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Vocals beyond the verbal

Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics strike a chord with listeners but there is a lot more to him than just words, says SHAILAJA TRIPATHI



Good times ahead The future of Hindi film lyrics looks bright to Swanand Kirkire

Lyricists like Swanand Kirkire have broken away from the clichés of lyric writing in Hindi cinema. Tired of staple words like pyaar, ishq, khwab, safar Hindi film music listeners lapped u p the fresh fare dished out by Kirkire. His lyrics are rooted in Indian culture where expressions come in from the Hindi heartland yet everybody finds it hummable. Be it “Baawra man dekhne chala ek sapna” from Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi, “Piya bole piyu bole” from Parineeta, “Kyun khoye khoye chand ki” from Khoya Khoya Chand, Swanand’s songs are addictive.

The thought process is simple, the lyricist says. “For me writing is as natural as breathing. First comes the thought and words follow, not the other way around.”

Versatile Kirkire

It is interesting to note that the man behind such an impressive body of work and recipient of a National Award for best lyricist for “Bande mein tha dum” in Lage Raho Munnabhai, came to Mumbai to direct a film rather than to write. He studied direction at the National School of Drama. He assisted Manju Singh on her TV serial Swaraj and Sudhir Mishra on Calcutta Mail, Hazaaron... and Chameli. “In my training at NSD, I acquired many skills. At NSD, I got major exposure to Hindi language. Also, there is an urge to express myself through various media,” says Kirkire who also lent his rustic voice to “Kyun khoye…”, “Bawra man” and the title song of the television serial “Uttaran”.

The absence of strict compartmentalisation in the Hindi film industry encourages him. “Here it’s all inter-mingled. I assisted Sudhir on Chameli and also wrote its dialogues. I directed plays and also wrote their songs in the drama school. Most of the directors in the industry are multi-faceted. Also it’s less rigid than Hollywood,” feels Kirkire.

Theatre: old love

He was in town to present his play “Aao Saathi Sapne Dekhe”, a musical set in Chandni Chowk that was premiered in Mumbai’s Prithvi theatre in 2007. Adapted from Tom Jones’ “The Fantasticks”, the production drew Kirkire to theatre direction after a gap of 10 long years. So, would it be correct to call this exercise as groundwork for his future dream project — that of directing a film? “No, directing a play is different from directing a film. Directing rejuvenates me. I have visualised Sur or melody and depicted it dancing on clarinet. Something like this can only happen in theatre. As for my film, I have a couple of ideas but nothing is decided. I am on the journey,” says Kirkire. Now, he is all set to take the production to FTII, Pune.

Future projects

Meanwhile, he continues his romance with words and thoughts. He has penned songs for Raj Kumar Hirani’s under-production “Three Idiots” and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s “Talisman”. The songs of “Three Idiots” dealing with today’s education system have a contemporary flavour whereas songs of the latter which has been adapted from the fantasy novel “Chandrakanta” will have a slight old world favour. A film by Shyam Benegal is also in the kitty. He will also get into screenplay writing with “Talisman”.

According to him film songs are witnessing a revival of the sorts. “In the 80s-90s, songs had words like pum pum sounding like nursery rhymes. Then came the songs translated from another language, songs sprinkled with English words. All this was momentary. Right now, Hindi lyrics’ future seems hopeful. Whenever I go to a college, youngsters ask me to sing ‘Bawra Man Dekhne’. In times when youngsters are not interested in Hindi or Urdu, the fact they are appreciating such lyrics is a good sign.”

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