So what do you do when you get to know that there’s a screening of Libaas? Well, only a Gulzar fan can tell you the right answer. So over to Mohit Kataria who tells us what exactly he did.


Before you start:

Please don’t read this post as a film review post, it’s all about my personal experience with the movie Libaas and the way I got to watch it. I’ve never written any movie review before and I don’t think I even qualify for writing one (if there is any qualification criteria). You might also find it really biased as I’m a fan of Gulzar Saab and always wear a particular pair of admiration glasses while reading/watching/listening to any of his works.


What do you do when you get any once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? You grab it with both the hands, right? That’s what I also did.

It all started with a Facebook post from a very dear friend and an ardent fan of Gulzar saab, Pavan Jha, that I came to know about Libaas getting screened in IFFI – 2014 in Goa on 22nd Of November. Then after a number of confusions, calculations and discussions later, I decided to go ahead and started making my travel plans. Then, I came to know about something called a delegate registration (I have already warned you about my credentials ), which was already into its “register-with-late-fee-phase”. Somehow got registered with some made up bio-data to prove that I was worthy enough to be a delegate there. I got an email mentioning that the confirmation will be done after some careful review of my bio-data. I waited impatiently for the whole day which was the last day for the registration, and by the end of the day, I got a confirmation mail asking me to pay to be a delegate. I followed the instructions and completed the formalities. Then it was time to book the tickets for travel. After doing some calculations, considering family, work, economics and time dynamics, I booked the flight from Bangalore, scheduled to reach Goa at 2 PM on the day of screening (22-Nov-14) (Libaas was scheduled for screening at 5:30 PM) and also booked first available flight from Goa the very next day (23-Nov-14). Needless to say, my only purpose of going through all this exercise was to witness something I really was waiting for ever since I started following and loving Gulzar Saab and his work – to get a chance to watch Libaas. And I never thought I would get an opportunity of a lifetime in this manner, to watch it with Gulzar Saab himself.


Before cutting through all the details of getting the passes (where Ashok Bindalji and IFFI organizers helped a lot), reaching the theater following Gulzar Saab, and finally settling down to watch Libaas, I would like to mention here that there were lots of people who wanted to get in and watch Libaas and the auditorium had a limited capacity of accommodating 280 people only. So one senior IFFI organizer (I won’t name him to get him into any trouble), took a call after consulting with Gulzar Saab and Vishal Bhardwaj, to allow people to sit in the gallery, on the floor, to stand on the gates, behind the last row and any other place wherever possible without making others uncomfortable. It got reminded me of the pre-multiplex era when it was a norm for any big movie. Isn’t it delightful to treat and watch the movie in the same manner we used to watch movies when it was actually made (in 1988)?

The stage was set by welcoming Gulzar Saab by the IFFI authorities, and then Vishal Bhardwaj presented the movie Libaas as the inauguration movie of retrospective: Gulzar. Vishal said that it’s an honor for him to present this movie, and spoke about how Gulzar Saab started his career as a poet and brought his poetry from paper to screen. Each of his movies are poetries on screen. He also briefly mentioned about the efforts at various levels that have gone in trying to get the movie released, including his personal efforts of 20 years which has gone in vain. Then he mentioned what it means to him personally, and for his whole family to be part of this historic event.

Gulzar Saab was visibly holding back his emotions, and he started on a lighter note saying, saying, “दोस्तो, मैं भी उतना ही curious हूँ फ़िल्म के लिए, जितने कि आप हैं. आप ने भी नहीं देखी फ़िल्म, मैंने भी नहीं देखी”, which rightly summed up the significance of the film. He was happy that the family and friends have come from all over to see this screening. You can listen to the whole discussion here. And then the magic started on screen. We were in for a very delightful treat for next couple of hours.

As you might know, the movie was completely based on Gulzar Saab’s own story Chaabiyaan which has also published later with the title Seema. There was wit, brilliance, intelligence and emotions written all over the movie. Each frame was flowing into the other one like the way water flows – at times like a river, sometimes like a silent lake and often like waterfall. It was a sheer pleasure to experience Gulzar Saab’s poetry for the next 137 minutes. The movie has four main characters – Sudhir Bhardwaj (a passionate theater director, played by Naseeruddin Shah), T.K. (a flamboyant businessman, played by Raj Babbar), Seema (an amazing actress who is also a not-so-happy wife, played by Shabana Azmi) and the theater which is the sutradhar which keeps tying all the running threads of the movie. It also has a handful of supporting cast who made their presence felt without shadowing the main leads. Not even a single character was out of place or not required. The story primarily deals with husband-wife relationship and a extra-marital affair, all in the backdrop of theater. While watching it, I could feel it was much ahead of its time (it was scheduled to be released in 1988), as was confirmed by Gulzar Saab in a post screening Q&A session that such things were happening at that time but were never shown in cinema. He dared to reflect what was part of society then.

