National award winner Swanand Kirkire wears many hats with rare aplomb — lyricist, playwright, dialogue writer, music director, singer, actor. He is the real multi-tasker of Bollywood who has all the right words in place and carries a natural charm that flows impeccably through his compositions. In this tete-a-tete, the phenomenal lyricist chats up about his creativity and why words are integral to music. Excerpts from an interview:
How does one write lyrics? What role does language play in writing lyrics?
Lyrics are musical. One has to have affection for words and should always look for ways to make a sentence look like a song. New words excite me. New usages always draw my attention. In Hindi cinema, you write for creative expressions of directors and for an impact. For this, proper wordplay is absolutely integral. Hindi is my way of style. I'm very confident of this language so I can play with it at my own sweet will. I'm so confident about the language that I can actually 'manhandle' it.
Do you have any training in scriptwriting or are you self-trained?
I am a graduate of National School of Drama and I love theatre. Words come naturally to me. But I think, it is very important to know yourself to perform any art. Hence, it is important to "self-train" yourself. It is necessary to discover what you can do best and then develop it.
Does being a lyricist help to be a scriptwriter as well?
I think, it is vice versa. All lyricists are good scriptwriters.
Your success in mainstream commercial cinema is almost dream-like. What do you attribute it to?
I consider myself very lucky. I got a lot of films to work in. I also got great appreciation and attention for the work I did. I've done two plays recently and I have been very busy with Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya (Badrinath's bride).
Does your stint with theatre give you a distinct edge in cinema today?
Theatre is a medium of expression which is very important in cinema. But there is no money in theatre. You see, where there is commerce, there are expectations. There was music all around me during my childhood days. But I did not quite feel attracted to it. My father was a disciple of Kumar Gandharva and all our weekends were spent there at his place. Then there were regular concerts and riyaaz. My father also ensured that I hear film music. Theatre, on the other hand, attracted me because of its democratic setup. It is possible for everyone to voice their opinion and create their own space through theatre. It is very open. The spontaneity keeps me glued to it and I love that. The immediate energies of a live performance and the human efforts in it are quite intriguing. There are no technological barriers between you and your audience and that's very important. The work we put in is so selfless. We don't think of time and money while rehearsing. Also the camaraderie and the team spirit is great. Honestly speaking, I am what I am because of theatre.
Who are your role models?
None other than Gulzar saab, of course. I'm also very fond of Kishore Kumar as well. He is an extremely versatile personality and I really wish I could be like him.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have written a film for R Balki. Apart from that, I am acting in two Marathi films.
Which is more important in a song — the melody or the lyrics?
A song is a marriage of both melody and lyrics. It is very important that both go hand-in-hand for a good song. Still, if you ask me, I think, music itself is an abstract language. Words validate it.
On the first day of Jaipur Literary Festival, Kirkire launched a preview of his new book of poetry at a session with actor-playwright Manav Kaul and editor of Rajkamal Prakashan Satyanand Nirupam.
Titled 'Aap Kamai', the poems are based on themes like politics, language and poetry itself. There are several out-of-the box poems too like one on Excel sheets, tooth ache, another on the changing emotions on a Friday evening and how one becomes on a Monday morning.
On how 'Aap Kamai' happened, he said, "I kind of rebelled when it came to music. I was more comfortable with theatre that I thought, was much more democratic. I did not like the hierarchy of the classical music, a guru-shishya parampara. I wanted something where I could express myself and theatre was my place. So I always say music is my 'baap kamai' — it's my father's earning, it came to me without my doing anything. And everything else I do is my 'aap kamai' — I've worked very hard for these."
Kirkire has received much acclaim for songs like 'Bande Mein Tha Dum', 'Behti Hawa Sa Tha Wo', 'Tu Kisi Rail Si Guzarti Hai', 'Seher', 'Ala Barfi', 'Khoya Khoya Chand', 'Navrai Majhi' and scores of others. The torch-bearer of songs that have an old-world charm and touch the deepest corners of our very existence, his words unendingly echo through our hearts, leaving a deep imprint whenever we hear them.
There is undoubtedly much more to come our way in the coming years from the man with a magical voice struck with simplicity and profound sensibilities. Till then, Bawra mann dekhne chala ek sapna.