Would Be Deceptive to Not Mention Parents’ Separation: Meghna Gulzar on Writing Father’s Biography
Filmmaker Meghna Gulzar opens up on her iconic father, writing a book about him and her less-talked about relationship with her mother.
The book cover of 'Because He Is', Meghna Gulzar's biography of her father. (Image: Instagram/Meghna Gulzar)
It isn’t easy to be Gulzar’s only daughter. At 84, the poet-lyricist is as relevant today as he was in the 70s-80s, when he was making sharp commentaries on the rapidly-changing India through classics like Ijaazat and Aandhi.
Ask Meghna whether she has ever felt the pressure of being his daughter, and she says, “For me it has only been a matter of pride, always. I was completely oblivious to his persona, his fame, his art and how good he is for a very long part of my childhood.” In all that time, she says, she developed a very close bond with her father without ever knowing who he really was. “First came the love for the father. The awe for the artist came in much, much later,” she adds.
The 44-year-old filmmaker often says, “I am because he is,” and Gulzar calls her his mirror. Such is their relationship. Talking about it, Meghna says, “It is completely symbiotic, not that of a parent and a child. We grow from each other, we feed off each other.”
It is this unique equation and mutual love for one other that has compelled Meghna to take forward her 2004 biography of Gulzar, 'Because He Is', and add to it his last 14 years.
The book’s reprint was launched at Mumbai’s Royal Opera House on Saturday. “Very few people get to live a full life once. I have got to live it twice, though him,” Meghna said at the launch.
Though it is about Gulzar, the book is not a quintessential biography. It doesn’t trace his past or origin. It is simply Meghna’s honest observation of her father over the years without any opinions or biases. “Its purpose was not to record what I think of him. It is about his life and the person that he is. It’s just that as opposed to a professional biographer, a daughter is telling this story,” Meghna told News18.
Did she follow any guidelines while writing it? She said, “There is a line in Ijaazat (Gulzar’s 1987 film): ‘Jo sach hai aur sahi hai, wahi karo.’ For me that’s the best way to get any job done well. Keep it simple and keep it honest. That’s what I do with my scripts, my films and that’s what I have done with my book.”
Her father agrees. Complimenting Meghna on keeping it real and life-like, the octogenarian said, “I really like it that she has focused on me, my friends, my family and the world that I live in, rather than the important people I have met or the awards I have won. She has looked at my life from her own perspective.”
“It’s a revelation to me also to find out how I have appeared to her. It’s very interesting for any parent to know how they have been looked upon by my child because such things cannot be asked,” he added.
The one thing that stands out about ‘Because He Is’ is its unflinching honesty. Giving Gulzar credit for it, Meghna said, “He was uncomfortable talking about certain things and people but he never hid or sugar-coated anything.”
“There was an inherent honesty in the conversations and transcribing them also came from a place of honesty,” she added.
Does the book, then, also discuss her parents’ separation? “It would have been deceptive to not touch upon it. The purpose of writing a book on a person is not to hide certain things and glorify certain others,” said Meghna.
But, she quickly adds, “I have written it the way I have seen it. If you are expecting a scandal out of it, you won’t find it because I didn’t see a scandal. I saw dignity, maturity and a grace in the way two people who separated, shared the responsibility of raising their child.”
However, her relationship with her mother, veteran actor Raakhee, is hardly talked about. Meghna clarifies: “The reason that my relationship with my father is more in the public eye is because we are both in the same field. We both work together as well. It therefore probably appears that we are closer than I am with my mother but that’s not true. My mother also is a very important anchor of my life.”
Coming back to the biography, it also includes Meghna’s only poem ever published. An extremely private person, she likes to write for herself. But this one, she says, “had to be up there.”
I know I am protected
Because his arms cradle me.
I know I’ll walk the right path
His little finger leads me.
He dabbles in celluloid
So I know I can see.
I know can write
Because his ink flows in me.
I know I can
Because he believes.
I know I am
Because he is.
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