I feel what we write is a reflection of our life. In the past decade, zindagi thodi fast ho gayi hai (life has become a bit fast). There are multiple reasons for that. Around 10-12 years ago, the Internet didn’t play as big a role in our lives as it does today. Personal interactions were a big part of our lives earlier. Since things were more personal, the same reflected in the writing as well. My career started with Chameli (2003) and I followed that up with Socha Na Tha (2005). Though the films were not blockbusters, the soundtracks of both the movies were talked about. The stories and the songs of both the films were relatable.
Keep it real
Until a few years ago, the scripts of most Bollywood films were superficial. The audience never connected with those stories. But the scripts of most films post 2005 were based on everyday life. In terms of lyrics, 2005 se pehle ‘sanam’, jaanam’ ‘jigar’ wala zone hua karta tha (most songs before 2005 would have words such as ‘my love’, ‘my life’, etc.) So, people wondered why can’t there be any other way to express love? The songs that have been written in the past decade were more about what a person feels, rather than praising a person’s external beauty.
While writing has become more relatable, it has also become more sensitive. For instance, Chameli was the story of a prostitute. While writing the songs for the movie, I had to ensure that I keep the dignity of a woman, who happens to be a sex worker, intact. Had I got into writing about her physical aspects, it would have sounded disgraceful.
As far as scriptwriting goes, it has changed for the better in the past 11 years. Diverse kinds of films such as Bheja Fry (2007), Ankhon Dekhi (2014), A Wednesday (2008) and Life In A Metro (2007) came up. These films don’t seem like they are from some other world. Yeh saari kahaniyan apni lagti hain (all the stories are relatable). The characters, stories, songs and even the way the actors were dressed in these films were relatable. A film like Lagaan (2001) represented two contrasting societies. The story and the songs of the film were outstanding. They represented the issues a common man faced. The tracks were written beautifully by Javed Akhtar saab, and had AR Rahman sir’s music. Similarly, Life In A Metro was about relationships. The story was believable.
Over the years, scriptwriters and lyricists have understood the importance of being crisp. That’s why the length of the films and the songs have shortened considerably. Earlier, there had to be a minimum of three antaras (paragraphs) in a song. The number of songs in movies has also reduced. Films and songs are not about melodrama anymore.
When the songs started shortening, their impact became stronger. For instance, Sayeed Quadri’s ‘In dino dil mera’ from Life In A Metro and songs from Barfi! (2012), Javed saab’s songs in Lagaan, and my lyrics in Rockstar (2011) and Love Aaj Kal (2009) were strong and to the point. I feel the way the stories and the songs were written were bound to change because the audience started looking for logic in films. So, a hero jumping from the 40th floor could no longer entertain the audience.
No show off
These days, while writing songs, lyricists pay attention to the state of mind of the character they are writing for. They don’t write to convey their knowledge or capacity as a writer.
Another big change that came about was the growth of dance numbers. That’s why songs were written in a sound-heavy manner. The writer had to ensure that the words he or she used sounded loud enough. For example in ‘Baby ko bass pasand hai’ from Sultan, I wrote ‘Lakk-dhak lakk-dhak jaatni ke haav bhaav mein teji’ just to build the momentum. Even Gulzar saab’s ‘Dhan te nan’ from Kaminey (2009) was similar.
I feel the way a song sounds has become more significant. The taste of the listeners has also changed, which needs to be worked on. If a well-written track is not a hit, it has no value. But if a badly-written number does well, it’s valued. That’s the irony. For example, the words that are used for rapping these days make no sense. I feel sometimes rap takes away the essence of a decently-written number.
To sum up, I’d say, while stories and songs are becoming more relatable, the quality of words needs to be worked on.
As told to Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
(Irshad Kamil is a poet and lyricist, who is best known for writing songs for Bollywood films including Jab We Met, Chameli, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and Raanjhnaa)