Immaculate in his legendary white kurta pyjama and white jooties, he looks older than you expect.
But once Gulzar begins to address you in his well modulated voice, the impression of age magically disappears. You are enveloped instead by the presence of a legend - a man who began with SD Burman and decades later, has composed to A R Rahman's path breaking new age music; aman who has been honoured with seven national awards for his skills in screenplay, direction and lyrics; and has moved you with his films, Aandhi, Ijaazat,Mausam, Maachis...
The venue is a colourful wood-panelled room in Boskiana, his bungalow. The time of day, a dark, mansoon evening. The idea? To read more into his recent lyric release, the songs of a small, but interesting first film, Desh Deepak's Jahan Tum Le Chalo.
The film casts Nirmal Pandey and Sonali Kulkarni and music by Vishal Bhardwaj. Excerpts:
In the last couple of years, you've worked with Mani Ratnam on Dil Se on one hand, and with Desh Deepak, a newcomer, on the other. How do you select your films?
The subject is the major attraction. I dont care how big or small the scale of the film, as long as it has something unusual to say. Jahan Tum... seemed a clean film, and I liked Desh's approach.
I've worked on many 'firsts' : Ramesh Sippy's Andaaz, Prakash Jha's Hip Hip Hurray, Kalpana Lazmi's Ek Pal, Ramesh Sharma's New Delhi Times, Bhimsen's Gharonda,shekhar Kapoor's Masoom....
Speaking of Desh Deepak's 'first' then, the song 'Aththanni Si Zindagi' seems to stand out
The lyrics of the song complement its lilting melody and beat. The song is about life's spontanaeity.
But more lasting, I think, will be the song Jhooth Bolta Hai Roz Roz Aaina, sung by Lataji and then again by Rekha Bhardwaj. It has more depth.
You've teamed up with Vishal regularly since you first worked with him on the theme song of the serial, 'Daane Anaar Ke'. What is so special about his music?
I was responsible for giving him his first feature film break - we did Maachis together. He brought melody back into music when there was only beat. In Jahan Tum... too, it's his melody that holds you.
Dil Se was your first venture with AR Rehman. It was a succesful liaison - the album stands out from among the year's offerings. But did this kind of music undercut your lyrics?
Certainely not. The music and lyrics in all the songs make the journey together - neither overtakes the other. Rehman's music like Vishal's, will survive. It has both a classical and folk quality that are deeply attached to the soil. All the songs in Dil Se have a sufiana feel.
Rehman has broken the conventional format of the sng, bringing it closer to blank verse, free verse. (Pauses) I would like to work again with him.
Who is your favourite music director of all time?
R D Burman, of course. We joined the film industry together, he assisting S D Burman, and I, as assistant to Bimal Roy. We got our first break almost at the same time, worked and grew together.
There will never be anyone quite like him
You've Worked with several generations of music directors. How has the place of the lyric changed down the ages?
Well the standards of poetry have dropped along with the deterioration of values in today's world. The song has become some thing you consume instantly
I believe this instant quality in songs will pass.
Will music always be dear to the Indian Audience?
Music has a natural place in our lives. Right from the shlok you recite in your morning puja and the milkman who comes whistling on his cycle, to the fakir singing as he begs for alms and your mother humming around the kitchen...music fills our spaces naturally.
it will always be dear to us.