and he detached himself with life, found solace in poetry. He wrote and sang every waking moment of his life.

Kuch iss tarha maine zindagi ko aasan kar diya

Kissi se maafi maang li to kissi ko maaf kar diya

It is said that during the 1857 riots when Ghalib was arrested by the British and questioned about his religion, the unpredictable poet answered ‘I am an incomplete Muslim’. The officer was flustered and Ghalib was forced to explain his definition of incomplete Muslim as he consumed alcohol (not permitted by Islam) and did not eat meat (permitted by Islam).

Ghalib poetry collage of human expressions – Day 2032

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Hum ko maloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat, lekin

Dil ke khushrakhne ko, Ghalib ye khayal achha hai.

Mirza Ghalib’s poetry was a collage of human expressions. He was the beloved, the observer, the follower on separate occasions and his poetry reflected his moods. He had the capacity to endure the gravest tragedies and break down at the smallest accusations. His poetry was, like the man himself, intriguing – restless, volatile, unpredictable.

Unke dekhe se jo aa-jati hai mounh par rounaq

Wo samajhte hain ke beemar ka haal achha hai

There are stories that Ghalib was the inheritor of great fortune but he had little time and no inclination to follow on what was left for him by his forefathers. Life was not kind to Ghalib, or perhaps happiness simply evaded him frequently.

To be continued…

Mirza Ghalib is the ultimate guru – Day 2031

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A few days ago, was Guru Purnima and the only name that stands unparalleled in the world of Urdu poetry is Mirza Ghalib inarguably one of the greatest poets of all times. His writing has influenced generations of poets and Indian cinema continues to celebrate his genius on screen.

The first time, was in 1954 released Mirza Ghalib starring Bharat Bhushan and Suraiya which had six of his unforgettable poems namely ‘Dil – E – Nadan Tujhe’ duet rendered by Suraiya and Talat Mahmood, ‘Phir Mujhe Deeda-E-Tar’ and ‘Wahshat Hi Sahi’ rendered by Talat Mahmood, ‘Aah Ko Chahiye Ek Umar’ and ‘Nukta Cheen Hai’ by Suraiya and finally ‘Bas Ke Har Ek Unke’ by Mohammed Rafi.

Almost forty years later, Gulzar made a biopic on Mirza Ghalib featuring Naseerudin Shah released in a nine-volume video that came closest to understanding his genius.  

To be continued…

Mughal-E-Azam – Day 2030

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Year 2004 Mughl-E-Azam was the first black-and-white Hindi film to be digitally coloured and theatrically re-released. I was editor Screen at this point and we decided to celebrate the milestone moment at our annual awards night. We invited Vilasrao Deshmukh, then chief minster Maharashtra, to do the honours. Deshmukh delivered a terrific speech and it was now time for Dilip Kumar to speak. Dilip Kumar appeared a little lost. This was probably the beginning of his Alzheimer’s but not many were aware at that time, including us. It was an awkward moment for everyone in the audience, so I hesitantly walked on to the stage and quietly stood behind him. He sensed my presence and turned around, “Kaun hain bhai” he asked in his inimitable style and discovering me heaved a deep sigh of relief. He instantly thrust the microphone into my hand and said “Ab le lo bhai hum kab se khade hain yahan” and thus an emotional evening came to a dignified end.

As I write this obit my mind rewinds to the nubile reporter aided by a charismatic superstar on her first assignment forty years ago. Can something like this ever happen in present times, I’m not sure, because only one in a hundred years, comes an actor like Dilip Kumar.

A ride to remember – Day 2029

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Today, when I am older and more experienced, I look back on the memory with enchantment. Actors are also human beings and respond to people and situations intuitively. Maybe Dilip Kumar sensed my anxiety at the press conference and wanted to put me at ease, as for the car ride, I can only describe it as serendipity, the superstar was spontaneous again and I submitted to the magic!

A decade passed by and I never crossed his path, yes, I sometimes saw him from a distance at a film premier, party and mahurat but never struck a conversation with him. In 1990 director Subhash Ghai invited me for the shooting of Saudagar to witness Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar shooting together.

Call it coincidence again, but as I walked towards the set, I noticed Dilip Kumar in costume walking a few steps ahead of me. He was about to enter the set, when he noticed the trolley moving and stopped! I stopped a few steps behind him and observed him watch Raaj Kumar give his shot. Suddenly, he noticed me watching him and stiffened! He continued to stand in the same spot staring at the floor. I realized I had trespassed his creative space, unconsciously interrupted an actor in preparation.

The good thing about the awkward moment however was, that I was privileged to witness the magic!

To be continued