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‘Insecurity makes your work dishonest’

‘Insecurity makes your work dishonest’

For Raj Shekhar, Diljit Dosanjh tops the list of singers he wishes would lend voice to his words.



Noted lyricist Raj Shekhar packs as much meaning into his conversations as his chartbusters. The songwriter of superhit films like ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, ‘Uri’ and, more recently, ‘Animal’ tells Nonika Singh how the characters he writes for and the director’s vision inspire him.

Even before the release of ‘Animal’, many of its songs like ‘Arjan Vailly’ and ‘Hua Main’ had gone viral. Were you apprehensive about the reception to your songs?

I don’t operate from a space of fear. Insecurity makes your writing dishonest and I would never strike a false note. I saw opportunity in the fact that I was writing for my favourite actor, Ranbir Kapoor, for a peculiar situation. My brief was that this is the only time his character is masking his feelings. So I could not pen a ‘saat janam ka saath’ kind of love song.

Were you aware that ‘Pehle Bhi’ would be picturised on the film’s most intimate scene?

Yes. My director Sandeep Reddy Vanga told me it would be shot aesthetically and he had a lot of references of paintings. Besides, if you listen intently, there isn’t a single obscene word in it.

Is there a particular kind of song you would not write?

Never say never. When Valmikiji wrote Ramayana, it was as much about Rama as Ravana. Ultimately, it’s for people to decide whom they want to side with. Indeed, in the 21st century, we as audiences are besotted by grey characters. The men in ‘Godfather’ are no saints, yet we fall in love with them.

Do you think multi-genre music, multiple music directors and lyricists, as with ‘Animal’, is the right approach?

That is a very complex question. On the one hand, this strategy gives a break to the young talent who may not have the bandwidth to carry the entire film on their shoulders. Yet, in a solo film, there is greater onus. Like when I was writing for ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, even for a 45-second interlude which later turned into a full song ‘Piya’, I was all agog. The same dedication might be missing when you do a song or two.

You started your career with Aanand L Rai as an assistant director and later as a lyricist. Any lessons learnt from him?

Many. He would say, ‘Film ban jaayegi, songs too will be written, but don’t stop living.’ Besides, he is a born leader and knows how much information is to be given to whom depending upon their inner hunger. His love for food, too, has rubbed on.

Apart from the director’s vision guiding you, what else inspires you?

(Laughs) Producer’s cheque. Seriously, the fascinating array of characters. In ‘Saand Ki Aankh’, I get to write for women who have discovered their shooting talent at 60. In ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’, there is a self-published poet played by Irrfan Khan. In ‘Tumbbad’, a man enters a tunnel to dig gold. It’s a complete riot and kaleidoscope.

You have also written for ‘Mismatched’. Does your craft change for OTT?

Not really. In both, there are characters and a story. Yes, at one time, the feeling was that streaming platforms might sound the death knell of songs. But, fantastic music has come out on OTT. Besides ‘Aise Kyun’ of ‘Mismatched’ captivating listeners, there have been ‘Qala’ and ‘Jubilee’.

Any music director you are eager to work with?

Undisputedly, AR Rahman sir. But then, there are singers who I so wish would lend voice to my words. Diljit Dosanjh tops that list.

In your upcoming film ‘Crew’, did you not get a chance since it stars Diljit?

Sadly, by the time I came on board, songs for Diljit had already been recorded. Nevertheless, I could write for Tabu and Kareena.


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