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In a scenario where churning out good lyrics is virtually considered a crime thanks to multiple adverse factors in operation like the lack of familiarity of filmmakers and music makers with Hindi and Urdu as well as the increased flippancy and mediocrity quotients in this once-artistic field, it is refreshing to hear songs of the calibre of 'Kitne ajeeb rishte hai yahaan ki...'(Page 3).
And to think that its writer Sandeep Nath is a law graduate, born and brought up in Allahabad, who was a crime journalist before he entered the world of rhyme. What's more, this talented lyricist who has spent his growing years in 9 cities in Uttar Pradesh is a Bengali by birth, thus making him probably the first Bengali lyricist in mainstream Hindi cinema, which has always been generously represented by Bengali music directors, singers, actors, filmmakers and technicians but not songwriters.
Sandeep Nath had a flair for writing since childhood and his published anthologies that are still available in print include Mujhe Kuch Bhi Naam Do, a collection of poetries that he wrote from the age of 12-35 and two collections of ghazals, the bestseller Darpan Abhi Andhi Hai and Humne Dekha Ajab Tamasha.
"I was lucky that I was a journalist all along, which meant that I did not have to struggle and thus compromise on work," says the lyricist with a smile. "As a crime reporter I could move everywhere and the by-product was that I could also write stories and scripts thanks to real-life observations and experiences that helped me shape characters." While Sandeep Nath is busy writing scripts too for films like Chauki and Lagi Shart, his maiden effort, Madhubaala as dialogues and lyrics writer, has already been released.
"Poetry too was a part of my profile!" smiles the writer, explaining that his dad wrote poetry in Bengali. "But that was dad's hobby. He had a job that involved moving base from one part of U.P. to another. And as we all know, Awadh, Ruhelkhand and Bijnor are all regions steeped in verse! In Bijnor, for example, even the barber is a poet who while giving you a haircut will request you to hear some verse that he has written!"
With the double-barreled base of heredity and environment, Sandeep's inherent talent flowered. Says the poet, "There is one peculiarity this region has - and it can be called the meeting-point for Hindi and Urdu. This is called the Ganga-Jamuna sanskriti here. The poetry is fertile, and that is why the spectrum of poets that have been born and nurtured in this regions include Shakeel Badayuni, Josh Mahilabadi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Neeraj."
Sandeep remembers coming down to Mumbai and accompanying a friend named Biswajeet to an ad agency office for whom Biswajeet would compose jingles. That day I wrote the words to the metre of his jingle and life changed when Biswajeet forwarded a cheque home to me - of Rs 15,000! I realized that this was great payment for something that took me just 30 minutes, and I soon had a career going here!"
While Sandeep's first-signed film as a lyricist was the Manisha Koirala home production Paisa Vasool (2004), which had the popular 'Bhaagte bhoot ki langoti kahi... ', his first audio release proved to be the album of Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot (2003) in which he penned the Usha Uthup song, 'Din hai na yeh raat.. .'. This was followed by Ek Hasina Thi. "All three films were with Bapi-Tutul, who were also new," says Sandeep. "I also penned the title-song of Rakht, composed by Shameer Tandon, and worked on Agnipankh with Pritam."
It was in 2005 that Sandeep got his first tryst with fame with 'Kitne ajeeb...' from Page 3 and 'Shaam dhaam dand bhed...', the theme song of Sarkar that is better known as Govinda'. Says Sandeep, "The people have an erroneous impression that 'Govinda...' is a song restricted to the chants. On the album, it is a complete song that expresses a certain philosophy."
Sandeep's 'Sindoori aasmaan...' for James was also appreciated, and recently his work for Corporate was also noticed. He is now writing lyrics for Undertrial, Game and the animation film on Lord Krishna. "I have also written a song for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Saawariya," he says.
One notes that Sandeep has yet to work with any major music director. Is this a calculated strategy? "Not really, that happy situation will happen when it will," answers the lyricist thoughtfully. "These few years of struggle will be of little consequence if I have the average run of a lyricist here, which can be as long as 40 years!" But he also points out the advantage of working and tuning with upcoming music directors. "A few hits together can work to a mutual advantage. As for me, I see a certain growth within me already after working with men like Madhur Bhandarkar, Mahesh Manjrekar and Ram Gopal Varma."
Sandeep is cool about his not completing the Bhandarkar trilogy - someone else is writing lyrics for Traffic Signal. "Such insignificant things are of no consequence in the bigger picture," he says dismissively. He also feels that a lyricist cannot afford to show off at the expense of the needs of the film and its director's vision. "My song should only be a musical interpretation. Mujhe mere kalam se matlab hai. Money and fame are important but rank next, as they are only by-products of my work."
Sandeep rates Neeraj, Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Anand Bakshi as the best among so many great lyricists. "Their work is the reflection of the society they have worked in," he explains.
What does he have to say about current trends where lyrics and even Hindi and Urdu are going downhill and there is a craze for hook-lines that are the mainstay of the charts and are remembered rather than the mukhdas. Says Sandeep, "Such ups and downs in poetical and musical standards have always been there. Issi ke beech ek dhaara niklegi that will signal the return of good lyrics. If 8 to 10 musical films come rapidly, things will change completely. I am very optimistic."