Updated December 16th, 2023 at 07:58 IST

Motor mechanic to India's biggest lyricist, here's how Gulzar got his Bollywood break

After getting his break as lyricist, Gulzar worked as an assistant to Bimal Roy and later with Roy’s proteges Basu Bhattacharya and Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Reported by: Republic Entertainment Desk
Gulzar | Image:Pinterest

Very few people know that Gulzar worked as a car mechanic before his entry in the film industry. However, Gulzar also always had a deep interest in poetry. Whenever he was not free, he would always attend poetry sessions held by common friends, and this is how he gradually found himself attending meetings of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA). One of the PWA members he ended up becoming good friends with Debu Sen, who was an assistant to notable filmmaker Bimal Roy.

Gulzar got a chance because of a fight between Burman and Shailendra

Debu Sen introduced Gulzar to Bimal Roy. When Gulzar first met Bimal Roy, Roy was in the process of his next film Bandini. While Bimal Roy was heavily impressed by Gulzar’s knowledge of Bengali literature and Vaishnav poetry in particular, co-incidentally around the same time S.D.Burman and Shailendra had a little fall out. This led to S.D.Burman’s declaration that he wouldn’t work with Shailendra ever again.

S.D.Burman file image | Image: Pinterest

However, now Bimal Roy was in a fix. He needed Bandini song recordings to go ahead, and this is when Gulzar came to rescue. Shailendra too strongly recommended Gulzar, and that’s how Gulzar happened to write one of the key songs of the narrative where the film’s protagonist steps out of the house at night and ends up singing a poem - titled Mora Gora Ang Lai Le.


A few days later, Shailendra and S.D.Burman buried the hatchet, and staying true to his personality, S.D.Burman suddenly insisted that Shailendra get to work with rest of the songs. Shailendra, who was 15 years senior to Gulzar, was embarrassed to take over the lyricist’s position. However, Gulzar graciously stepped back from the job and asked Shailendra to take a job that was rightfully his to begin with.

Bandini poster | Image: Pinterest

When Bimal Roy refused to let Gulzar return to garage job

While Bimal Roy couldn’t convince S.D.Burman to let Gulzar write rest of the songs as well, he definitely couldn’t allow Gulzar to go back to his menial job of a car mechanic either. That’s precisely what Roy told Gulzar as well, as he said, “Become my assistant, learn the craft of filmmaking, do whatever you want in my team.. But don’t go back to that garage.”

That was when Gulzar’s life changed forever. For the next few years, Gulzar worked as an assistant to Bimal Roy and later with Roy’s proteges Basu Bhattacharya and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. By 1971, Gulzar had become a bonafide filmmaker in his own right, as he made his debut with the film Mere Apne


Published December 15th, 2023 at 23:52 IST

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