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Nothing stoppin’ Sameer Anjaan

Writer of some of Bollywood’s biggest hits tells Rajiv Vijaykar what has kept him ticking for decades.
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 03:50 IST
Last Updated : 08 June 2024, 03:50 IST

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Without a doubt, Sameer Anjaan has been Hindi cinema’s busiest lyricist. Way back in 2016, he was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records for writing a staggering 3,524 songs. Other lyricists in comparison have not written as many songs in their careers.

Sameer, who is legendary songwriter Anjaan’s son, has worked with more than a hundred composers in films. And in this age of singles, he has worked on over a 100 songs for Himesh Reshammiya’s YouTube channel.   

“In this field, you either have too much work or too little,” Sameer had told me in our very first meeting many years ago. And so, when trends began to change, Sameer shrewdly assessed that after writing for more than 600 films and over 30 albums, he would have to channelise his passion in a different direction.

“My credo is only work, work and work. (But) things were changing rapidly — films, filmmaking, and music. And along with this, after working with multiple generations of filmmakers, from Yash Chopra to Anees Bazmee, I was also being considered an ‘old person who did not know how to adapt to the current times’. This was so even when I had worked with composers, ranging from Chitragupta-ji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal to Pritam and Sachin-Jigar,” Sameer, who is in his 60s, shared during an interview recently. 

It was during the pandemic that he found the way out. Sameer had a unique idea. “I thought no lyricist has ever done a musical concert in his name. Composers and singers do shows worldwide. But I thought by this very nature, a lyricist, who is also a consummate at sher-o-shayari (poetry), will be good at it. But why should the audience pay to watch me on stage? The answer was everyone must be keen to know stories about how hit songs were born. I realised that with my output, I could probably keep talking for 20 hours,” he continued. 

And so was born ‘Safarnama’, the title the lyricist gave to his shows where he narrates stories from his musical journey (safar in Hindi). “I used to keep visiting Lucknow for work. I organised a team of about 10 musicians and trained a few singers to sing my songs on stage. I did not want any established voices as ‘Safarnama’ would then become their show,” Sameer said with a smile.

The lyricist then asked the team to make a list of his songs that they would want to include in a show like this. He recalls, “The first list had 1,000 songs… I told them to whittle down the list as a single show would not be able to accommodate more than 25 songs. And, after several revisions, the final list still had 150 songs. So I decided to categorise them.” He decided to use different songs for different audiences such as the youth, and corporate professionals.

There was one final step: estimating audience response. Sameer added: “I therefore booked the best auditorium in Lucknow and held a 90-minute show only for invitees. And believe me, it went on for more than two-and-a-half hours. The feedback was that the audience did not want to move away from their seats even for a second! They told me that when they attended other musical shows, they learnt nothing new, but over here they were listening to fascinating stories of the genesis of many of their loved songs!”

‘Safarnama’ has been such a success that Sameer has now held shows in several parts of the country and is planning many more, abroad even. 

But that is not all. Veteran colleague Gulzar advised him to come up with a collection of his poetry that can never find a place in movies. Sameer had over 100 such poems ready and he released the compilation in 2017 as ‘Sameerana Geet’.

And just last month, he came out with another book ‘Lyrics by Sameer: The Stories Behind the Iconic Songs’ (Rupa Publications). Coming up are two more books - a compilation of poems titled ‘Sheeshe Ka Samundar’ (The Glass Sea), and a title in English on Sameer’s personal and professional relationships with his closest associates, including Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, and Nadeem-Shravan.  

And since the man (whose oeuvre includes the debut films of Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor) can never take things ‘lying down’ in a different sense, he has four big films in production: Sajid Nadiadwala’s ‘Sanki’, Salman Khan-A R Murugadoss’ ‘Sikander’, and Anees Bazmee’s ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3’ and ‘Andaaz 2’.

The safar continues.

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Published 08 June 2024, 03:50 IST

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