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It is hard to review the literary liaison of two greats – Ghalib and Gulzar. Both are giants in their own times and rightly so. In this book, which is a screenplay of the TV series of the same name, the brilliance of Gulzar is interwoven perfectly with the wistfulness of Ghalib’s life and poetry. The end result is a highly memorable story that leaves you spellbound.
This is the story of Mirza Ghalib, one of India’s most celebrated Urdu poets. It details the life of Ghalib, his various hardships and the difficulties of the era he lives him. There are different aspects to the story – Mirza’s love for his wife and their unending devotion to each other; his unending and passionate affair with words; his loyalty for Dilli, a city that tests him, berates him and then accepts – an acceptance that lingers on till today. On the other hand, we have the bitter aspects of his life too – his love for gambling and liquor, and the pain it brings his family; the politics of the court; the unrequited love of a kothe wali for Ghalib, and her death as she longs for just one visit of his, finally taking with her his poetry to her gravestone. His life, full of wisdom, sorrow and happiness (in not-so-equal parts) is set in a time when India hangs by the edge of a knife. The British are clamping down on India and much of Ghalib’s world is under-transition. We know, even before the book begins, the ultimate end. Ghalib’s body leaves this world in February, 1869. But will his spirit and legacy ever leave this world? That is a more intriguing question to ponder on.
The story is interspersed with the various poetry of Ghalib, with English translation for the reader. This enriches the experience by far more. The construction of the story is gorgeous, with the perfect words at the perfect places. The innumerable emotions are captured intensely – from unconditionally joy to profound wisdom to seemingly unconquerable sadness. There is the air of pensiveness surrounding the book. Perhaps this is because the pace is perfect – fast enough for the reader to not get bored, slow enough for the reader to acknowledge and marvel the depths of Ghalib. Due credit must be given to Gulzar for creating this story, that leaves the reader feeling maybe a bit more magical at the end.
This book is like a Sunday afternoon – it leaves you feeling warm and content, at the same time yearning for more. Even if the reader has seen the TV series, this book adds much more with words that stay in your head much after the last page is turned.
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