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reminiscing Gulzar

Poetic baggage

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SEARING: Atul Kulkarni in 'Kharaashein', a play on the Gujarat riots

At this Gulzar festival, the return gifts will be a package of memories, beautiful and disturbing.

It's a package of memories that is being offered in a festival dedicated to Gulzar, called Mera Kuch Samaan. Remember the award-winning song from the film Ijaazat that, laced with imagery and emotion, became an anthem for parted lovers to return not gifts and letters but memories of the time spent together? "Bas aisi kuch yaadein hain mere samaan mein. It's 'emotional luggage' that I want to share, " says the legendary writer about the four-day affair being put together by theatre person Salim Arif.
Associated with Gulzar for more than 25 years - ever since he was designing the costumes and look of the 1988 TV serial Mirza Ghalib - Arif was among the fortunate few to have access to all the poet's writings. "Many know him only for his work in films or his published books, but there's an amazing 'other' side to him too. I've been lucky to have gone through all his 'samaan' - his unpublished work - and believe me, it's just as amazing, " says the NSD alumnus who will be presenting three plays and Rubaru, a programme in which Gulzar and Arif will discuss 100 years of Indian cinema. "The focus will be more on the journey of poetry and lyrics in Hindi films, " adds Gulzar. The evening will also feature a poetry-reading session with the poet himself.

Celebrating its tenth year, Kharaashein is amongst Gulzar's "much-in-demand plays", says Arif. Remembering the Gujarat massacre of 2002, he recalls, "We were all so affected by the blood and gore, the killings that were all so unnecessary that I wanted to put together something on stage on the communal scene in India. The idea was not to present the usual Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai spiel but to portray reality. When I discussed this with Gulzarsaab, we knew that there was a lot of potency in the subject and hence Kharaashein came up. " Adds Gulzar, "People may talk about time being the best healer but over the years, I have seen that there are some scars that can never be healed. It's that dard (pain), the tragedy that riots inflict on our very soul that forms the focus of this play. " The Delhi audience will see it come alive with acclaimed actors like Atul Kulkarni and Yashpal Sharma.

It is only fitting that in the 150th year of Rabindranath Tagore's birth, the festival is paying a tribute to the bard. "I am translating some of his works including his stories for children, " says Gulzar. The festival has put together a set of two plays. "One is based on Tagore's Stree Patra in which an intelligent woman pushed into the background, finally speaks her mind through a letter, " he says. "The second is my story about a contemporary woman and what she faces when she speaks her mind. " Sunte Ho throws light, Arif adds, "on how in the name of riti-riwaaz (tradition), women have and will continue to be victimised".

Amidst all these "serious issues about life and society", Arif asked Gulzar to give the audience a taste of his comedy. "We've seen the way he can make people laugh in movies like Angoor, " he says. The result was the adaptation of three stories by O Henry whose wit, characterization and plot twists "are things we all are so familiar with", smiles Gulzar. "I've called it Arre!! O Henry and I'm sure the audience will enjoy it. "

'Mera Kuch Samaan' is on from June 20-23 at the Kamani auditorium. For tickets, contact 9818180422/011-23414666.

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