Veteran lyricist Gulzar received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in cinema given annually by the Government of India for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema, here Saturday. The 77-year-old was overwhelmed and thanked a string of "gurus" and musical geniuses of the past and current generation for contributing to his success story.
Clad in his trademark white kurta pyjama, Gulzar turned towards the audience to take a bow before he approached the stage to receive the Swarna Kamal, Rs.1 million and a shawl, conferred upon him by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Vigyan Bhavan here.
The multi-faceted yet humble talent, who started his career in 1956, is the 45th winner of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is constituted in the name of Dadasaheb Phalke - the director of India's first full-length feature film "Raja Harishchandra", made in 1913.
Gulzar took to the mike, requesting "a moment to get his breath" as he was overwhelmed with the love and appreciation of his work as a lyricist, director, screen-writer, producer and poet.
"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 picked me from nowhere and took me along with him...there was Salil Chowdhary, Sachin Dev Burman, Hemant Kumar...I was lucky to get such gurus," Gulzar said in his acceptance speech.
Born in 1934 in Punjab in pre-independence India, Gulzar got his first break as a lyricist in Bimal Roy's "Bandini".
He has penned a multitude of songs in his glorious career and also contributed to several films as script, story and dialogue writer. His directorials include "Mere Apne">Mere Apne", "Koshish", "andhi", "Kinara", "Khushboo", "ngoor", "Libaas", "Meera", "Lekin" and "Maachis".
Gulzar, whose real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra, also thanked R.D. Burman, Laxmikant, Kalyanji, Madan Mohan, Illayaraja and Pandit Ravi Shankar, for shaping his career in many ways.
From the new generation he mentioned A.R. Rahman, crediting him with "taking Indian film music to the global map".
He thanked filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, whom he calls his son, and names like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Shantanu Moitra for infusing films with quality music in these times. Among the film directors, he mentioned Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Shaad Ali and his own daughter Meghna.
Meghna sat in the audience at Vigyan Bhavan, shedding tears of pride for her father, until he finished his speech and returned to the seat to give her a comforting hug.
The 79-year-old was conferred the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2004. He has won a number of National Film Awards and 20 Filmfare Awards. At the 81st Oscars in 2009, he won the Academy Award for best original song for "Jai ho" with A.R. Rahman.