In Memory of Syed Gulrez: A Talent Revered in Film, Poetry and Music

Syed Gulrez, a noted multi-talented writer and poet, passed away at his home in Los Angeles on November 4, 2023. The 74-year-old outstanding lyricist and poet was the son of the renowned novelist Adil Rashid.

Syed Gulrez collaborated with composers such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Bappi Lahiri, Naushad Ali, Viju Shah, Anu Malik, Bapa Lahiri, Abhishek Ray, Gaurav Dasgupta, and worked on numerous albums for Venus and various international companies.

Among the film personalities he worked with were Jagmohan Mundhra, Anand Mahendroo, Yash Chopra, Solila Parida, Joy Augustine, Kabir Bedi and Akbar Khan.

He also penned scripts for films like “Apartment,” “Zara Si Bhool – a small mistake,” and “Miami to New York,” among others.

Starting his career as a songwriter with Mundhra’s “Kamla,” whose music was composed by Lahiri and performed by Salma Agha and Pankaj Udhas, Gulrez contributed to Udhas’s debut as a playback singer in films.

Some of Gulrez’s other notable films include “Vishkanya,” “Janam Kundli,” “Aa Dekhen Zara,” “Aloo Chaat,” and “Victory”.

lyricist poet songwriter syed gulrez films bollywood Rajesh Rathi
Syed Gulrez (left) with Salma Agha

A collection of his Shayaris was compiled in a book titled “Kuchh Dil Se.”

Moreover, Gulrez took on the lead role in a comedy serial called “Banne Mian,” produced and directed by Mahendroo, shot in Bhopal. However, the series was never released for unspecified reasons.

Regrettably, there was a setback in his film career after “Kamla.” In the early ’80s, a period when many Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) were interested in financing Hindi films, Gulrez decided to shift his base to LA, aiming to write for NRIs involved in film production.

This impulsive decision led to a disconnection from Bollywood for a few years, as he struggled to find NRIs willing to invest in films. However, during this period, he gained recognition as a Shaayar and received high appreciation in Mushayaras and Mehfils in the United States.

lyricist poet songwriter syed gulrez bollywood Rajesh Rathi
Rajesh Rathi (right to left) Shreya Ghoshal, Javed and Syed Gulrez

Over time, he revisited Mumbai to re-establish his connections, eventually gaining recognition and good opportunities in Bollywood.

Rathi, now a film director based in Mumbai, recalls, “Gulrez insisted that I should shift to the US with him.” Notably, Mundhra’s “Kamla” marked the debut film for both Gulrez and Rathi, where Gulrez penned all the songs, and Rathi began as an assistant director.

According to Rathi, “Gulrez was a spontaneous lyricist. During the music sessions with Bappi Da, he would take me out, light a cigarette and by the time it was over – his lyrics would be ready! He would always use me as a bounce board. His lyrics were always catchy and meaningful. And his sense of humour was unbeatable”.

“We’ve lost a very talented writer whose full potential was never fully realized,” laments the film director.

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