Bollywood lyricist shuns song remakes

Raj Shekhar

Lyricist Raj Shekhar has the tough responsibility of assigning words and emotions to melodious tunes. ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’, ‘Hichki’ and the upcoming ‘Veere Di Wedding’ are some of the movies in which he has worked on.

He spoke to Rajitha Menon about how he gets those words flowing.

A lyricist is not a career that many think of...

I never planned to become a lyricist. I first started my career in Mumbai as an assistant director for advertisement shootings (and I got yelled at a lot!). Then came the turning point when I met Anand L Rai who was just going to direct ‘Tanu Weds Manu’. I call myself an accidental lyricist.

How did your journey in Bollywood start?

Writer Himanshu Sharma is one of my oldest college friends. When he was working on ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, he asked me if I was interested to write lyrics for some songs for that movie.  I wrote something and when I recited the lyrics to Aanand L Rai, he was extremely happy.

What is the process of writing lyrics for a song?

There is no specific process. The director or the writer narrates the situation to me (I even read the entire script) and then according to that I decide as to what would be the diction, the tone, the geography, and so on. Once I complete writing, the music directors compose music for that song.

Nowadays, sometimes the situation is briefed to the music directors. They compose music first and tell me to write songs accordingly. I am okay with working this way too. 

Where do you look for inspiration?

Usually the first brief which you get from the director or the writer is the biggest inspiration; their expectations and the trust they have in you should motivate you. Also, pay cheques are quite inspiring (laughs). Financial security is important of course. On a serious note, I draw inspiration from the places I have been to, the people I have met, my relationships, soil, air, water - everything around me.

Which song do you consider as your finest piece of work?

I can’t decide on that but I do love ‘Rangrezz Mere’ from ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and ‘O Saathi Mere’ from ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’. ‘O Saathi Mere’ was the most difficult song for me to write. It was a six-minute song and the tune made by Krishna was so divine that I was afraid words would spoil its beauty. Deadline and scoldings by Anand L Rai spurred me to action.

Tell us about ‘Majnu Ka Tila’...

‘Majnu Ka Tila’ is an experience. It is a mixture of few of my poems, short stories, memoirs, sketch characters and so on. Our first performance was at the 2016 Bengaluru Poetry Festival and I was overwhelmed with the response we got. I would love to perform in Bengaluru again and again. 

Your thoughts about remaking old songs...

Personally, I don’t like classic songs been remade. Only 1-2 remade songs are good. You have much better facilities available these days so why not make something new and creative. In fact, I have been asked to recreate some of old classical songs myself but to be honest, I don’t have the guts to do that.

 Your favourite song for its lyrical quality...

It is very tough for me to decide but I like ‘Chupa Lo Dil Mein Pyar’ by Majrooh Sahab, ‘Kisi Ki Muskurahato Pe Ho’ by Shailendra, Saahir Sahab’s ‘Chalo Ek Bar Firse Ajnabee Ban Jaye’, Javed Sahab’s ‘Jab Se Hume Mohabat Ho Gayi’, Gulzar Sahab’s songs and so on. I also like the song ‘Patakha Guddi’ by Irshad Kamil.

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Bollywood lyricist shuns song remakes

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