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Reinterpreting a Classic Is Immoral: Gulzar & Meghna Gulzar

The father-daughter duo talks about movies, music and everything in between.

4 min read
Reinterpreting a Classic Is Immoral: Gulzar & Meghna Gulzar
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Veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai hosted India Today India Tomorrow with the legendary poet-filmmaker Gulzar and his daughter and Raazi maker Meghna Gulzar. The talk, ranging from movies to poetry to family, reflected the father-daughter bond and Gulzar’s creative spirit.

When Rajdeep quizzed Gulzar about Raazi being so successful at the box office, the visibly proud poet said that he had never made a Rs 100 crore film, and as a father he was thrilled for Meghna.

And did being Gulzar andd Rakhee’s daughter ever weigh down on Meghna?

It never weighed me down. It was always a motivation, something to aspire to. I hope I am remembered as Gulzar’s daughter.
Meghna Gulzar

On Raazi

And how did Gulzar react to Raazi and Talvar, Meghna’s first film?

Talvar made me go quiet. I couldn’t comment on immediately. The film was a commentary on the judicial system and before that, we never made films like that. I knew then that Meghna has gone miles ahead as a filmmaker... I don’t have the cinematic language of today. The new generation is making films with a different lingo... Raazi again... it kept me on my nerves.

Gulzar also talked about how Calling Sehmat, the book on which Raazi is based, came to him 10 years ago as a film proposal, and he refused it because it didn’t fascinate him. When Meghna took it up, he asked her why she wanted to make the film. “I see layers in it that you don’t see. Let me show them to you,” she told him.

Their Films, Our Films

A poster of Gulzar’s controversial film Aandhi.
Our films were more verbose, dialogue was so important. Then songs... I know how Meghna cut out songs from Talvar and Raazi saying that no, I don’t want it. We used to go to Kashmir to specially shoot songs, but she made a film on the people of Kashmir (Raazi) without songs!

Meghna spoke about how instant gratification is the spirit of the age and that shorter films are a la mode. “Otherwise, the audience will get restless and fidgety and will keep going out to get popcorn.” she said.

Gulzar pointed out how the very way of life and entertainment has changed over the years. When he was making films, he says: “We didn't have so many theatres, fewer films were made and they ran for a much longer duraiton. Now the fate of a film is decided in just the first weekend. Earlier, people also had no TV, limited modes of entertainment as well as income. It’s a change of an era.”


Being Gulzar

Gulzar also reminisced about Partition days and how a killing he witnessed gave him nightmares for the next 20 years. When quizzed about how he has remained young in spirit, working with everyone from Madan Mohan to RD Burman to AR Rahman, Gulzar said:

ASha Bhosle, Gulzar and RD Burman at work. 
(Photo courtesy: Facebook)
I think I am very lucky to have lived alongside that generation and with those masters. I had very good teachers in Salil Choudhury, SD Burman, and Madan Mohan, and later I worked with RD Burman and now AR Rahman... Rahman’s greatest contribution is that he has changed the format of a film song. It is the generation that’s leading me. Life and times have changed... zindagi badal gayi hai, everything from food to clothes to entertainment has changed, so how can music not change? The writer also has to change. I am only changing with the times... If you are alive and consciously living, why not react to it? As a writer it’s my job to document life as I see it. 
He keeps replenishing himself, he never takes his craft for granted. From 10 am to 4 pm, he sits everyday to read and write at his desk without fail.... I get tired of just thinking about what and how much he does. There’s no question of envying his work.
Meghna Gulzar

But, it is books and translation that give him the most joy, Gulzar says.

I learnt filmmaking on the way. But now I am back to books. Translation gives me way more joy than making movies.

On Rakhee

Gulzar with Rakhee and a baby Meghna. 
(Photo courtesy: Facebook)

When asked about how Megha dealt with her parents’ separation at the age of seven, Meghna said that at that age it was normal for her because she had never seen her parents together.

My parents were very normal and mature about being separated, it was like having two homes instead of one. That was how I knew it. There was no acrimony, I never saw them squabbling. They argue more now.
We were never separated as separation is understood today. There’s still love and concern and I adore her still and get scolded the same way.

“Remixing Is Immoral”

Both Meghna and Gulzar expressed their displeasure with reinterpretation of classics, whether movies or remixing of songs.

If something is a classic, you shouldn’t touch it. Don’t reinterpret it. It’s the same for remixing songs.
Meghna Gulzar

Gulzar agreed.

It’s immoral to remix songs. Would you paint Ajanta because the pictures are becoming fade?


Watch the conversation here:

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Topics:  AR Rahman   Gulzar   Meghna Gulzar 

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