Aati Kya Khandala's tapori lyricist survives health scare, bounces back

Updated: Dec 10, 2017, 14:23 IST | Anju Maskeri

Nitin Raikwar, Aati Kya Khandala's lyricist and the man who made Bambaiyya Hindi music a hit, survives a health scare and career decline to return with a debut album

In 1996, when lyricist Nitin Raikwar dropped by on the set of Aamir Khan's Ghulam, on the recommendation of actor and filmmaker Neeraj Vora, it was to craft gimmicky dialogues for Khan's next film, Sarfarosh. "They wanted me to write funny shayaris for one of the characters in the film," he says. The shoot was at Sanpada in Navi Mumbai, and due to a technical snag, the crew had plenty of time to kill. "I noticed that Aamir was relatively free at that point, so I went up to him and requested that he give one of the songs I had written a listen. He heard it, and immediately called director Vikram Bhatt. They both thought the song was unusual but nice," recalls Raikwar. That song was Aati Kya Khandala, eventually sung by Khan himself, becoming a number that would make it to every Bambaiyya Hindi song list after.

Nitin Raikwar, sought to capture the mood of Goa. Pic/Satej Shinde
Nitin Raikwar, sought to capture the mood of Goa. Pic/Satej Shinde

Raikwar went on to continue to use the slang in some of his memorable songs including Apun Bola Tu Meri Laila from Josh (2000), Excuse Me Kya Re from Style (2001) and the iconic Khallas from Ram Gopal Varma's Company (2002). Raikwar has also worked on children's films, and penned lyrics for Chota Chetan (1998), Jajantaram Mamantaram (2003) and others like Pyar Tune Kya Kiya (2001), Aankhein (2002) and Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon (2003). "I think what worked for me at that point was the novelty factor. People dig variety. For instance, we may love our vada pav, but when the burger made an entry in early 2000, we started queuing up for it. It's the same with songs," he says. These days, Raikwar is working on his debut album for which he has collaborated with Shrikant Ahire, one of Maharashtra's foremost shadow dancers. He plans to release a single from it next month. The song is called Khan Sahab Apne Ladke Ko Sambhal. "I thought I'd write in a manner that people identify with. I can't write in a flowery and larger-than-life way. It's not me."

Apun Bola from Josh, which was written by Nitin Raikwar
Apun Bola from Josh, which was written by Nitin Raikwar

Writing in tapori language was a skill that Raikwar developed after he moved to Mumbai from Pune in 1987. By then, he had already tried his hand at singing in orchestras, something his father wanted him to do since he was a successful show organiser. "But I didn't see myself singing in orchestras all my life. I was aware of the risk and struggle involved in Bollywood, but I was adamant to make it," he says. With little money to spend, Raikwar's story reads like that of so many others who move to Mumbai from smaller towns to try their luck. "When a man is struggling, he spends time with people who are like him. So I would sit at chai tapris and talk to rickshawallas, drivers and daily wage labourers. Because I'm talkative and an extrovert by nature, I could strike up a conversation with just about anyone. That's how I picked up the slang," he says. Even when he didn't have projects, Raikwar would write and seek feedback from his friends, some of whom were already working in the film industry as supporting actors. And it's through their assistance that he finally met Anil Kapoor on the sets of Ladla. "I consider that the turning point in my life.

Anil Kapoor felt I had potential and introduced me to directors and filmmakers," he says. Raikwar's first song was Teri Tirchi Nazar Main Hai Jaadoo for Anil Kapoor-starrer Loafer in 1996. But it was Aati Kya Khandala that earned him fame like no other. In fact, it helped him bag a Shah Rukh Khan film soon after. "I remember writing Apun Bola in 15 minutes after I heard the script. I wanted it to reflect Goan culture so I included words like kokum curry. You'll also find words like 'hoinga' and 'karenga', just the way a Catholic aunty would say them," he says.

In 2014, Raikwar had to put all work on the backburner for two years due to an illness. It began with bouts of headache, and he was later diagnosed with subdural hematoma of the brain. "The clots had to be removed through surgery. For a long time, I couldn't work because of the illness. I'm fine now, and hope to get back to what I do best," he says.

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