'Actually...I Met Them, A Memoir': Gulzar captures wonderful memories of 18 legends in a moving way

Gulzar’s wonderful memoir is completely in sync with his vision and mission of life and the world he graces. Every chapter is a warm, loving embrace to a special soul who made a difference to his life

'Actually...I Met Them, A Memoir': Gulzar captures wonderful memories of 18 legends in a moving way

Monojit Lahiri

“We seldom remember days. What we remember are moments, events, happenings.”

“It’s only when the remembering is done that forgetting gets a chance to peep in ...”

“Memory is the diary we all carry with us.”

“Humans make memories. Places only act as props, play supporting roles.”

“The crucial part of memories is in the world of loneliness they reside in: They need to be shared and celebrated.”

Cut to the present.

People frequently confuse a Memoir with an Autobiography. A Memoir is a re-telling or re-counting of memories of a life lived with special focus on people who influenced events and moments that impacted one’s life in indelible fashion. An Autobiography, on the other hand, documents the life and times of a person, in full detail, warts and all.

Gulzar’s wonderful memoir – to all who are familiar with the creative artist in all his avtaars – is completely in sync with his vision and mission of life and the world he graces. A passionate lover of flashback, every single chapter is a warm, loving, heartfelt embrace to a special soul who made a difference to his life; an engaging journey through the dusty alcoves of memory to make pit-stops and at least for a few enchanting moments, wallow in the memories of 18 luminaries.

These are truly extraordinary and fascinating people who star in these pages, each bringing his/her very special quirks, eccentricities and traits to offer charming cameos of their personalities.

Taking first strike is Gulzar’s acknowledged Guru, mentor and father-figure, the late, legendary Bimal Roy, whose “Hmmm” totally zonked him! ”It could be applied to any emotional moment: anger, love, annoyance, pain or worry. It was always by gauging the hmmm that we used to decide on our collective course of action.”

Then there was the tall dhoti-shirt clad bhadrolok with a celebrated baritone, who went by the name of Hemant Kumar. Would you believe it that this hugely popular singer seldom entered the recording room without a cigarette in his hand? When it was suggested that perhaps the weed could negatively affect the vocal chords, the response was totally un-musical. “Without it, I don’t get the perfect grain in my voice!”

Next up, the original mad genius of Bollywood, Kishore Kumar. Everyone has his own style of refusing to accept an offer to play a role but guess how Kishore Kumar demonstrated his when he wanted to turn down the title role of Hrishida’s Anand? He went bald!

RD Burman was no less freaky in his own eccentric way. On one occasion he carried on a long and involved conversation from his car window across to Gulzar’s car window alongside, totally indifferent to the crazy traffic or screaming horns! How can one forget the great director Hrishikesh Mukherjee? The celebrated creator of Anand, Chupke Chupke, Satyakam, Guddi, Mili, Bawarchi, Khubsoorat, Golmaal and other gems was frequently so engrossed with his writer, Dr Rahi Masoom Raza in a game of chess that quite often Gulzar had to monitor some complex shots that Hrishida needed to oversee, which he was forced to do, with trepidation!

Also, the director often forgot which leg of his suffered from gout and his sense of humour is best demonstrated when once ignoring a guest’s invitation to a cup of tea, he thundered “Tea will arrive anyway, since my dog is addicted to tea at this time, every day!”

Then of course, Sanjeev Kumar, the Gujarati boy coming from a staunch vegetarian family, a hard-core non-vegetarian with an obsession for the magic brew as well. Sharmila Tagore who, with her chic bag and cool, westernised ways, intimidated Gulzar into believing that it would be impossible to go near her without knowing the Queen’s English...and there is lots more from where it came!

Incidentally, almost all the characters – 16 out of 18 – are Bengali and that’s because “from my Guru, Bimal-da, to Headmaster, Hrishi-da, to all others – they have shaped, formed, fostered, nurtured and informed my sensibilities in no uncertain terms. It’s a tribute, salaam, shukriya to all these amazing personalities who have enlightened and enriched my life with their magical presence. Today, looking back in moments of quiet repose and warm remembrance, I continue to feel awed at this fantastic galaxy of gifted souls, only to recover after a while and congratulate myself with ... Yes, Actually ... I Met Them!

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