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Gulzar on why we need to change the portrayal of women in Indian poetry.

Do you know about this fascinating 18th century character who introduced circus to India? he was from Maharashtra. Although, he was ridiculed by society and family, he was supported by his wife, who stood by him. She was astrong woman. I like to portray strong, confident women, whether it is in my films or poetry. Women are the backbone of our society, yet Indian poetry has always harped on their beauty. The same goes for films for centuries.

Indian poetry, especially Urdu poetry, needs to be revamped, rehauled and revolutionised. It needs to change the way it looks at and portrays women. There is definitely more to a woman than her physical being. In poetry people more often than not talk about a womans sharbati aakhen and badi aakhen. Is that all about eyes? The eyes are a reflection of an individuals feelings; they express, they talk... Why cant poets talk about this aspect?
For instance, consider Tabu who starred in Maachis. Her role did not have too much dialogues. But she spoke with her eyes. And she won accolades for her performance in Maachis. Her eyetalk only seems to get better and better with each film. I firmly believe that woman is an embodiment of courage and bravery. She can have so many personalities at the same time she can be a mother, wife, friend and daughter. We need to introduce all that and more in our poetry. We need to urgently do away with the cliches.

It is time to venture beyond physical descriptions beyond her eyes, smile, nose and figure. It is time to experiment. Jaya Bachchan was not considered to be a traditional beauty. She is so dynamic and exuberant. This is a woman who exudes energy. I would call that beautiful. Jaya has aged gracefully she was wonderful as Nishatbi in Fiza.
But where are the poets who write about women as human beings?
There have been poets who have portrayed women for their individuality and personality. Sardar Jafri is one of them. He shows women as comrades and colleagues of men, on par with them. In fact, Sardar Jafri is perhaps the only poet to have shown women as equal even in a romantic relationship. A relationship involves spiritual and physical togetherness and friend-ship between people, and Sardar Jafri portrays just that. Was it a reflection of the times he lived in?
No, he is a man ahead of his times. We live in modern times, yet we behave and live so outdatedly?

I believe that peoples lack of interest in poetry can be attributed to a proportionately decreasing interest in languages other than English.
How many of us visit a bookstore which stocks only Hindi books? Even major bookshops have only two or three vernacular authors and to think that both the Hindi and Urdu languages have such rich literature.
But, as they say, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. People have begun appreciating ghazals (another form of poetry), so the languages will never die.
By the way, did you know that a ghazal is a conversation between lovers?
People dont realise that lovers can be friends. They do relate to each other at that level. Yet, ghazal writers keep harping on the same inane subject of beauty.
Sometimes, I can understand their reasons for not experimenting, the constant talk about beauty; the readers and audience demands are such. This kind of poetry sells and poets like all of us also need money to survive.
People often ask why I write and create strong women characters. But thats how I get to know them.

courtesy : As told to Subuhi Saiyed of
site editor : YASHWANT VYAS