Poetry in his veins

In conversation

Poetry in his veins

One of the most respected lyricists in Bollywood, Sameer Anjaan has set a world record with over 3,524 songs to his credit. RAJIV VIJAYAKAR talks to the veteran about his eventful career.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Veteran Sameer Anjaan now has the unique distinction of making it to the Guinness Book of World Records under a freshly-introduced category — “Bollywood’s Most Prolific Lyricist” — with a documented score of 3,524 songs written for 650 films, as checked and confirmed by Guinness on December 15, 2015. Two months later, today, the score stands at 3,539. Yes, Sameer’s shop is still going strong.
And that is only because this son of master lyricist and poet Anjaan (who was best known for his 70s and 80s films like Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Namak Halaal, Yaarana, Disco Dancer, Eeshwar et al) was determined to make it in an arena where his father had become one of the top three names.

A rocky road

Quite naturally, his father did not want his son, who had a Master’s Degree in Commerce, to face the thorny journey of a profession that was known to be replete with struggles and heartburns. And therefore, opposition to Sameer Anjaan’s career as a lyricist began at home itself.

However, Anjaan finally had to admit that his son had both the talent and the grit needed to make the grade. In his lifetime, Anjaan even had the pleasure of watching his son zoom to the forefront, in an arena strobe-lit by legends like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Indeevar, Anand Bakshi and Anjaan himself, with winners like Dil, Aashiqui, Saajan, Deewana and many more.

“Woh bahut khush the (he was happy about my success),” smiles Sameer. “I received my first award, for Aashiqui, from his hands. Before he went into coma, years before he actually passed away, he told me, ‘Beta, ab tumhein aur bhi mehnat karni chahiye (now that you are successful, you must work harder)!” The dutiful son, groomed extensively in the craft by his father eventually, continues to follow his father’s advice.

Sameer is happy with the latest honour for its uniqueness and rarity. “I’d be lying if I said that any award or honour does not boost my morale or make me happy,” he says candidly. “But neither did I become a songwriter to set records, nor am I foolish enough to think that this is going to make any difference to my career. I have to keep doing what I always do — write for a situation in a film.”

Within this honour, he has many more records, like working with the maximum number of composers (105), singers and filmmakers. From B R Chopra and Dev Anand (as filmmaker) to younger names like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar, R Balki and Remo D’Souza, Sameer has worked with over 75 big names spanning generations. “I cannot claim this success alone, because hundreds of people, starting with my father, wife, family and colleagues, have made their contributions to it, including the janata (audience).”

Tryst with Guinness

So, how did the Guinness honour happen? “My friend Vishwas Nerurkar keeps track of the work of so many of us in the world of music,” Sameer says. “Two years ago, he told me that my films had crossed the figures of the highest name then, Bakshi-saab. He wanted me to apply to the Guinness Book, but I told him that I had no clue how to do that. But sometime back, my manager Aslam decided to approach them in Dubai, where they have an office, and was told that they did not have any category for this. Aslam argued that they should make one in that case.”

So the real work began after they reverted. “They wanted all the documented films and songs in a specific format,” recalls the lyricist. “They checked everything in their own meticulous way, and finally, their India representative Nikhil Shukla got back to us.”

Despite so much work, why has Sameer not been exactly a pet of the media? Wryly, the lyricist replies, “I recently addressed a college event where I was asked a similar question. My answer was, ‘Please remember that if anyone asks you your favourite composer and lyricist, never ever mention Pritam, Himesh Reshammiya or me. Go for the names that have intellectual branding, never mind if they do not connect with most listeners! The students appreciated my point!”

The lyricist is now writing sporadically. There are a couple of films with music by (singer) Shaan and Gaurov Dasgupta, including Great Grand Masti, a film with music by singer Neeraj Shridhar, which is being produced by a corporate company from the US that has appointed Sameer as their Indian president, Julie 2 with music by Viju Shah, and a unique satire called Coffee With D (as in Dawood!), which stars Boman Irani and Sajid Khan.

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