Conversation with Lyricist Irshad Kamil

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Boski Gupta

It is said that an artist is known by his art. When I meet Irshad Kamil for the first time I know what that saying means. I have always been a fan of his work, and consider him to be one of the actual writers in the film industry where anybody with half-cooked Punjabi and English can become a popular rapper or a lyricist. Kamil, like his works, is simple yet touching, articulate yet ridiculously polite, and if you crave for some khalis Urdu or Hindi conversation, he’s your man. He can talk about Meer and Ghalib in the same breathe as Dostoevsky and Conrad. With his book Ek Maheena Nazmon Ka, this lyricist has now forayed into the world of published poems. Excerpts from an interview…

You have been writing for many years now, shouldn’t this book comes earlier?
I thought before anybody else could read my book and steal ideas from it, why shouldn’t I do it for myself? (laughs). On a serious note, this is actually not my first book. I have written full length play called Bolti Deewarein and also an analytical book on contemporary poetry. So this is my third book. And I also think that everything is destined and happens on a stipulated time. I keep on writing other than writing lyrics for the films as well. It was also a difficult task to choose a collection of poems under one mood for one book.

Did you think that the book will appreciated to this level?
My work has always been loved but this is overwhelming. It feels so good when I see not only adults but many younger people appreciating the book. Nowadays people do not read poetry, they seldom read novels but poetry is out of questions. So it feels good when youngsters comes to me and tell me that they liked the poems in the book. Only 10 minutes of good literature can help become a better person, it helps you connect with self.

How much comfortable you’re with translation of original writing?
Translation of any creative piece of literature cannot be done. Facts can be translated, creativity can’t. Translation is basically recreation, you can reform a thought but you can’t change it into another language. And one should also not judge a translator as he can also not do a full justice to any original writing.

Did you always wanted to write for Hindi films?
I was always inclined towards Bollywood but fascination is one thing and preparation is another. I didn’t want to struggle here. Though I would not call it struggle, I would call it experience. I wanted to enter Bollywood only after I was fully prepared. I was also a reporter like you. I went to meet Lekh Tandon in Chandigarh, and from there our association started. He got me to Mumbai. I wrote dialogues for his serial Kahan Se Kahan Tak. And then I stayed in here. I started getting work from day one itself.

Which is favourite work till now?
There are few albums which are very close to my heart. Chameli is very special as it was my first work, and Rockstar I like because it’s very non-routine work. It has very experimental kind of lyrics. The lyrics in Rockstar were way different from the work I did earlier.

But Bollywood doesn’t respect lyrics these days…
Yes, there’s no importance of words in cinema now. And there’s reason too… The listeners do not listen to good lyrics…

But they will if you write good lyrics…
I write good lyrics but people do not listen to good lyrics. The popularity of bad music and bad lyrics is not because of its creator but because of its consumer. We keep on saying that nowadays songs are not good, music is not good, the quality is going down… but they’re becoming popular because they are getting hit. Bad music, nonsensical lyrics are topping musical charts, why? Because the listeners are making them popular. You stop listening to crappy lyrics, people will stop writing crappy lyrics. Same with music. There are hardly any songs which we can listen to in the evening, with the family. Our changed lifestyle is also responsible for our degradation. Look at the way we are being fed consumerism… I can give you many examples where a good song in a movie never reached the audiences, and the most crappy song became a hit!

It happened with you?
A guy in Delhi asked me what kind of song you have written Tune mari Entry Dil Mein Bajo Ghanti (from Gunday). I told him, that you heard that song but I had also written some other songs for that movie like Jiya. Did you hear that? And he said no! Both Highway and Gunday came almost the same time, and there was so much variety in both the albums. There were Kabir ke dohe and item song too! It all depends on the listener which song he picks to listen.

How do you react when asked to write an item song?
I have decided not to cross few boundaries when writing. And item songs are not new, earlier they were called cabarets but their purpose was same. These songs are not bad. We can also item songs also much value, but till the lyrics do not cross a questionable boundary I am not uncomfortable writing it.

What are you most comfortable writing?
If you’re a good driver you can drive any kind of car (laugh). I can write all sorts of songs, I also try not be in the comfort zone all the time. Though my favourite would be romantic-longings kind of songs like Dooriyaan, Tum Ho… This poems in this book too have a kind of desire…

How do you work when a scene or situation comes to you?
I am not that kind of a writer who would write a romantic number because the director has asked me to do so. I need to understand the script, I need to know the character, I have to know the story then only I can write for that person or situation. We can say the same thing in a much better way when we know the character and situation better.

Who are you most comfortable working with?
Those directors who want to make both a hit film and a good film, I am happy working with them. Same goes with the music directors (smiles). But now this will be a wishful thinking if I say that I wish I had the good opportunity to work with earlier music directors. But now of course, we are born in different times, so it is not possible. And though I am very introvert, I am able to make few friends in the industry in the last 10 years. Though I can’t socialise much due to my work timings, I try to keep in touch with people I like.

Boski Gupta, ” Only 10 minutes of good literature makes a better person: Irshad Kamil,” in DNA India, April 15, 2015. Accessed on April 15, 2015, at:

The item above written by Boski Gupta and published in DNA India on April 15, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on April 15, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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