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The lyricist-Swanand Kirkire

By: Screen Weekly, IndiaFM

Monday, October 16, 2006

He has given a new angle to 'Vande Mataram... ' with the Lage Raho Munnabhai version 'Bande mein tha dum, Vande Mataram...'. And if he has treaded tapori terrain with 'Bolo to bolo woh kaisi hogi haaye...' he has also written the plaintive 'Bigdi banaa de Santoshi Maata... ' for Jai Santoshi Maa.

In 2005, he explored a range from 'Kaisi paheli zindagani...' to 'Piyu bole...' in Parineeta and a year earlier wrote the in-depth poetry of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi.

Meet Swanand Kirkire, the man who cannot compromise his quality for quantity and substance for commerce.

He represents the small but significant segment of the new breed of lyricists from whom we can expect depth and content along with technique - because it's their choice. Excerpts.

What has changed after a pathbreaking mega-hit like Lage Raho Munnabhai?
I think that Parineeta gave me a good standing last year, but Lage Raho Munnabhai has underlined it. Before this there was Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. So now people have realized that I have the capacity to write a variety of songs rather than just one or two kinds and you cannot stereotype me..

You are really the first Marathi lyricist to succeed in Hindi cinema. Maharashtrians have been giants in every aspect of Hindi films other than dialogues and lyrics. How does it feel, and to what do you credit this unique feat?
It feels great. I was born and brought up in Indore in Madhya Pradesh, and my medium of education was Marathi. But I joined the National School Of Drama in New Delhi to learn Design and Direction. I learnt a lot of aspects like costumes and lighting with respect to the stage though I always knew that I was going to write and come down to Mumbai. I was also interested in poetry so lyrics was almost like a corollary.

I also began to translate plays and once I wrote a song that everyone liked.All these factors helped me to develop my Hindi, like my surroundings at NSD. I have also read all the great Hindi poets.

Have Hindi film songs been a part of that study?
Hundred per cent! My father was a great follower of film music and would draw my attention to the poetic richness of so many songs. My father had a sense of 'metering' that he would point out to me. His favourites, and therefore mine as well, were Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Slowly I began to unconsciously analyze these songs and began to understand that film lyrics had to be about poetry as well as about the lingo needed for the character and the craft element. I realized that good lyrics will always have metaphors and images, and when there has to be philosophy, it should be in the common man's language.

Was Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi your first as a lyricist?
Yes, Sudhirji heard my poetry and suggested that I write the songs.

How did Sudhir and you get together?
You will find it interesting to know that I came to Mumbai to become a director rather than to write! I assisted Manju Singh on her TV serial Swaraj. Then I joined Sudhir Mishra and assisted him on three films, Calcutta Mail, Hazaaron... and Chameli for which I was the Associate Director and also wrote the dialogues.

And then you sang a song in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi too.
Yes. My father and mother have both been disciples of Kumar Gandharva and so I unconsciously developed the hang of words and music. I gradually imbibed the relationship between words and music in both Hindi and Marathi and this is what first got me interested in the performing arts. I sang the Bhojpuri folk song 'O sajni re...' on location and Sudhir-ji heard it and made Shantanu Moitra listen to me. It was then that they made me sing 'Bawra man...' in HKA. Later I sang 'Raat akeli to...' in Parineeta too.

Except for Sehar which had music by Daniel B.George who arranges for Shantanu, you have only worked with the latter before Jai Santoshi Maa with Anu Malik. Have you planned to restrict your work to Shantanu and keep others as exceptions?
No, there is no restriction like that. The impression has been created because Shantanu and I have grown together with these three films. We got together with HKA and one thing led to another. I have had interactions with some other composers and I am in touch with them. I am also working with Pritam in Saurabh Shukla's film.

How was the Jai Santoshi Maa experience?
Frankly I was not very comfortable with the idea of writing devotionals, simply because I am inclined towards the rational and a Left-like approach to life. Till now, I have probably written every kind of poetry or lyrics but not the bhajan. But then I thought that I should try my hand at them too. I am quite satisfied with my work though I do not claim that I have done anything exceptional. I also enjoyed working with Anu Malikji who was extremely easy at work.

How do you look at what's happening in lyrics today?
I think that there are some lyricists who are doing good work, and can do better in the right environs. Yes, the kind of language we use in a song has changed, but the thoughts remain the same, which is again a bit of a problem because there has to be some new element every time. For example, if I write a romantic song then it must tell you something more than just about love. Then again every listener has his own relationship with a song.

To come full circle, some songs in Lage Raho Munnabhai have joint credits, like 'Bande mein tha dum...' .
Yes, because when we used to brainstorm, suggestions would come up. For example, it was Vinod (Chopra)ji who suggested the words 'Bande mein tha dum...' when I thought that it would be a good idea to use the words 'Vande Mataram..' in a song. Farhad had also contributed the tapori part of the lyrics in, just the way he had done in Munnabhai MBBS.

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