Gulzar reveals why he ended 17-year sabbatical from screenplay writing with Mirzya

The writer-lyricist, who had not written a screenplay since 1999, spoke about what made him get back to it with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s love saga.

(Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

Suparna Thombare

At the music launch of Mirzya, the director of the film, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, spoke about what attracted him to the legendary folk tale of Sahiban and Mirza. The director recalled an incident from many years ago that got stuck in his mind.

“I saw a play on Mirza-Sahiban for the first time 36 years ago," he said. "I was in college and it was a legendary love story. At the end of the play, the director came to the stage and asked all of us in the audience why Sahiban broke the arrows. Some raised their hand, but I didn’t. The question got me. Why do we hurt the most the person we love the most? Why does this happen in love? It’s so illogical.”

The tragic love story of Mirza and Sahiban is part of Punjabi folklore. Mirza and Sahiban grow up together and are soulmates who find themselves on opposite side of the divide between two warring families thirsting for each other's blood. Everyone tries to separate the lovers but is unsuccessful. Finally, the two run away together. When they are resting under a tree, Sahiban’s brothers appear with 100 horsemen. Mirza, an ace archer, reaches for his bow and arrows, but all his arrows are broken. The deed was done by Sahiban. 'Why did you do it?' he asks as Sahiban's brothers' arrows find their mark. As the breath escapes from his wounded body, the only question that remains in his eyes is, 'why did Sahiban break the arrows?'

“That question remained somewhere deep inside me," said Mehra. "I called up Gulzarbhai and asked him to meet for chai. He said come. He is my neighbour. I asked him, ‘Sahiban ne teer kyun tode’. He said, ‘Go ask Sahiban.’ I said I have been looking for her for many years but haven’t found her. He said, ‘Haath pakadte hain aur Sahiba ko dhoondte hain. When we find her, we’ll ask why she broke the arrows.’ My life comes full circle today with the opportunity to take the writing of such a great legend and making it my own."

The director had passed on his passion for the tragic love story to Gulzar, who had last written a screenplay for his directorial venture Hu Tu Tu way back in 1999. When asked why it took him 17 years to get back, Gulzar joked, “Nobody employed me until I met Rakeysh and his team... now I don't want to leave his team and I have told him to adopt me.”

Actually, it was Mehra’s passion for the story that inspired Gulzar to write again. “He asked me this question ‘Sahiban ne teer kyun tode.’ He told me you ask her and let me know. I said let’s go meet her.

"I have had great fun working with Mehra and going on this journey. Only thing is that he often asks questions which are not in the textbook. Even as a school student, I always had a problem answering questions that are not in the textbook. The fun of working with him on the script was finding the answers to questions he asked. In search of this answer I made a long journey and met Sahiban. But then, why did Sahiban break the arrows?” Gulzar said, and quoted the lyrics of the Mirzya song ‘Hota Hai’, which was initially written as a scene. “Hota hai, ishq mein toh aise hi hota hai, chot kahin lagti hai, jakar dard kahin hota hai.