|Gulzar speaks to the audience during the lit fest at
Patna Museum on Saturday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
On Day 2 of the Patna Literature Festival, Shambhavi Singh of The Telegraph caught up with prolific writer-cum-poet-filmmaker Gulzar at a city hotel. In the city to attend an interactive session with culture aficionados and budding authors, the man whose pen creates magic, talked about reading habits, the focus on regional languages and his upcoming literary projects.
You have attended two consecutive literature festivals in Patna. How do you find the readers?
There is a large number of readers of Indian languages here in Patna. English books sell like hot cakes, but we can’t deny that the Patna Book Fair registers sale of Hindi books in the range of thousands every day. Only here, in Patna, will you meet a reader who might have read a book two decades ago but will remember the second line of the third chapter. Be it the autorickshaw driver or the chaiwallah — they will save money to buy books from the fair.
How do you find the literature festival of Patna?
Look, we were searching for a centre for regional languages in the state. We were looking forward to this festival, where the attention and focus is on Indian languages. I have no prejudice against English. English has now become Indian English today. English and Urdu have somewhere got their place but over one lakh national languages need recognition — they need space. For that, we have been discussing and desiring it. Now, I am happy we could make it here in Patna. You will find more than 50 per cent of the sessions are in regional languages of the state like Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili and Angika.
Why has the creative team of the festival, along with you, focused on regional languages?
We can hear English, Hindi and Urdu quite often, but unfortunately regional languages are confined to their regions only. They don’t get any national platform. The younger generation needs to know that shayari and nazams are not limited to books alone. Poetry is a live media, don’t wait for it to reach the textbook, read and listen to those poems at the lit fest. The languages live outside films too.
Don’t you think that e-books are killing the book-reading culture?
No one has killed anyone. Have you found out why publication houses are increasing every year? See, it is all about demand and supply. There are not more than 2 per cent people in India who prefer reading books on the Net. So, which is the bigger fish, publication houses or e-books?
What is your next project?
Right now, I am busy assembling and translating poems of different regional languages into English or whichever language I know and understand, like Punjabi, Hindustani, Gujarati and Marathi. I call the language Hindustani because you will find Hindi with Urdu. The book will have around 400 poems. Till now, I have crossed 200. It is likely to be released next year.
During your research, what were the facts that amazed you?
While doing research for a movie, I found a few interesting facts. If you take a view of poems created in the pre-Independence era, you will find these to be very energetic, revolutionary, positive and inspiring. But a decade after Independence, the poems lack energy. After Independence, the poems depicted depression and discontinuation and it’s still continuing. Before Independence, there was a goal, leaderships and the spirit to fight. It has been lost somewhere after Independence.
Have you found any extinct language during your research?
I must not say they are extinct. However, they are on the verge of extinction. Till now, I have added a few poems from Angika, Maithili and Bhojpuri. I have found a few Magahi poems but I am yet to find more. The regional languages need to be revived. The poems from the Northeast are beautiful. They describe the state of depression in the state, their love for the motherland and army movements. Poems reflect the condition of the area or region of a specific period.
What is more important for writing a poem or nazam — good words or the placement of words?
Writing a poem is making a statement or communication and for that we need words. If you write good words, it’s a good poem and if you write bad words, it’s a bad poem.