While the trend of meaningful lyrics is dying in Bollywood, National Award winning lyricist, singer and composer Swanand Kirkire is succeeding effortlessly with his simple yet meaningful lyrics. In an exclusive interview, Swanand shares with us how he went about writing songs for 'PK', working with Rajkumar Hirani yet again, the trend of sleazy lyrics and much more. Excerpts:
Whenever you have worked with RajkumarHirani, you have received a National Award. Are you expecting one for 'PK'?
Sincerely speaking, though all Rajkumar Hirani's films have given me National Awards, but I am not expecting a National Award, because that expectation is quite killing. Rather, what I love in Raju's films is the love and recognition I get. People love his films, songs and everything. So I hope I get that.
A lot of effort was put in to not reveal the story of the film. Was it challenging to not reveal much through your songs too?
That was a challenge and I promise you everybody will thank us that we didn't reveal the subject. The cinema viewing experience has to be good. It is hard work to not reveal anything because people are alert and ready to catch. Songs are true to the script. In Raju's film you can never cut & paste. Every song is organically designed and composed for the film. This time also the songs have done well. For 'Munnabhai' we had bhai language, for '3 Idiots' the brief was of college-going youth. This film, in terms of songs, is colourful.
Your lyrics are very simple. How do you manage to make audiences find a connect with your songs using the colloquial language?
That comes from my training. Raju also does the same thing. We try to make it simple because it becomes easier for people to understand and sing. I like playing with words and that is I what Iove doing with my songs. I love Gulzar Sahab, Anand Bakshi because they are so seamless. For me to get the song, you have to get the emotion right. It is not a big deal to work with Rajkumar Hirani because he will never ask you to follow any trend. He himself is a trendsetter. He makes songs and films on his terms and has proved time and again that people do appreciate meaningful cinema. So it is always a pleasure and honour to work with Hirani.
Does it help being both - a singer and a lyricist?
I do that as most of the times I don't like others singing my songs (laughs). Being a playback singer and lyricist, I understand the meaning of words most of the times. Very often, I am able to explain the emotions to the singers since I am the one who has mostly sung the scratch versions of the songs.
You have composed music for films as well. Do we see you composing often?
I have not done much of music. Sometimes what happens is when I am writing, the tune comes in automatically. I am not sure if I will be able to compose consistently. The composer isn't inside me.
You have written lyrics for Rajkumar Hirani kinds of films as well as Rohit Shetty kind of cinema. How do you balance?
It is fun to work with Rohit Shetty. He has always liked my work and he made me write songs which are not his kind of lyrics. Later, when he wanted his kind of songs, then he didn't call me for that.
Rajkumar Hirani is very particular about things. So does he sit with you and give his inputs while writing the lyrics?
He sits with me every time we sit for the writing lyrics. We don't take references for songs and hence his contribution is required. He understands his story and emotions easily so that helps. Also, Raju is a big task master and he pushes you out of your comfort area. He never accepts things in first take even though it is perfect. He looks for the best.
Does the script essentially play an important role for you to write lyrics?
It is essentially the story and the script because you have to like it. Then other thing is what inspires you in the story. Also you have to come up with that one thing which is unique. You should feel that it is your song. The problem with us is that 100 years of cinema and 100 years of baggage. So we have to find a newer method to say the same thing.
As you said newer method, how did you come up with Bande Main Tha Dum?
We went through a lot of brain storming session during 'Munnabhai'. Bande Main Tha Dum was the most difficult song to crack even for me. First, we zeroed down on the popular tune of Vande Mataram. Then we had to come up with the lyrics. Then Raju had told me to write a song in Munnabhai language, related to Gandhi but not disrespecting him. And the biggest fear we had is that if it went wrong, people will burn the film. So it was a sensitive issue. But in that brainstorming, it became very easy.
Though people loved the songs like Bande Main Tha Dum and others, the melody didn't really pick up. What is your take on this?
That is the tragedy of this nation. They say Rajkumar Hirani is the biggest commercial director and his films have done business like never before. But they don't follow the trend set by him. Everyone wants success but without hard work. Success doesn't come without work. And hopefully, melody will come back.
Language has deteriorated in lyrics off late. How do you see this trend?
It is a great opportunity to write great poetry. I don't mind the language deterioration in lyrics but the filthiness is a problem. I feel let it happen for once and for all else it will not stop forever. That was the beauty of Indian songs which gave you song for every situation. I don't want to be disheartened and I feel the situation will change.
Among the lyricists in India, whom do you idolize?
Gulzar Sahab is one person who has been a biggest inspiration to become a lyricist, because I don't come from that background. We don't have the baggage of Urdu poetry. In today's times, there are good lyricists like Irshad Kamil, Amitabh Bhattacharya. But the market is pressurizing us to write what sells because it is the survival issue today.
You have always desired to direct. When will that happen?
I want to make a film but I really don't know when it will happen. I have become ashamed of this question, but it should happen soon. My script is in writing stage. I have loved Rajkumar Hirani films, Gulzar Sahab films, Hrishikesh Mukherjee films. So I want to make a fun film on smaller Indian cities and it will be in Hindi.
Will we see you write songs for masala films?
I have done that but with meaningful lyrics because that is what I know. There has to be a quality of throwing away of lines, which I don't have. I can attempt those kinds of songs but there will be my way of doing it. I take my work very seriously.
Is it a conscious effort from your end to do some Non-Bollywood work?
Non-Bollywood music is something which we must work on. We have an album which we will release soon. I have worked on Satyamev Jayate, Coke Studio amongst the Non-Bollywood shows. See the thing is even Bollywood needs reference. If everything is only Bollywood, where will it go? We had many other genres which have vanished overtime.
What is your opinion on the trend of remakes in the industry?
Remakes are very sad. It is dearth of ideas. Why can't you do something new and bring something which has been done? It is just a scarcity of ideas. I think once in a while is fine, but when it becomes a trend it is wrong. I don't know where is this going?
You last worked with Anurag Basu in 'Barfi!'. Are you approached for 'Jagga Jasoos' as well?
I have been approached for 'Jagga Jasoos', I wrote a song but then I had to leave to shoot for 'Crazy Cukkad Family' hence I couldn't complete it. Amitabh Bhattacharya has done it now.
Tell us something about 'Crazy Cukkad Family'â€¦
This is the biggest role of my career. Things keep happening in my life. I gave a try to it. We did 40 days of shooting and it was fun. I come from strong theatre background and whatever I have learnt, I have developed the sensibilities there. Acting is something I enjoy doing. It is the most pampered profession in the industry then why not?
Shantanu Moitra is working on an album called Ganges. Would you be working with him?
I would be working with Shantanu Moitra on Ganges. Let's see if this happens. I have worked with ShekharRavijani on an album called Maati. It's a beautiful album and you all will love it. We should work on singles and that is the only thing which will get Bollywood back on its track.
Which is you soul song?
I have a few songs but the ones which I love listening to is Saahir Ludhianvi's Allah Tero Naam. It is a song I can listen to it anytime. I like Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, few Gulzar songs, Naam Gum Jayega is my favourite.
And which is your favourite song amongst those written and composed by you?
I don't listen to my songs. It's a different zone. 'You have written good' is not very good situation. I do some shows and the songs which I have to sing there are Baawra Mann, Khoya Khoya Chand, Monta Re, O Ri Chiraiyaand Raat Humari Toh. Without these songs people don't allow me to go. With Khoya Khoya Chand and Raat Humari Toh, I feel I have done complete justice.