What prompted you to bring out Sunshine Lanes, an anthology of your poems?
In the book, I have included the song lyrics that I have penned for films as well as those inspired by incidents such as the Delhi rape case. The reason for bringing out this compilation is that some of my very good work didn’t get noticed because the films weren’t promoted well.
You are the chairman of a company as well as a lyrics writer in Bollywood. How do you manage two jobs?
If I wasn’t into advertising, it would have been difficult for me to run my house. You can’t survive on poetry. In Bollywood, I only do projects I am really excited about like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Satyagraha. In advertising, ideas matter and I am a man of ideas.
I believe your first book was at the age of 17?
At 17, one has an impressionable mind and I was influenced a lot by Frederick Nietzsche who was a radical thinker.
How did a corporate person like you get into Bollywood?
I don’t come from a Bollywood family and film songs were not a part of my diet. Writing songs happened by accident. After I wrote the lyrics for Shubha Mudgal and Silk Route, I started getting calls from Bollywood. Maybe there was a divine intervention that I started writing songs. I am rhythmic and lyrical by nature.
Do you find it satisfying?
After writing songs, I realised that I am reaching out to more people. A girl who suffers from cancer constantly tells me that she finds inspiration from ‘Masakali’ from Delhi 6.
Do you experience writer’s block at times?
Creativity is not a luxury, it is a curse. The process of writing is strenuous and hard, there’s a lot of labour in it. But you enjoy it once the work is complete.
How would you compare the lyrics of today with the lyrics in the past?
Our earlier songs were reflective of the everyday problems of the audience, more like the folk songs that I love. Now, we are using songs merely for entertainment. The antara in a song is treated like the poor cousin of the mukhda. In our industry we are told, “Antara tum dekh lena, mukhda should be catchy”. I don’t write like that, whether it is ‘Rehna tu’ or ‘Taare zameen par’, my songs complete a thought.
Also, today, we make songs for instant gratification instead of communication. Children dance to numbers which are objectifying women. Earlier, people were seekers but not anymore. Today, instead of the thirsty going to the well, the well has become thirsty.
Can this process be reversed?
The media plays an important role in making people conscious about whether they are getting the best. Listeners also have to assume responsibility. They can’t adopt the stance, ‘Humko toh de diya, hum kya kare?’ If somebody gives you poison, would you consume it? We have the power to reject. In the adverting world, despite the best launch so many products are rejected by the consumers. We need a more informed society.
One philosophical line penned by you that you are proud of …
‘Tu dhoop hai chham se bikhar, Tu hai nadi o bekhabar’ from Taare Zameen Par. It talks about the ultimate freedom; about sunshine, I have been born and brought up in the mountains, I have seen the play of shadow and sunshine.
You have ventured into script writing with Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Why did it take you two years to pen the script?
The film is not a documentary on Milkha Singh, it is a biopic. I had to spend a lot of time with Milkha Singh to understand his life. He has got humour and aggression in him. I wanted to show him as a human being, not just a sportsperson.
Bollywood News Service