Of poetry and shayaris: Songs by Gulzar that are close to my heart

Having started his career as a lyricist, Gulzar has also directed films like Koshish


Recently, Gulzar the noted lyricist and poet, most known for injecting heft, emotion, wit and humour into Hindi film dialogues and enthralling us with some of the most soul-soothing lyrics that Bollywood music has to offer, won the 58th Jnanpith award for the year 2023.

Interestingly, he won the award for his contribution to the Urdu language through "poetry and shayaris," and this admittedly came as a surprise to him too. When expressing gratitude via a message, he said, "I was thinking that maybe it is because of the film and music, people are not aware of listening to poetry and shayari. But, when the announcement of the Jnanpith Award came, I felt that people were still interested in listening to Urdu poetry and shayari. I felt so happy."

Having started his career as a lyricist with the film Kabuliwala, starring Balraj Sahni, Gulzar, whose actual name is Sampooran Singh Kalra, has also tried his hand at direction with several acclaimed feature films such as Mausam, Maachis, Parichay, Aandhi, Khushboo and Koshish. A winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award (2002), Padma Bhushan (2004), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2013), and scores of national awards, here are some of my own favourites of his most memorable works over the years, those with which I associate my childhood memories and growing up years as a 90s kid.

Jungle jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai 

Every Sunday morning would begin with Mowgli on Doordarshan, immediately after Mahabharat; how we'd join in chorus to this title song as the credits began rolling and this little brat in his chaddis went swinging branch to branch, with Bhaloo and Bagheera in tow. Reports have it that Doordarshan first rejected this insanely famous theme song for the word chaddi in it but Gulzar Sahab being himself, stood his ground and prevailed too. 

Humko mann ki shakti dena’

We would sing this song in school, especially during assembly and at the end of the program on every Annual Day. Penned down in 1971 for the movie ‘Guddi’, ‘Humko Mann Ki Shakti Dena’ continues to hold a special place in my heart even today. It's akin to a pain-relieving balm that brings in that much-needed calm and positivity. Also, the film scene on which the song is based is an instant recall, such is the strong presence of Gulzar's renditions.  

Lakdi ki kaathi, kaathi pe ghoda

I remember singing this as a child and now I see my daughter do the same. Such is the power of this fantastic song which is sung both, as a nursery rhyme and a film song, with equal verve, innocence and happiness. This song evokes nostalgia in me like nothing else does. 

Maine tere liye hi saat rang ke sapne chune.....sapne sureele sapne

My mother used to sing this very often to me and my brother. Of many such moments, the one I remember vividly is when we were seated at the famous Juhu beach, she sang it to us as we, all three of us, were taking in the view of the setting sun. Even as I'm writing this, I feel a roller-coaster of emotions within. 'Choti baatein, choti choti baton ki hai yadein badi, bhoole nahin, beeti huyi ek choti ghadi...' is my most favourite line. 

Dum kata - patang udey toh patang ke pichhe

The song ‘Dum kata’ from the eponymous children’s film, directed by Amol Palekar is a personal favourite because, in this warm and perky tune, there is no aspect of a tail (poonch) that Gulzar hasn't addressed. Even though the film turned out to be a box-office disaster, the song remains evergreen in my heart and mind. 

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