The Moon and the way it eclipses, grows, moves and shines has been an abiding metaphor in Gulzar’s songs and poems, describing emotions that range from romance and mischief to solitude and silence. “Ashaji (Bhonsle) once told me, had it not been for the Moon I probably would never have discovered the writer in me,” says the lunar-obsessed poet and lyricist.

“In the first ever film I worked on as a lyricist — Bandini, 1963 — the song was ‘Mora Gora Ang Laile’ with the lines ‘Badri hataa ke chanda, chupke se jhaanke chanda’.”

He went on to write more than 50 poems on chaand and chanda. “I think I have a copyright on the Moon!” he quips.

Gulzar was just a few days short of turning 35 when Neil Armstrong took the “giant leap for mankind” in 1969 and became the first human to walk on the lunar surface. “I don’t recall very well what I was doing at the time or where but I remember it was a remarkable achievement for man to actually take a step outside this globe. There’s one thing, though, that I feel bad about. People talk about Neil Armstrong but Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin is always referred to as the second man on the Moon although his footprints are there too. That’s the irony of history. If you’re not the first, you risk being forgotten,” smiles the wordsmith, who alluded to the duo and their respective place in history in a narration in an album of poem. “Chaand has always been used as a yardstick and so I joked, ‘Lata (Mangeshkar) chaand pe pahunch gayi par Asha (Bhonsle) bhi toh pahunchi hai’.”

The Moon swinging in the sky and its pallor even when almost sliced off has stirred the imagination of poets and storytellers for generations but Gulzar takes exception to the idea of man’s Moonlanding as a creative stimulus. “The Moon has been inspiring poets for centuries but when Armstrong actually landed on the Moon and walked on it, the fascinating illusion associated with it was somewhat broken. It became too real and perhaps writings reduced.”

TOI