Vishal Bhardwaj calls himself Gulzar sahab's alter ego, Gulzar sahab calls him his extension.
While Vishal has done most of his work with only Gulzar sahab, he cherishes his working with Vishal as Vishal understands poetry and allows him to get away with his experimentation. You see them together and you can make out their love and respect for each other. Ahead of Vishal Bhardwaj's upcoming film Haider, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, we talk to Vishal and not just his godfather, but father, Gulzar sahab. Excerpts: Conversation with Gulzar sahab:You have shot many films in Kashmir including Aandhi. What are your memories?
My daughter Bosky (Meghna) always longs to go to Kashmir as she grew up there. We used to go there every year and thus, many of her childhood memories are of Kashmir. In the 60s and the 70s, there was a tradition to picturise songs outdoor and the favourite destination was always Kashmir. At that time, it was a fantasy to shoot there and when we would sign an actor or actress they would always ask, where will the outdoor be picturised, hoping that the answer would be Kashmir. We had a regular driver there and can you imagine, his name was also Gulzar. Of course, the difference was that he was a Kashmiri. His children and grandchildren are still in touch with me. He lived in one of the bastis of Srinagar and we would go to his house to eat a meal even though we always put up in those days at the Oberoi. Many years later, when I was making Hu Tu Tu, I went to Srinagar to meet Amrish Puri ji, who was at that time shooting there, to offer him a role in the film. Kashmir was going through a bad phase at that time and I had gone after a long time. The hospitality industry had taken a beating and thus, Oberoi was operating only with one section. I told people there 'Main Gulzar ko talaash kar raha hoon'. They advised me against going out. Later in the evening, to my surprise, I found Gulzar waiting for me at the hotel lobby. He had come to know somehow that I was there. I had that kind of rapport even with the boatmen and people, who would take us to Char Chinar. On that small little land, there was a bar and a restaurant and we would have a drink there. Our films captured more of the geography of Kashmir; in Haider, it is history that Vishal has created. And that's the most beautiful part. It is for the first time that Kashmir will be shown in this kind of detail, be it of its people, places, mohallas or its journey. He has done everything I did, but in a better way. I have seen Haider. For me, Kashmir was not just a landscape. I also have a special connection with the river Jhelum, as I was born on the other side of it, in Dina in Pakistan. I knew and had a relationship with its people.
Our films up till now have only showed the physical side, in Haider, he has shown the life of people that really touched me. Kashmir has multifaceted beauty. It is the only place where you will find a village to a hill station to a kasba to a waterfall to a jungle and that's the beauty of it and that is why, rightly so there is the famous proverb, that if there is a paradise on this earth it is here, it is here, it is here.READ: Vishal Bharadwaj: Kashmiris are such lovely people and they gave us so much loveWhat does Vishal mean to you personally?
Can you imagine so many years back, I shot Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa Toh Nahi song at the very same spot that he has shot Bismil song. In that song, I was looking at the presence of somebody to be there, without whom my life was not complete. So somebody came on that location to shoot on that location after 20 years and that is Vishal. Meri kami poori ho gayi. His shooting at the same location independently shows how souls meet. He is my son, my extension. It isn't easy to define the relationship I share with him. He is like a son, a brother, a disciple, a colleague, and a companion. It's a sharing of souls that is difficult to define. There are few relationships that you can't define. Vishal is the closest in that. It's a bond of belonging. Actually you will reduce it by defining it. It may sound very cliched. A rose will not be the same if you peel off its petals. A rose will remain a rose only when it is together with all its petals.Your view on Vishal's work?
As a director, he is in pace with the time and is reflecting it very strongly. Thematically, I have said that before and even technically, his films will be treated as text books in film schools after 15 years. That's the big quality of his films. I have a difference of opinion with him, when he says that he has adapted Shakespeare though. I don't feel that they are adaptations. I feel they are original films. They remind me of my times and not of the ancient times. Yes, in his films there is a basic structure of placing of some characters from Shakespeare, that he has taken, but I don't know what else has inspired him. A story is an adaptation only with its characterisation. His adaptation, which I concede as he insists, is that of the common people and common struggle of my times as against in Shakespeare's plays that pertained to the feudal system and the monarchy and therefore, reflected their issues. Shakespeare was a great playwright and writer and I don't mean to take away his greatness, but in our democratic times, talking of the common people like Vishal does, is more closer to Munshi Premchand than Shakespeare.Your favourite song from Haider?
There are two. The most popular one is Bismil. My favourite one is So Jao, the grave diggers. It has a depth and a philosophy behind it. Vishal and me differ in our expression. While he thinks it is black humour, I call it a philosophy.The recent floods in Kashmir have done so much damage in reversing the trend of positive tourism?
It's a tragedy that has happened to people. It's actually an international affair, not a national affair. Since this is closer to us, we feel the hurt even physically, though emotionally you feel the same for any such international calamity. In Assam, every year it has been happening. Why should writers only from Assam write about it and not writers from others parts of the country? Military did a lot in Kashmir, but when political people start taking credit for it, it hurts a lot.Conversation with Vishal Bhardwaj:What does Gulzar sahab mean to you?
My existence is because of him. What will you be without your father?If we make a mistake he needs to be harsh right?
I feel in all these years he has disciplined me. And that's how I have learnt about life. I have learnt the value of time, the habit of coming on time. Delhi se jo bhi aata hai, woh punctual nahi hota hai. We all conveniently give the excuse of traffic when we reach late in Mumbai. But I have never seen him using that excuse and he still reaches early everywhere. We all feel scared if he calls us somewhere as we all know that he will reach ahead of time, so we need to reach 15 minutes before him. He told me one thing that I want to remind him that he taught me 'Never accept your own mediocrity' and that has become my mantra for life.You have only worked with him mostly. Any special memories?
We have made so many of our songs in such strange places. We have made so many songs roaming around travelling together. Whenever we are travelling together, a song is made. We were writing antras of Ibn-e-Batuta standing in a line at the airport. We have made songs in a bus. I remember my first meeting with him. The first meeting was very special even though it is far away and looks like a fairy tale for me today. He was to come to a studio to compose an ad jingle and called me from Bengali sweets house in Delhi as he was not able to find the way to the studio. I asked him to wait there and went to pick him up. I remembered his entire collection of poems by heart and was obsessed with his poetry. Nobody has his kind of expression. Subconsciously, my fascination of Shakespeare comes from his film Angoor that to me is loosely based on The Comedy Of Errors. Ijaazat was my most favourite film. You always ape your father. Look at my kurta. I am also wearing white. I wear one more colour, that is black. Someone told me you are his alter ego and that is why you wear black.Between the both of you, who is more stubborn?
Gulzar sahab said, 'I can give you my last word on that. Mujhe yeh maloom hai ki agar koi mere khilaaf bolega, toh yeh uspe patthar marega. I know he will take care of me. Yeh meri taraf hai.'