'Dreamum Wakeupum wasn't meant to offend anyone'
Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya comes clean on his style of writing and what sets him apart
He wanted to be a playback singer but ended up as a lyricist in Bollywood. However, Amitabh Bhattacharya is more than happy with the way things are. Though the Lucknow-born wordsmith started his career with the film Aamir, Dev D got him noticed. As of today, it’s a set routine for his lyrics to attract controversies followed by acclaim. However, the National Award-winning songwriter’s creations make you laugh as well as think. But that’s not the entire story. Amitabh speaks about his passion for words and music…
First of all, what makes you click while writing?
Primarily, it has to be the script. The story and the situations give you an idea and a route through which to pave emotions. Most of my work is based on the given melodies. I create the mood via words.
Did you receive any reactions for the song from Tamilians?
I haven’t come across anyone who didn’t find the song humourous. It wasn’t meant to offend anyone. Besides, adding ‘mum’ to words is basically a Malayali trait, not necessarily Tamil. The underlying idea was to Sanskritise the lyrics.
How do you react to those who say that it is obscene?
All I can say is that my job is pretty clear-cut. I’m a lyricist who writes for movies. I work as per the requirements. If you listen to any song from Aiyyaa or a DK Bose, bear in mind that the director and the music composer wanted the same out of me. Once you do that, also remember that my work in Udaan or I Am is quite different.
For a lyricist who wanted to be a singer in the first place, things must be pretty awkward, right?
(Pauses) Not really. When I started my career as a songwriter, I was a bit confused. But slowly I realised that I enjoyed writing songs a lot more. Perhaps there are things that are meant for you. As of now, I’m working with some of the finest people from the film industry. What more can I ask for?
Does your singing background give you an edge as a lyricist?
I don’t think it gives me an edge but yes, it gives me a better perspective of what exactly is required in a song. The whole musical experience of my past gives me more clarity.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
All my contemporary lyricists — be it Irshad Kamil or Neelesh Misra. There are many more but one name that stands out is Gulzar. He surprises me every single time. For someone who’s nearing 80, he sounds younger than most of us. Through his lyrics, he makes us aware of the side that existed but we somehow overlooked. I’m craving to be face-to-face with him but for some inexplicable reason, I haven’t been able to gather courage to meet him and tell him I’m his greatest fan!
Compared to sensitive songs, are funky ones easier to come up with?
Both are challenging in their own way. Serious songs need intensity whereas funny ones demand wit. Sensitive songs absorb the nuances better so the margin of error is low because you can’t afford to mess up whereas in an over-the-top dhinchak track, you can unwind yourself playing with words. For me, both are a rage and I take equal amount of pride in them.
Do your parents critique your work?
Yes, they are my most loyal fans but they can be harsh too. Like the other day, after listening to Aiyyaa songs, my dad said, ‘Kya kya likhta rehta hai’. I know he liked them but he has to share his views. For them, my winning the National Award was the proudest moment.
What sort of equation do you share with music composer Amit Trivedi?
Working with Amit is both intriguing as well as amazing. Though I’m collaborating with several other music directors, with Amit it is ghar ki baat. His melodies bring out the unheard best out of me.
Who do you want to work with?
AR Rahman sir. I totally believe in destiny because life takes its own course. If I’m meant to work with him, it shall certainly happen in the near future.