Ijaazat (1988) is Gulzar at his poetic best. The dialogue is lyrical and the songs are rendered beautifully by his long-time friend and collaborator RD Burman. Gulzar, Burman and Asha Bhosle did some of their most enduring work together, and there aren’t many better examples than the song Mera Kuch Samaan.

It’s a love letter. Maya (Anuradha Patel) and Mahender (Naseeruddin Shah) were in a live-in relationship for two years. When Mahender gets married to Sudha (Rekha), she finds some of Maya’s old things in the house and sends them to her. Maya then writes to Mahender about the rest of the stuff that has been left behind – the rainy days, 116 moonlit nights, and the falling leaves of autumn.

Based on a Bengali story Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh, Ijaazat is an account of lost love and regret. Maya grew up in a broken home and does not want to get married. When she disappears without a trace, Mahender marries Sudha, to whom he had been engaged for many years. Sudha and Mahender try to create a life of their own, little by little. The song Katra Katra Milti Hain is Sudha’s willing acceptance of the apportioned affection she receives from her husband.

But this pittance is no match to the conspicuous shadow that is Maya. She is a constant presence in Mahender and Sudha’s life, one neither can get rid of, and not for the lack of trying.

Mera Kuch Samaan, like much of the movie, is composed of flashbacks and memories. Maya’s misery is audible in Bhosle’s voice and visible on Patel’s face. Her home is empty and bathed in hazy sunlight. She reminisces teary-eyed, ethereal in her white dress. Her memories – playful, saturated with bright colours, uninhibited laughter, rainy days, road trips and always, Mahender – are in stark contrast to her present. These are the things she left behind, and this is what she wants him to return to her.

Gulzar’s free verse poetry, set to Bhosle’s evocative voice, won them both National Film Awards for the song. Gulzar recalls the time he brought the lyrics to Burman, who responded, “Next you’ll give me the headline of Times of India and tell me to tune it”. It was only when Bhosle started to hum the refrain “Woh lauta do” that Burman found the starting point for the composition.

Mera Kuch Samaan from Ijaazat (1988).