Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi opened up the world of poetry, petal by petal, allowing people to inhale the fragrance of language

A mellow morning sun, beautiful words conjuring up a tapestry of images, nazm or poetry recited in the silken language or bolee where Urdu meets Hindi - something we rarely get to hear these days. And if the poetry is being recited by none other than Gulzar, the poet-lyricist-filmmaker we’ve all come to love through our Hindi films, what more can one ask for? There was, apparently, more to be savoured as the vitality of songwriter-adman Prasoon Joshi’s poetry, and his friendly exchanges with Gulzar took the morning to new heights on the second day of the Bangalore Literature Festival.

“Ao Phir Nazm Kahein” was what the session was labelled and it got off to a vibrant start, thanks to Gulzar’s ingenuous sense of humour, clubbed with his modesty, and his genuine love for the poetry of his co-panelist Prasoon Joshi. Though years apart, both poets sounded unified in their thought, and akin in their striking expressions.

Anybody who sat listening to them this Saturday at the Festival will vouch that when Gulzar speaks, even simple prose sounds like sheer poetry. “Bring me beautiful words and I’ll embrace them,” he said, talking of the need for a language to be open to new words in order to stay alive. Of course, Gulzar also appealed not to use Hinglish. “I have used English in my songs, but only when the characters who sing it have required it,” he said. “Fusion should not look forced. Some words sound best in English. You can’t call a tie kanth langot!” Language becomes richer with new words. It has to have a large heart to accept the new; but don’t murder a language, said Joshi.

The poets effortlessly meandered between reciting poetry, allowing the audience to soak in the import of words rarely heard, and engaging their thoughts on the beauty of language. “The question is often asked if I’m bilingual,” said Prasoon Joshi at one juncture. “I don’t think I’m bilingual. I consider English as my skill. But Hindi is my language, and I can treat it with the same freedom with which I treat my mother. Bhaasha maa hai. Where else will you go, where else will you find its fragrance?”

Joshi also dealt with the dilemma of thinking in our mother tongues and writing in English. “I don’t think language and expression are two different things; they are intertwined. Thinking in one language and expressing the thought in another is not right. The original thinking in one language will reflect the tenor, space of the culture of that language.”

Gulzar chose to read a poem on moments or lamhe, a recurring theme in his poetry — “It’s something which I gather and keep presenting” — taking the audience through the nuances of the beauty of a moment, its possibilities, the fertility of a moment to give birth to other moments… and spirited “Wah! Wah!” rented the air.

Prasoon Joshi broke out into delightful song on two occasions, choosing to sing his compositions rather than recite them, taking the vibes a notch higher. His poem on how a younger sister is always older brought out the subtleties of a brother-sister relationship; something he reprised in another poem that spoke of the differential relationship one tends to have with one’s father, as against the one with your mother. Joshi really spanned the spectrum, also reciting a poem on the underlying source of terrorism, with his “Baroot jab bachcha tha, woh titli pakadta tha…

It was a morning that gave goosebumps and brought on much poetry-induced ecstasy, allowing us to revel in every turn of phrase.