He stays in Chandigarh's Burail area and can be often spotted at Kala Bhawan in Sector 16, sipping endless cups of tea that he doesn't mind sharing over some chat. Munna Dhiman's genius at writing also doesn't give away at first glance. But the ordinary looking artist turns extraordinaire as soon as you learn of his glorious work, the most recent entailing penning the lyrics of songs such as Chanda Pe Dance, Aye Zindagi and Kabir Vani that were a part of the very popular Aamir Khan show, Satyamev Jayate and which struck a chord with listeners.
Having returned to the city only recently, Munna, 40, talks to HT City about the journey that took him to write six out of 13 songs featured in Satyamev Jayate. "Well, the excitement to work for such a big show was palpable. But I made sure I didn't let the excitement be turned to pressure. One cannot work in pressure since it also kills creativity. I was always convinced that I won't work in such an environment or let it dominate my work," he says.
On writing lyrics on sensitive issues such as untouchablilty, alcoholism and infidelity, Munna says he was particular about the words being used, "One cannot get a chance to write such songs for films. Also, I ensured my songs didn't sound situational. For instance, if I was writing one on alcoholism, I avoided using the words drugs or alcohol. Instead, I have used generalisations so that anyone could relate to it."
Recalling his early days, Munna tells us, "Things progressed when I got my book on poetry published and sent it to various people in the Hindi film industry. One fine day, I received a mail from director-lyricist Vishal Bhardwaj saying he would like to work with me sometime. Since then, he has shown constant faith in me and we worked together on various projects including films Ramji Londonwaley (2005), Nishabd (2007) and U Me Aur Hum (2008)."
He has also worked with avidly with the husband-wife Ram Sampath and Sona Mohapatra, who were also floored by his poetry book. With music-composer-producer Ram and his singer-lyricist wife Sona, Munna wrote a music album (Sona in 2007), Jumbo (a 2009 animation film) and Delhi Belly (2011).
Though a satisfied artist, issues of interference continue to irk him. "As a lyricist, there are certain situations that one has to face. Many times, those who hire you don't have adequate knowledge of Hindi or Urdu and come from hardcore English backgrounds. They put certain situations on the lyricists, asking them to change a few words here and there, saying listeners won't understand since they don't comprehend the same," Munna shares.
But at the end of the day, he refuses to let it affect his work. For him, says Munna, the key is to write. The depth of his words will next be recognised at Coke Studio, that will be telecast on July 14, in which he has written Sufiana romantic song, Luk da Firda Hai Mere to Laake Yariaan.
Sung by Alisha Bath and Vijay Prakash, it has music by Hitesh Sonik. Munna has also debuted as a lyricist for a Punjabi film with Nabar, directed by Rajiv Sharma, in which he has penned another Sufi love song to be sung by Barkat Sidhu and Mona Singh. Meanwhile, he has also written the songs for Rekha Bhardwaj's upcoming music album.