Gulzar's interpretation of a love triangle in Ijaazat - an evocative exploration of the strength and fragility of human relationships - was years ahead of its time. This book examines that interpretation to show how, thematically, the film was possibly Gulzar's most daring. It highlights how his skill as a storyteller - at once romantic and realistic - is exemplified by his complex characters. Contributing to that understanding is how the film's power also derived hugely from its sublime musical score by R.D. Barman.
Drawing on Gulzar's recollections of the making of the film, Mira Hisami’s book embraces the memory of the `love' that for the poet wasn't always the answer, but part of the question.
MIRA HASHMI is an assistant professor teaching film studies at the Lahore School of Economics. A graduate of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal, Mira has also been writing about film for various publications for over twenty-five years. Her areas of interest include the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, and Hindi masala movies. She has two children, one of them named after her grandfather, and the other after a character from the TV series Buff y the Vampire Slayer.
Although Hindi films had been banned in Pakistani cinemas for over forty years (1965-2007), Hindi film fans in the country found an oasis in the late 1970s in the form of the pirated VHS tapes that found their way into Pakistani households through expatriate communities living in the UAE and Hong Kong. Filmi publications like Stardust, Filmfare and the now-defunct Star & Style too, were smuggled into local bookshops through increasingly imaginative means. Our local TV antennae caught whiffs of Doordarshan, and Chitrahaar became a staple twice-weekly indulgence, with Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream and Nirma Washing Powder ads sounding the clarion call to come and partake.
As a result, I grew up on a robust diet of Hindi films. I didn't just develop a taste for the masala; I became an addict. I also, at some point, became acutely aware that though virtually all of these films were in some vioy or the other, directly or indirectly, about romance, very few of them were about relationships. Love and/or marriage always seemed to be an end-goal, never a journey. Love was the impetus to fight against villains - whether they were smirking smugglers, evil dacoits, unsympathetic parents, economic disparities or just society at large -and marriage was the ultimate reward. There was the odd `sad ending', of course, where one or both of the lovers would give up their life in order to be united in death rather than be separated while alive; but even here, the romantic union was presented as the be-all and end-all of existence. The overwhelming majority of films, however, ended with the final shot of happily-ever-after smiles and embraces, as a romantic duet from an earlier part of the film played in the background and the 'The End' was superimposed on the screen as a declaration that the story had reached its conclusion and nothing further remained to be said. As I grew into tendon, I found that my actual interest in the story began where the film usually chose to end it. Instead of providing satisfaction and closure, `The End' only served to frustrate me in the same way that childhood fairytales had before. 'So, Cinderella and the prince got hitched,' I'd think to myself. Now what? They hardly know each other. Will they be compatible? What if he leaves her alone all the time to go off hunting with his debauched friends and she becomes an alcoholic, wasting away in that huge palace?' Similarly, I wondered what the future had in store for the other film couples; what would happen once the love goggles reached their expiration date, as they inevitably do in real life, and the warts revealed themselves? Would love still be able to conquer in the face of the monotony of domestic life, personality clashes, goals and dreams evolving in separate directions, and such practicalities, or would it give up and walk away in search of greener, less demanding pastures? (Perhaps this was one of the reasons why Ramesh Talwar's 1977 film Doosra Aadmi stood out for me; it was one of the rare commercial films that examined the thorns, rather than the bed of roses, in a marriage.)
Somewhere in the midst of this, as if by divine machination, I discovered the cinema of Gulzar. I'm talking about the late 1980s here so you may well be rightly wondering, 'But he had been making films since the early '70s; were you living under a rock?' Of sorts, yes. You see, those precious VHS copies of Hindi films that most local rental places stocked in the initial years of the decade were usually the latest Amitabh-Mithun-Sridevi-Jeetendra potboilers; very few imagined that their customers would be interested in older films, least of all old arty films. But as the video rental business boomed and the audience for it grew, so expanded the audience's taste and, with it, the demand for a wider variety of cinematic fare - particularly the classics. The video hunter-gatherers Obliged and rental stores started stocking fairly diverse titles, from the celebrated to the relatively obscure. And so it came to be that most of the then-younger generation saw Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Awaara (1951), Sholay (1975), etc., well after we had seen the likes of Himmatwala (1998), Disco Dancer (1982) and Shahenshah (1988). (And, yes, probably just as many Pakistanis have tried to freeze-frame Mandakini under the waterfall in Ram Teri Ganga Maili  as Indians.)
Of course, we had been watching and listening to songs from Gulzar's films on Chitrahaar and on smuggled audio cassettes for years; we even knew the dialogue prelude to `Tere bina zindagi se koi shikva to nahi' from Aandhi (1975) by heart. But, finally, we were able to put those songs in context. As it happened, Aandhi was the first one to be viewed in my household, accompanied by whispers of it being a fictionalized account of Indira Gandhi's private life. Many were astounded by its open ending, which not only daringly defied Hindi cinema's penchant for upholding the notion of 'love conquers all', but also suggested that for some women - shock, horror! - life possibly had meaning beyond romance and matrimony. I was intrigued and sought out more of the writer-director's work, which in the pre-Internet days, with almost non-existent access to published information about the Hindi film history, was not an easy task.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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