Gulzar is one of the most revered lyricists, writers and film directors Bollywood has ever produced.
Gulzar was born Sampooran Singh Kalra in a Sikh family in the small town of Dina (now in Pakistan). Deeply engrossed in literature and poetry right from his school days, he avidly listened to Hindustani music as well, attending concerts by Pt. Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
His family moved to Delhi after Partition, but Sampooran moved to Bombay to pursue his ambition to become a writer. He started working as a mechanic in a garage and wrote poetry in his free time under the pen name Gulzar Dinvi.
Two things led to Gulzar’s debut as a lyricist - a tiff between the lyricist and music director planned for Bimal Roy’s movie “Bandini” - Shailendra and S.D. Burman, and his friendship with Shailendra, who told him to approach Bimal Roy for the newly opened lyricist’s slot. In 1963, “Mora Gora Ang Laile” written for “Bandini” became Gulzar’s first credited song to be recorded (although there were two other songs that were released earlier).
Following his debut, Gulzar took a number of years to establish himself and it was really in the 1970s that he produced his most important body of work as a director and lyricist. He wrote scripts and dialogues for a number of Hrishikesh Mukherjee movies - “Anand” (1970), “Guddi” (1971), “Bawarchi” (1972) and “Namak Haram” (1973) and Asit Sen movies - “Do Dooni Char” (1968), “Khamoshi” (1969) and “Safar” (1970). In his first feature film as a director “Mere Apne” (1971), Gulzar used Salil Choudhury to compose music to lyrics, having developed a strong relationship with him during their work together in “Kabuliwala” and “Anand”.
Gulzar’s most successful songs were in collaboration with R.D. Burman, whom Gulzar considered to be the anchor in his life. Their work together in “Parichay”, “Aandhi”, “Ghar”, “Masoom”, “Ijaazat” and many other movies created some of the best songs ever to be made for Hindi films.
Gulzar has won many National and Filmfare Awards over the years. He won his first Filmfare Award for Best Lyrics in 1977 for “Do Deewane Shehar Mein” from “Gharonda” set to Jaidev’s music, and more recently in 2010 for “Dil To Bachha Hai Ji” from “Ishquiya” composed by Vishal Bhardwaj. He is also the recipient of a Sahitya Akademi Award for his book of Urdu short stories, “Duan”. In 2009, recognition came from across the world, with Gulzar winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire.
Gulzar’s poetry has been compiled into two volumes “Raat Pashmine Ki” and “Chand Pukhraaj Ka”. He is the subject of a biography, “Because he is…” by his own daughter, Meghana Gulzar.