This is his third book after The History of Indian Film Music (2010) and Dharmendra - NotJust a He-Man (2018).
According to well-known sleuth Sherlock Holmes, after an explanation of the scientific solution to a seemingly impossible case of crime is given, the impact is considerably lessened. The trick is in making a mystery out of it.
But this is not so in the case of the lyricists - the how and the why behind certain classics leave us even more awestruck with the end product!
The film industry's poets aimed for far more than mere entertainment. They put forward philosophies, discussed morality, dissected society, gave lessons in realpolitik and questioned the nature of love. Lyricists are poets-cum-philosophers who explore all shades of humanity and every emotion, usually in simple, accessible verse.
My love affair with lyrics began as a child and became stronger as I read more and more Hindi literature while growing up. I would find lines and verses from songs taking root in my mind and would mull over them to the point of obsession. I tried my hand at writing some lyrics, only to be proven that not everyone was up to a job that appeared to be deceptively simple. I realized that my role was that of an ardent admirer, and so I was thrilled upon joining journalism, because that would give me the opportunity to interview some of the artists I idolized.
The first lyricist I met was the legendary Hasrat Jaipuri. My feature on Hasrat saab appeared as a double spread in a leading Mumbai newspaper. It was a moment of great pride for me and came at a time when, as a fledgling freelancer, I was asked by the features editor of that publication to interview a legend from any artistic field for a story in their weekly nostalgia column. For no particular reason (for all I know I might have been humming one of his songs that day), I suggested Hasrat Jaipuri's name.
My editor asked me who he was, and I was not surprised at his ignorance. Even as we hum some of the most well-known songs from Hindi cinema, many of us would be hard-pressed to recall their lyricists. I told my editor that Hasrat saab was Raj Kapoor's permanent lyricist until Bobby. That did the trick and I got an instantaneous green signal!
The general awareness about lyricists seems to have become worse today. At a recent musical concert, a singer announced that she was about to sing a ghazal written by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. It was left to the seasoned emcee to correct her faux pas after the performance concluded and say that the ghazal had in fact been written by Asad Bhopali. The oversight aside, many of today's music lovers do not even know that a ghazal is not a musical form but a poetic format!
When I began my career in journalism, many legendary lyricists who have since passed away were alive, if not active in their fields. Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri were still at the top of their game. I met them time and again, each meeting turning out to be as unforgettable as their body of work. I was privileged to have also met, among the stalwarts, names like Indeevar, Verma Malik, Gulshan Bawra and Qamar Jalalabadi.
I also saw maestro Naushad Ali conjuring 'living' images of Dina Nath Madhok (the most popular songwriter of the 1940s) and Shakeel Badayuni, while Shailendra's son Dinesh spoke to me about his father. Shabana Azmi described her father, Kaifi Azmi, one of the greats I missed meeting, in much the same way. Sameer Anjaan, himself a topflight lyricist, elaborated on the genius that was his father Anjaan.
I also cherish the multiple meetings I had with Sampooran Singh Kalra, who is better known as Gulzar, that standout single encounter with Neeraj when he visited Mumbai, with Yogesh, and those illuminating conversations with Nida Fazli, Maya Govind and Santosh Anand, not to forget the writer-film-makers I met who also excelled at lyrics, like Kidar Nath Sharma, Manoj Kumar and Prakash Mehra.
I gained fresh perspectives from the newer batch of writers who are 'cool'. So many of them have become my friends. Besides Sameer Anjaan, I must mention the very articulate quartet of Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi, Swanand Kirkire and Irshad Kamil.
Then there are the still younger ones - Shabbir Ahmed, Kumaar, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Manoj Muntashir and more. Of particular mention here is Vishal Dadlani of the Vishal-Shekhar duo, who is also a gifted songwriter.
I wish to thank many people for making this book possible; the acknowledgments section has the names. But there's another list - of film-makers, composers, writers, singers and even actors and fellow journalists who have, over the years, shared their perceptive insights and valuable opinions with me, and my lyrically sound friends who shared their passionate views.
If I can infuse some of that passion in here and add my own too, I shall consider this book a job well done.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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