Renaissance man and dial-an-opinion thinker Aamir Khan thinks that the success of a song goes to the actor who portrays it in a film, not to the lyricist. Well, he could have put it more delicately along the lines of: the credit to a hit Hindi song goes to the actor, not to the lyricist. But then, Khan lacks the nuanced approach that goes with our trade, so we, anonymous ones, forgive him.
But let’s see the facts for what they are. Unlike in the West, where bands and singers play the role of performers, song-writers and lyricists, our desi rock’n’rollers are a fragmented lot. The singers get their due attention if they are of the Kishore-Rafi-Lata-Asha level; and quite clearly the ‘performers’ — the actors gyrating on the screen — get top billing. Lyricists, whether they are of the calibre of Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi or Gulzar play a distant third fiddle to the song’s ‘visible face’, the actor, and the ‘voice of the song’, the singer.
So there’s little or no discussions similar to that of whether Bob Dylan is a greater lyricist or a singer-songwriter that continues with ‘Western’ popular music. This may be slowly changing, with the likes of AR Rahman, being a bigger bill than the actors who lip-sync his songs.
And apart from the cognoscenti, who will immediately identify a song with fabulous lyrics like ‘Meet na mila re man ka’ with its lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri rather than its singer Kishore Kumar and actor Amitabh Bachchan? Certainly, not the fans who listen to it either on a Kishore Kumar tribute collection or on the soundtrack of the film, Abhimaan. It’s unfair, but that’s how the song goes.