Bliss has this supernatural, superhuman, quality – it makes Creation speak through you.
We watched Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak the other day. It is a simple, powerful, film – great storytelling of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal’s journey, a very nuanced performance by both protagonists, the extremely talented Deepika Padukone (who is also the film’s producer) and Vikrant Massey.
Laxmi’s story is well known. Even if you had not heard of it before, in watching the pre-release promotions for Chhapaak, you are sure to have realized that the film is based on a true story. Meghna makes the film an engaging, engrossing, immersive experience for the viewer. Her brilliance as a filmmaker shines through every frame in the film.
But what stays with you, and keeps coming back to haunt you, again, and again, and again, is the title track of the film.
This song has been written by Meghna’s father, the venerable Gulzar. It narrates the pain and anguish of an acid attack survivor. The lyrics are very disturbing. They stir your conscience. You feel helpless at your inability to do anything about this dastardly, cowardly act. If a lyricist-composer (Shankar-Ehsan-Loy)-singer (Arijit Singh) can evoke that response from within you, it is a remarkable feat! Even so, Vaani and I remain mesmerized by Gulzar’s writing here.
Sample the genius of his lyrics in this song:
Koi chehra mita ke, aur aankh se hata ke
Chand chheente uda ke jo gaya
Chhapaak se pehchaan le gaya
Ek chehra gira, jaise mohra gira
Jaise dhoop ko grahan lag gaya
Chhapaak se pehchaan le gaya…
Aarzoo thi shauq thhe, woh saare hat gaye
Kitne saare jeene ke dhaage kat gaye…
Let me attempt a simple (perhaps not authentic) translation:
A face was erased, was removed from sight…with sprinkling a few drops, in a splash, (someone) took away (my) identity
A face fell, like a pawn falls, like sunshine is eclipsed, in a splash, (someone) took away (my) identity…
(My) Aspirations and wishes, all of them have disappeared…So many threads of (my) Life have been snapped/cut away…
Listen to the full song here.
For us, the most evocative part of these lyrics is where Gulzar says, the splash, the chhapaak, from the acid attack, took away the survivor’s identity – pehchaan – and not (just) her beauty!!! Just this line, this brutal truth, leaves you angry and numb.
Gulzar. Gulzar. Gulzar.
I wonder how this man, at 85, still remains relevant, fresh and prolific? And the answer to that question, I guess, is simple. He has always, only, followed his Bliss.
Coming to Bombay from Dina (now in Pakistan), after the Partition, he started his songwriting career in 1963, with S.D.Burman in Bandini. Gulzar believes that discipline and feeling the pulse of the people, the world, around him are the key to his art, his Bliss, continuing to flow through him even after all these years.
In a 2016 interview to Harneet Singh in the Mint, he says: “Yes. Every day I am in my study. I write. I read. I research. You have to. Lafz dhoondne ke liye kaam toh roz karna padta hai (one has to work hard in order to find the right words).”
In a 2017 interview to fellow lyricist Kausar Munir in the Hindustan Times, he says: ““You ask how I stay relevant even after more than five decades of writing?” He points to his table, “By feeling the pulse of the gully-mohalla, the nation, the globe that I live in. Being master of Urdu doesn’t interest me, being part of the global society does, breathing hope into that society matters to me”.”
I firmly believe that Bliss has this supernatural, superhuman, quality – it makes Creation speak through you. Gulzar’s amazing, beautiful, expansive, often soul-stirring, body of work is evidence of this belief of mine.
You see, as Khalil Gibran has said so powerfully, we are all created from Life’s longing for itself. Without doubt, we have been born through a physical, biological act that involved our parents – yet they were mere vehicles to bring us into this world. Life created you and me not for us to slave away earning a living, but to do what we love doing, to create art, to create magic.
The real reason for your creation, your raison d’etre, is embedded in you, by Creation, by Life, even as you are born. And that reason is intertwined with your Bliss, with your idea of what makes you truly, deliriously, happy.
So, when you follow your Bliss, magic happens. Life speaks through you and everything you do is art, everything you do touches people, and every offering of yours makes the world a better place. We lose this opportunity to experience and co-create this magic when we sacrifice ourselves on the altar of economic security, often choosing to do what makes us intensely unhappy just so that we can earn a living. To be sure, Gulzar too, when he was Sampooran Singh Kalra and was a painter at a motor garage (Vichare Motors) in Bombay, almost sacrificed himself on this altar. But thankfully for himself, and for all of us, whose Life he has enriched, he followed his Bliss.
As I listen to the Chhapaak title track one more time, I bow my head in salutation, in prayer, in gratitude to Creation. I thank Life for giving us Gulzar. I thank Life for giving me an opportunity to live in his lifetime. And I thank Life for reminding me, through his beautiful journey, that when you follow your Bliss, you become timeless, even as your art becomes immortal!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.