Opening scene of the movie is in a theater, where Jamal Saheb (played by Utpal Dutt) is entering the theater while taking a look at the play being staged.

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

Utpal Dutt in Libaas

In the canteen, he is greeted by youngsters who are theater artists/aficionados and the scene establishes that Jamal Saheb is a great artist from the times gone by. He is not relevant anymore and is in a poor state. He has been replaced, so to say, by Sudhir, who is dominating the contemporary theater scene. In next few scenes, we come to know that for Sudhir, the first priority of his life is theater – the way he forces Seema to gargle every day in the morning, no matter what, and the way he keeps on talking about and enacting various scenes from his plays. One scene which nails it down clearly is when Seema asks Sudhir if she could get a hair-cut as she feels she would look prettier in short hair.  To which he replies, if she gets the hair cut, what would happen to all the characters she is playing in theater, and starts quoting each of the characters from different plays. All the members of his theater group love and fear him in equal measure due to his strictness while doing the rehearsals. A couple of times when Seema forgets her lines during the rehearsals, he yells at her, and at home, he tells her,

“खाना बनाना भूल जाओगी तो बर्दाश्त कर लूँगा, dialogues भूल जाओगी तो कभी बर्दाश्त नहीं करूँगा.”

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv - Libaas

Phir Kisi Shaakh Ne Phenki Chaanv – Libaas

Seema is already strained, and wants a break from the monotony of Sudhir being so hard on her as he always thinking about one thing – theater. That’s when T.K. enters the scene and their home. He is informal and is such a close friend of Sudhir that even Seema feelss surprised as she had never seen Sudhir being so comfortable with anyone, including her. TK’s flamboyant style of talking and cheerful behavior attracts Seema, and he gets attracted to her beauty. They all meet a couple of times and then while one relationship starts forming, other one starts breaking. On one side, Sudhir is always busy with his play rehearsals and on the other hand, T.K., a well versed businessman is always ready to meet her and pay attention to her.

Her loneliness and boredom from theater adds fire to the fuel, and before even they realize, the relationship becomes complicated. The high-point of the movie is a scene which has brilliance of Gulzar Saab written all over it. It was Gulzar Saab’s craftsmanship that he handled such a burdened situation in such a subtle manner. The treatment of the characters, the dialogues of this one scene leaves us completely mesmerized and catches us unguarded. The scene is when Sudhir decides to confront T.K. and Seema about their relationship. Seema and T.K. enter the house after spending some good time together, and they find Sudhir at home. T.K. tries to cover up his embarrassment by telling Sudhir that he was asking about him from Seema as Sudhir was very busy, they were not able to meet.

T.K. – और किस ड्रामे में busy हो आजकल?

Sudhir – “अ..अ..म.. आजकल… अ… एक personal से नाटक में ज्यादा busy हूँ.”

“ह.. ह.. मतलब..?”

“नाटक तो दूसरे लोगों का है, मैं खा-म-खां बीच में फंस गया”

“अम.. कुछ समझा नहीं यार, वो कैसे?”

T.K., though embarrassed, is still trying to appear innocent even though he is guilty of cheating Sudhir.

“क्या है के हमारे यहाँ… हमारे यहाँ, वो हैं ना… मि. मुखर्जी”

He looks at Seema and starts building the story.

“मुखर्जी? कौन?”

Seema asks, to which Sudhir replies –

“तुम मिली हो उन से, शायद याद नहीं है… मि. मुखर्जी में याद रखने जैसा कुछ है या नहीं मालूम नहीं… लेकिन अपनी पत्नी की वजह से वो.. अक्सर याद रह जाते हैं लोगों को…. बड़ी talented… और talented से ज्यादा ख़ूबसूरत पत्नी है उन की. अब ज़ाहिर है कि लोग उन की तरफ़ तवज्जो देते हैं, attract होते हैं. और ये कम्बख़्त चीज़ ऎसी है कि आदमी हो या औरत, पाँव तले की ज़मीन खींच लेती है. आदमी सोचता है, इश्क ही में ज़िंदगी है, बाकी सब तो फ़न, आर्ट, talent, सब सजावट की चीज़ें हैं. बहरहाल, मि. मुखर्जी का problem है, उन की पत्नी… वो किसी के इश्क में पड़ गई हैं या कोई है जो उन के इश्क में पड़ गया है….”

