A few months ago, writer-poet and advertising entrepreneur Prasoon Joshi attended the Padma Awards ceremonyat the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, where he was presented the Padma Shri for his contribution to art. Ask him how it feels to be honoured with the prestigious award, and the 43-year-old says, “It feels great. My parents were really happy about it. While I have received many national and international awards in the past, this one is really special. Getting recognition from the government is always great, and I am humbled that my efforts have been acknowledged.”
Prasoon, who has spent over a decade writing songs and scripts for Bollywood films, says his art has “constantly evolved”. “I have matured as a writer over the years. I think you can only be a good poet if you express yourself honestly. So, I only choose film projects that help me reflect myself,” he says, adding that it is important for a writer to use the right words to convey the right meaning. And he certainly does not hold crass lyrics in high regard. “It’s unfortunate. Many artistes feel they have the freedom to express, and they can write whatever they want. But people on the receiving end also have the choice to like or reject something. You can be noticed for various things — good or bad. But artistes should stick to what their basic beliefs are, and not run after noticeability. This is one of the reasons why I am selective about the kinds of projects I take up,” says the writer, who is working on the scripts of a few films currently.
Talking about his ongoing projects, Prasoon, who has written award-winning films like Rang De Basanti (RDB; 2006) and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB; 2013), says, “There are a couple of concepts. One of them is based on an ancient historical figure, and it requires a lot of research. I like to be part of such projects. For instance, RDB and BMB were special to me because I had immersed myself in those subjects, and I learnt a lot. After working on BMB, many people asked me to write biopics, but I didn’t take them up because I didn’t want to get typecast.”
Prasoon Joshi published his first book when he was just 17. Talking about his writing, Prasoon says, “What sets me apart is the fact that I am more sensitive to what occurs around me; things that other people might not notice. It’s also a curse in a way, because being so sensitive affects my state of mind. When I see people suffering, it affects me. I keep thinking about them all night. I pen down their sufferings as a way of expressing myself. Being a writer has its pros and cons.” He adds that it feels good when his writing makes an impact on people’s lives.
So, is there a particular environment that helps him write better? “The lifestyle in Mumbai is such that you hardly find the time to chisel your thoughts. So, I try to go to secluded, beachside places or the mountains, whenever possible. Since I was brought up in Uttarakhand, nature has a major role to play in my writing,” he says. Since Prasoon was a management student, he doesn’t have an educational background in literature. But he has made up for it by reading extensively. “I grew up reading works by popular Hindi poets like Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh and Sumitranandan Pant. Urdu poets who have inspired me are Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib and Altaf Hussain Hali. I’ve also been influenced by English writers, and some translations by Rabindranath Tagore and Franz Kafka,” says Prasoon.
Recently, the poet attended an event with former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, where he discussed poetry with the sports star. “We also spoke about his spirituality. He is a very spiritual person. He told me how he used to foresee his batting shots. I think poetry is in his game, and his style of play is very poetic too.”
Watch: Prasoon Joshi's lyrical tribute to Peshawar victims