There is a scene in one of my favourite Gulzar films Ijaazat. A newly married couple is having an argument, as the husband’s former girlfriend keeps calling him even after his marriage. The husband doesn’t sugar-coat the reality to his wife. “The truth is that both of us are trying to forget each other. I still have you, she has no one.” This was perhaps one of the most pragmatic and calm discussions on love outside of a marriage that I have seen in a film. There was no melodrama, and the bitterness between the couple was almost like an undercurrent. But above all, it depicted the reality of a traditional man-woman relationship in all its complexity. Love is not easy, and marriages, mostly arranged alliances in India, even today, do not just reset your feelings from someone, as many Indian parents believe.
- Renowned lyricist, poet and filmmaker Gulzar has turned 85.
- The filmmaker is known for his pragmatic take on man-woman relationships.
- Gulzar's films like Aandhi, Mausam and Ijaazat are about love, separation and the ensuing longing despite being estranged.
- A relationship may have a shelf life, but love often manages to live on in form of bitterness, longing and even nostalgia.
In many of his films, Gulzar projected how love and affection couldn’t be bound by marriage. It persisted even if a couple went their separate ways, in form of tenderness and longing.
With renowned poet, lyricist, writer and director Gulzar turning 85, it seems like a perfect occasion to celebrate his gaze at heterosexual relationships, both in and outside of marriage. In many of his films, Gulzar projected how love and affection couldn’t be bound by marriage. It persisted even if a couple went their separate ways, in form of tenderness and longing. That the love you felt for someone couldn’t be switched off when one relationship ends, and even when another begins. It is much more complicated than romance novels and mushy movies would want us to believe.
‘Estranged lovers’ is a recurring theme in many of his films like Aandhi (1976), Mausam (1975) and Ijaazat (1987). In Aandhi a separated couple crosses paths after years, with the wife now being a leading politician. The couple is drawn to one another after spending years apart, slipping into old habits, and spending time with each other, both longing and mourning their lost relationship. In Mausam, an ageing man embarks on a journey to trace the whereabouts of his lady love, to discover that she is long dead, having left behind a daughter who is her spitting image but is now leading a questionable life, due to circumstances. Ijaazat, on the other hand, was about a married couple which was driven apart because the husband’s past refuses to leave his side, haunting their relationship. Interestingly, it is the wife who ends up feeling like “the other woman” here.
When you look at love and relationships around you, Gulzar's gaze makes so much sense. Love and passion aren't always enough. Often it is life which kills a relationship.
Even with his other films like Namkeen (1982) and Kinara (1977), Gulzar touched upon longing, people trapped in their own past and how time and tragedy often created a distance among lovers but failed to dilute their feelings. The director's take is quite radical, with respect to the times these films came out in. In Bollywood even today, one struggles to find films which don't measure a relationship on parameters like passion or try to put a lover's actions as right or wrong. Gulzar lets life unfold in his stories and what happens to love among is his lead characters is merely a reaction.
When you look at love and relationships around you, this gaze makes so much sense. Love and passion aren't always enough. Often it is life which kills a relationship. It could be the everyday humdrum, or an unforeseen event, or even a chance encounter that changes your perspective. What once may seem an all-consuming relationship becomes empty or just too heavy to carry around forever. Our feelings, however, manage to linger, in the form of bitterness, longing, affection or just nostalgia. So while the relationship may have a shelf life, love finds a way to live on. Those feelings are meant to be savoured, just like Gulzar's vast body of work.
Image Credit: Wikicommons/Bollywood Hungama
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.