Seema asks, “तो problem क्या है?”

To which Sudhir replies, point blank, still keeping it indirect,

“तुम्हें नज़र नहीं आता?”

“नहीं मतलब… समझ में आता है लेकिन दोनों अगर एक दूसरे को चाहते हैं तो…”

“नहीं, नहीं, नहीं, नहीं… तुम उस लड़की के problem को देख रही हो, मैं मि. मुखर्जी के problem की बात कर रहा हूँ”

“उनका क्या problem है?”

“क्यूँ? याने… उन का कुछ है ही नहीं?…

उन का problem ये है कि उन्हें मालूम हो गया है… और जान लेने के बाद शौहर यानि मि. मुखर्जी क्या करे उस पत्नी का? चुप रहे? देखता रहे? होने दे जो हो रहा है? मुश्किल तो ये है कि कोई भी शौहर जान लेने के बाद ये निगल नहीं सकता”

Now T.K. intervenes,

“आख़िर मुखर्जी चाहता क्या है?” “चाहता क्या है, वो छोड़ो, क्या करना चाहिए उसे?”

“अम..ज़ाहिर है अगर उन की पत्नी, उन के साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो उन्हें कोई हक़ नहीं है कि वो उस के साथ ज़बरदस्ती करें. After all.. वो अपना अच्छा-बुरा समझ सकती है, ऎसी कोई बात नहीं है…”

“हाँ, समझना तो चाहिए, सिर्फ़ ये कि जिस से वो प्यार करती है, क्या सचमुच प्यार करती है? यूँ ही उन्स में तो नहीं पड़ गई? ख़ा-म-ख़ां का infatuation तो नहीं है, जिसे वो प्यार समझ बैठी है?”

“आख़िर शादी-शुदा औरत है, क्या इतना नहीं समझती? इतनी mature नहीं होगी के…”

And that’s when Gulzar Saab’s intelligence of handling the complicated situations comes in full form.

Sudhir interrupts Seema at this point and says it straight,

“इतनी mature हो तुम? इतना समझती हो कि जिस राह पे जा रही हो, जिस के साथ जा रही हो वो झूठ-मूठ का कोई ड्रामा तो नहीं कर रहा है?”

At this time T.K. tries to escape saying this is personal matter between husband and wife and he is an outsider.

Then, as a matter of fact, Sudhir tells him,

“बैठ जाओ T.K., तुम भी कोई बच्चे नहीं हो… बैठ जाओ… देखो T.K., इन रिश्तों में कानूनी, ग़ैर कानूनी कुछ नहीं होता. कानूनन कोई पत्नी नहीं बनती, कानूनन कोई शौहर नहीं होता.Law has nothing to do with it. हम ज़बरदस्ती इन रिश्तों पर कानूनी मोहरें लगाते रहते हैं. आज तक, कोई किसी आते को नहीं रोक सका और ना किसी जाते को थाम सका है. और मैं ये कैंसर ले कर नहीं घूम सकता…. तुम ने ठीक कहा, अगर सीमा मेरे साथ नहीं रहना चाहती तो मुझे कोई ज़बरदस्ती नहीं करनी चाहिए, मैं नहीं करूँगा, लेकिन मैं इसे रास्ते पर नहीं छोड़ सकता. मैं तुम्हारा फ़ैसला जानना चाह्ता हूँ, तुम दोनों का फ़ैसला जानना चाहता हूँ… अगर तुम दोनों flirt नहीं कर रहे हो, एक-दूसरे को धोखा नहीं दे रहे हो, सचमुच एक दूसरे को चाहते हो, तो हाथ पकड़ो और निकल जाओ इस घर से.”

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi - Libaas

Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi – Libaas

Even after Sudhir and Seema get separated and she remarries T.K., there is still an element of care and affection for each other.

T.K. and Seema are living happily, yet Seema is not able to forget her past so easily.

In one scene, where one evening she is sitting sad all alone on a yatch, T.K. comes and asks,

 “क्या हुआ… सुधीर का ख़्याल आ गया?”


