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When Jnanpith Winner Gulzar In A Throwback Interview Spoke About His Love For Urdu



Jnanpith Winner Gulzar

How as a Sikh, do you  explain  your love for the Urdu language?

Urdu is my favourite language. I know no better  means of communication . My writings from the start , even my diary , are  written in Urdu.  I can also write in Devanagari, Bengali and English, but not as fluently as Urdu. I’m also happy because it’s an award for my written  work.  You  know  writing has always been my primary passion. A   book has always been more fulfilling than  a film. In writing a book, aisa kabhi nahin hota ke koi hasrat baqi reh gayi. Though with a film I can touch crores of hearts at one go, a book has more of me in it than  a film. The medium of writing is the most autonomous complete, fulfilling and selfdependent form of  creativity. In writing you can never complain about things going wrong. Good or bad, you have to stand by  your creativity.  Cinema is more collaborative . There’s always the danger of someone spoiling your work, or you spoiling someone’s work. In writing  you can give expression to all the thoughts and feelings that cannot be  communicated in  a mass medium. I’ve been writing more poetry than prose in  Urdu.  Poetry is a bigger passion  for me. I’d rather be recognized as a poet. Maybe someday….

Is  writing really more satisfying than cinema?

It’s not a  question of more or less satisfying. I’ve always been  more passionate about writing.  But writing has always been the foundation of all  my creative activities. I came to cinema  as a writer. Screenplays ,dialogues and filmmaking are all branches of my writing roots. Because of cinema my name as a writer became  easily recognizable . This has also been a  handicap for me as a writer since literary circles perceive me as a man from cinema and therefore I’ve had difficulty in obtaining  the approval of literary masters.

Do you feel you’re able to get a  larger readership for your literary works because of your association with cinema?

I’d say so.  But it’s  hard to tell if people read my books after coming to my films or they see my films after reading my books.

How does one explain  your interest in Urdu?

The credit must go  to two people—Ahmed Nadeem Qazmi from Pakistan who encouraged me to write , and  an Urdu critic  Gopi Chand Narang from our own country. Narang Saab was among the first people to comment on my stories. He always encouraged  me.

How did  you develop an interest in Urdu?

It was the first language that I learnt in school in Punjab. Every male child studied Urdu as the  first language, not Punjabi. Even  Punjabi was written in the Urdu script  and is still written in Urdu in Pakistan.  Interestingly the women in Punjab studied Hindi, with the result that  husbands and wives couldn’t communicate with each other directly through missives.

Do you think Urdu is dying out?

Certainly not the language. But the script is changing.  Like I said, Urdu was the accepted language in Punjab and several Northern states before the  Partition. But in last 50 years Punjabi is written in Gurmukhi in India while it  continues to be written in Persian in Pakistan.  So it’s the script that’s changing. I can say  the Urdu script in Punjabi  is dying out.   Urdu is written in Devanagari in our country. And yet 70 to 80 percent of the language spoken in  our films is Urdu . So obviously the language itself isn’t dying. In fact Gandhiji had  once suggested we call Urdu Hindustani. I think it was a very wise suggestion.  Urdu is the language of Hindustan. So let’s stop pitching Urdu  against Hindi.

Do you feel it’s as much   the spoken language as Hindi?

I can give you several examples.  Shabana Azmi  and Naseeruddin Shah can’t  write Urdu. But  Naseer who’s from Meerut played Mirza Ghalib very effectively  in my serial.  Both Naseer and Shabana speak  Urdu beautifully.  In  Modern India  Devnagri isn’t a vehicle to communicate  only Hindi but also a vehicle to communicate  Urdu in our country. In  course of time the prejudices  against Urdu will die out.

And how do you think these prejudices will die down?

Finally the people’s language  will prevail. And in India the people’s language is neither the Urdu nor the Hindi that’s being propagated by  Pakistan and India. My new  collection of stories in Urdu and Hindi   is almost  ready.

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