His exact words condemning the current climate of religious intolerance in the country were, "Bekhauff thay, kam se kam baat karne ke liye toh bekhauff thay." (We were fearless, even if it was just to speak to each other.) Sheer poetry, you might add.
Had Gulzar been stringing his words to an RD Burman tune or his present musical partner, Vishal Bhardwaj, they might have come up with a ‘bekhauff’ tune that the nation would have been hooked on to. Instead, Gulzar has become a sitting duck for social media bullies, who have mindlessly questioned his patriotism and his commitment to political and social issues.
Gulzar has enough ‘bekhauff’ songs in his lengthy repertoire to singe our conscience. Here are some of the occasions on which the poet and film lyricist has used his words to convey his political stand.
Maachis (1996) The song ‘Chhod aaye hum woh galiyaan’ appears to be addressing a woman, but it is, in fact, about Punjab during the pro-independence movement of the 1980s. The four young men in the song, who are terrorists in the making, are referring to the disturbed homeland that they have left behind. Om Puri’s character lip-syncs the last stanza, bemoaning Punjab’s riots, ‘Ek chota sa lamha hai, jo khatm nahi hota, main laakh jalata hoon, yeh bhasm nahi hota.’ (A brief moment overstays despite my every attempt to snuff it.)
Hu Tu Tu (1999) ‘Jaago jaago jagte raho’ has a prophetic line, ‘Log batt-tay hi khuda batne lagey hain.’ ‘Gods are being divided as people are segregated.’ The film had other rousing numbers: ‘Ghapla Hai’, about corruption that has seeped into everything, including flour and potatoes, and ‘Bandobast hai’, about governing bodies run by autocrats.
Talvar (2015) In 'Patli gali’, Gulzar deftly weaves social commentary about the justice system using similes and metaphors. Careful not to be overt in his indictment, the song playfully discusses how hollow the ‘system’ is: ‘Fansi gale mein daal ke maamu Rasiyan bech rahe hain.’ (With the noose around their necks, louts are selling rope.)
Gulzar steers his songs clear of political connotations if the film’s subject does not require it, because he writes plentiful about the political machinations of the heart. Take, for instance, the title track of Kaminey (2009) where he says, 'Meri aarzoo kamini, meri khwab bhi kaminey.' (My wish is a rascal, my dreams rapscallion) Shouldn’t one take umbrage to that insensate statement?