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Swanand Kirkire at JLF 2017: Music is my baap kamai, everything else aap kamai

We caught up live with Bollywood singer-songwriter Swanand Kirkire at Jaipur on the sidelines of the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival, 2017.

Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 Updated: Jan 20, 2017 14:33 IST
Satarupa Paul
Satarupa Paul
Hindustan Times
Swanand Kirkire,Aap Kamai,Jaipur Literature Festival
Swanand Kirkire, who started his career as a songwriter, said he started writing poetry very late in his life.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

“When poetry meets music, it becomes a song,” said singer-songwriter Swanand Kirkire, during a conversation at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. On the first day of the festival yesterday, Kirkire launched a preview of his new book of poetry at a session with actor-playwright Manav Kaul and Satyanand Nirupam, editor of Rajkamal Prakashan.

Entitled Aap Kamai, the poems in this collection are on assorted themes including politics, language and poetry itself. There are some utterly random poems too,” he says. “I’ve a poem about excel sheets, one on how your emotions change on a Friday evening and how you become on a Monday morning.” There’s one about his tooth ache too!

Kirkire revealed that he started writing poetry very late in his life, having started his career as a songwriter first. “But you cannot write many things in Hindi songs; they’ve their limitations – mostly you have to write about love or hope or some such topic.” So he started scribbling his thoughts and sharing them on social media. “I didn’t even realize when I had a full collection on every kind of subject – they’re random, they’re not systematic, they are my everyday reactions to life and to people,” he said.

Watch: Singer, lyricist Swanand Kirkire in conversation with Hindustan times

But how did he come up with the name Aap Kamai for his book? “I went to National School of Drama, learnt theatre, design and direction, learnt to write scripts, then started working as an assistant director to Sudhir Mishra. Music was never on my list,” Kirkire said. Both his parents are singers, so growing up he was surrounded by a lot of music. “I kind of rebelled from music. I thought theatre was much more democratic than the classical music scene, which has a hierarchy, a guru-shishya parampara. I never liked that, I wanted something where I could express myself, and theatre helped me.” But as luck would have it, he began to derive most of his livelihood from music. “So I always say that music is my ‘baap kamai’ – it’s my father’s earning, it came to me without my doing anything,” he said. And everything else that I do is my ‘aap kamai’ – I’ve worked hard for these. Nirupam said it’d be a great name for this book.”

Swanand Kirkire (left) in conversation with Satyanand Nirupam (centre) and Manav Kaul during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

When asked about the intersection of poetry and music and if there exists any, Kirkire said that several of his poems have been made into songs. “There was a poem I had written which went something like: Chaar kadam, bas chaar kadam, chal do na sath mere. Raju Hirani (of Munna Bhai and 3 Idiots fame) read it and said that let’s make it into a song. He had to do a little manicure-pedicure to the poem itself and it became a song. So yeah, when poetry meets music, it becomes a song.”

Kirkire went on to recite a poem from his book, titled Woh Ladki Dhoom Dhadaka Thi. When asked about the inspiration behind the poem, he laughed and said, “A girl, of course!” Refusing to divulge details, he instead said, “If a girl is a little patakha, people say she’s definitely a kulachini, a kulnasa,” referring to lines from the poem and adding, “You have girls who are very vibrant, who love to be themselves. But then suddenly somebody comes along and takes them apart – changes their personality, who they are. This poem is an ode to those many vibrant, vivacious girls.”

Kirkire then broke into a few lines of the beautiful Bavra Mann from Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi.

(Swanand Kirkire’s book of poetry Aap Kamai, published by Rajkamal Prakashan, will be out in April)

Click here for our full coverage of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017

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First Published: Jan 20, 2017 14:32 IST