“इसीलिए तो तुम्हें शादी के बाद यहाँ ले आया. जानता था, अगर वहाँ रहोगी तो अतीत याद आएगा. अतीत बुरा हो तो सीमा, आदमी गर्द की तरह झाड़ दे, ख़त्म कर दे, लेकिन सुधीर जैसा… मुझ पर अंधविश्वास था उसे. जो कुछ हुआ, मुझे उस का अफ़सोस नहीं, बिल्कुल नहीं, बस यही है कि अगर तुम किसी दोस्त के यहाँ ना होती ना…तो अच्छा होता, क्यूँकि तुम जहाँ भी होती, मैं यही करता, I love you. मैं तुम से प्यार करता. I love you Seema, I love you.”

[Edit Note : While Mohit has written the climax in his post, we are not going to reveal what happens in the end, as we expect more screenings of the film soon and expect you to watch it someday, somewhere. We leave you here with Ravi Shastri Quote : All Three Results Possible ]

And the end credits roll over with the song

“तुम से मिली जो ज़िंदगी, हम ने अभी बोई नहीं,

तेरे सिवा कोई ना था, तेरे सिवा कोई नहीं…”

…Leaving everyone in the theater completely spell bound.

Gulzar Saab got a standing ovation which refused to die down for the next few minutes.


It had Gulzar written all over it. Gulzar the writer, Gulzar the dialogue-writer, Gulzar the lyricist and Gulzar the director. It was like various Gulzar competing with each other and attaining the pinnacle of expressions. The music of R.D. Burman was also a highlight of the movie as the melodies are so soulful, the film would have been definitely incomplete without such lovely songs.

From story perspective, it is really difficult to say what was wrong or who was wrong or whether anyone was wrong at all? This is the power of a sensibly told story on screen. We all know that Gulzar Saab has great sense of expression when it comes to relationships. He is the one who has given the words to all the emotions we have gone through at various points in our different relationships. He is no different here as well. Gulzar Saab has also given various references of past work of theater artists who have explored the complexities of husband-wife relations – Leo Tostoy’s Anna Karenina, Vijay Tendulkar’s Khamosh adaalat jari hai, Mohan Rakesh’s Aadhe-adhure. The film, even though made some 26 years back, is still relevant and I believe due to the nature of human relationships, will be relevant even after 26 years.

There are so many situations in the movie which could have been exploited with melodramatic scenes but he kept them subtle, and trusted the intelligence of audience he was catering to. Like after re-marriage, one day when T.K. is gargling in the morning, all of a sudden she gets reminded of Sudhir, who was always after her for gargling. She gets in that groove for a moment that she actually calls out her old maid’s name “दुर्गा…” and then she realizes her mistake. And when she calls up their family doctor (played by A.K. Hangal) asking him to visit their home for T.K.’s cough and cold, she forgets to mention to the doctor about his new life and husband. The doctor habitually visits their old home and because Sudhir is also suffering from the cough at the same time, he doesn’t find it surprising that Seema called him up. Subtle ways to show that the bridges are not yet burnt completely. The central idea of the story keeps coming back again and again in multiple ways.

During the post-screening Q&A we came to know that the climax which was shown in the film was not his choice but the producers insisted upon him to change the climax.

He wanted to leave it a bit open ended, which he couldn’t do in this movie, hence he made Ijaazat, another masterpiece on husband-wife relationship which he ended the way he wanted it to be.

Nobody dared to ask the question, “अगर लिबास release हो जाती फिर भी क्या वो इजाज़त बनाते?”  and I doubt if anyone who has watched Ijaazat would even dare to think it being non-existent from the filmology of Gulzar Saab. Nothing to compare but to give a flavor to the people who could not watch the screening of Libaas, in my opinion, it was at par (if not more) with Ijaazat in terms of exploration of relationships, writing, dialogues, songs, direction and music.

To sum it up, I would just say, no matter how many years the movie has spent in the laundry or dry-clean, this Libaas is still as crisp, clean and white as new.

 – Mohit Kataria


(Mohit Kataria is an IT engineer by profession, writer & poet by passion, a Gulzar fan by heart. He is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [kataria dot mohit at gmail dot com] or [@hitm0 on twitter)

(Pics & Videos by Ashok Bindal [ajbindal at gmail dot com], a close associate of Gulzar saab, based in Mumbai)

Retrospective Inauguration Video via Ministry of I&B YouTube Channel]

  1. Beautifully posted Dialogues. I can almost feel the movie. People don’t speak like this these days (The Subtle Dialogues). How I wish there is a screening of the movie in Delhi. But Alas I don’t see that happening anytime soon. There already seems to be a legal issue on the IFFI Screening. Why wasn’t the movie screened in India in the first place ?

  2. The song Khamosh Sa Afsana still gives me goosebumps, no matter how many times I listen to it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s