‘Gulzar works very quietly on his scripts. He does not tomtom them but when it is ready, he produces it and presents it.’ Deepti Naval has vivid memories of Angoor. ‘He read the complete script to us, two or three of us were present, and we were all charged by the whole idea.’
Gulzar was very clear about his cast. ‘I was signed up along with Haribhai Jariwala (Sanjeev Kumar),’ Moushumi remembers. ‘I was close to him. I was perhaps the only one who called him Zari and he would laugh at that. He called me one evening and said, “Gulzar will come to you for his next film, ask your terms. No one can do it except you.”’ Moushumi knew Gulzar, ‘He used to come home to teach my mother-in-law Urdu. He spoke to my husband and dropped in. I knew it was a big budget film and said yes at once.’
Gulzar had one problem to cope with while working with Moushumi on Angoor: the actress was pregnant with her second daughter. ‘We had to take many long, long shots, as I was visibly pregnant,’ Moushumi remembers. Otherwise, her director had no issues. ‘She is an actress who becomes the role. I don’t think there is any role in which she has failed. She never took her career seriously or she would have gone really far,’ is his reading of Moushumi.
Moushumi also has happy memories of working with Deepti Naval, a ‘very sweet girl’. She remembers that Gulzar was very upset with her and said something sharp, which made her cry. ‘They did not dare tell me anything,’ she says of her directors, including Gulzar. ‘I would give it back saying either you convince me or let me do it my way. I concentrate on what I am doing. Moushumi knew everyone in the film. Deven Verma was ‘half Bengali’ and a friend, and all the production people knew her, including the cameraman, so ‘despite the tight schedules, it was a fun film to do.’
Gulzar admits to problems with Deepti. ‘Her presence was very good, and she made the perfect contrast to Moushumi, but she was too academic. She would want to script out the dialogues and how to say them and work out movements … It was not my way of working.’
Deepti speaks with admiration of just this quality in Gulzar. ‘Gulzar is a writer of precision. He had a metre in mind, the rhythm of a sentence in his brain. He knew exactly how a dialogue should be delivered, whether it would end on a high note or a low one. He was strict about it and the only person who could improvise on it was Sanjeev Kumar, who would do so but without changing the inherent structure and rhythm of the line.’
Gulzar was very clear even as he was writing Angoor that his ‘two anchors’ Hari (Sanjeev Kumar) and Pancham would be an intrinsic part of the film. There was no scope for music but the film could not be done without Pancham. And when HMV demanded three songs that they hoped to combine with the dialogues into an album, Pancham’s presence was justified.
Equally certain that his film needed Sanjeev Kumar in the lead double role, Gulzar wrote the film with the actor in mind. The relationship between them stretches back to before either of them had entered the world of films. ‘I was with IPTA; he was with INT. We used to meet at rehearsals at Bhulabhai. He was keen on entering films and was taking acting lessons from P.D. Shenoy, who was head of the acting school which Leela Chitnis’ son and Joy Mukherjee also attended, among others. P.D. was also a director. I knew him.’
Gulzar worked with Sanjeev Kumar for the first time in Sunghursh. Abrar Alvi had left the film, so Gulzar was called in. ‘The film was based on the short story “Layli Asmaner Ayna” by Mahasweta Devi. They felt “Bengali aadmi hai and story Bengali hai. Gulzar can do it.” The script was in a huge mess when I got in. Dilip sahib had written in large portions, he used to do that, and the novel itself was so huge that only portions of it could be used. There were a lot of discussions before we could finalize the script and structure. Sanjeev had been taken for the film.’
Sanjeev Kumar starred in most of Gulzar’s films, from Parichay (1972) and Koshish (1972) to Angoor and beyond, and Gulzar’s friendship with him was a close one. ‘Hari loved food. He loved eating non-vegetarian food and would tell my sister, who lived with me those days, “I will come to have chicken.” To me, he would say, “I will come anytime. I need Black Label. If you cannot afford it, I will leave a bottle here with you.” And, sure enough, he would drop in any time after a shoot, often without warning. And I would wake my sister up so she could cook something for him.’
Excerpted with permission from Gulzar’s Angoor Insights into the Film, Sathya Saran, HarperCollins India.