Came across this book on Kindle Unlimited, and was interested in it as it was of a different genre than what I was reading lately. I am also going through a phase of learning more about Urdu poetry and this book seemed to fall into the right category, considering that Gulzar is one of the most respected names in Urdu poetry today.

The book is in the form of questions and answers, done through an interview, surprisingly on Skype. The author, Nasreen Munni Kabir, I learnt later through the book, is also the creator of the documentary, The Inner/Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan. As a side note, that documentary is one of my favourites. It provides a candid glimpse into the inner world of one of the most successful actors in Bollywood.

In the Company of a Poet traces Gulzar’s entry into the world of poetry, and into the world of films. Gulzar started out as an assistant to Bimal Roy and has since played many roles in Bollywood. He was a writer, director and of course a lyricist. After a career spanning over 50 years, Gulzar chose to return back to his initial love – writing. And hence, after his last directorial venture Hu Tu Tu (1999), he left directing for good.

The book is an easy read and can be finished over a few days. In the book, Gulzar mostly reminisces about famous writer-poets of that time, including Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Salil Chaudhury, and others. He appreciates how the film industry has changed over the years and brought in new talent.

There were some new discoveries for me while reading the book, and finding that the writer of some of the most classic Hindi film songs was Gulzar was quite joyful. However, I also found that the book simply scratched the surface of Gulzar’s life and his works. Maybe it was the impersonal medium of conversation (a web cam interview) that prevented a more detailed examination, or maybe the author preferred to keep it that way. Hence, the book takes a brief dip in the vast pool of talent that is Gulzar. His daughter, Meghna Gulzar, has already written a biography on him. Maybe that calls for a more detailed and personal look at his life.

In the Company of a Poet mostly provides a few amusing anecdotes about the quirks of famous personalities of the film industry of yore. Read it if you’re interested in knowing more about the works of Gulzar.

In the Company of a Poet
Nasreen Munni Kabir
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She was alone, they knew it.
She was helpless, they knew it.
No one would save her, they knew it.
And so with a gleam in their eyes, the men from the tow truck jumped down
And strode towards the poor little car.