‘I dream of flying into space’

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When asked what was that one dream that has not been fulfilled yet, the 83-year-old poet was quick to reply: “Fly into space like an astronaut,” adding, “That would be a unique experience, if I live that long to experience it.”

Gulzar is a familiar personality to every Bollywood-addict who grew up between 1960s and the 2010s. Yes, the octogenarian lyricist has enthralled audiences with his poetry for the past five decades – and, is still going strong.

The versatile creator of innumerable songs, poetry, novels, children’s stories, screenplays and films (the list is endless), was in Auckland recently to recite his poetry and share anecdotes with his fans and admirers across the Indian subcontinent. Rushi Dave and Arun Nanda of Heart and Soul Productions Pty Ltd were the event organisers from Australia who made this possible, along with Auckland-based Umesh Kumar of UA International.

Gulzar in conversation with Salim Arif at Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland

Surprise of surprises, during the interview Gulzar disclosed that NASA is his most-visited website. “I hope some day NASA makes me this offer,” he said with a smile, “Not sure if NASA will surprise me with an offer or I will surprise them with a request!”

He recalled composing a poem after the demise of Neil Amstrong, the first human to land on the moon. “Poetry is my lifeline; I record all my experiences and impressions through poetry. Neil Amstrong’s death had really moved me and not much was written after his demise. So I have recorded a tribute to this great man,” said Gulzar, attempting to recite the gist of the poem.

Born Sampooran Singh Kalra, he claimed that writing the lyrics of a song to fit in with the screenplay is much difficult than writing poetry. With an Oscar and a Grammy Award to his name, he started his career with the legendary SD Burman for his film Bandini (1963). His more recent compositions include Jai Ho for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionnaire and even a rap for Yo Yo Honey Singh. This is one songwriter who has moved with the times.

So what’s his next project? Later this year, Harper Collins will release the maestro’s translation of 500 poems composed by 275 poets in 33 languages. The book will be titled, A Poem a Day. An avid translator of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s works, he insisted that we should produce more children’s literature because that will not only enrich parents but also indulge children to express better.

Gulzar explained his philosophy of life thus: “Life is infinite, in spite of an interruption by death. Each human being is a creative person in his own right, who keeps on measuring and leaving behind mileage. Leave your footage; experience life through your own exploration of life. It all depends on how far you can leave your antenna open and receive the vibes. I am a spec in the same process.”

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