After Saand Ki Aankh, lyricist Raj Shekhar will make you hum songs of Raat Akeli Hai
MUMBAI-BASED RAJ Shekhar calls himself an accidental lyricist. The 38-year-old writer, who has made a name in the industry by penning notable lyrics for songs in films like Tanu Weds Manu, Hichki, Qarib Qarib Singlle, Veere Di Wedding and more, is celebrating the success of the Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar-starrer, Saand Ki Aankh. In the industry for the last eight years, Shekhar talks about picking up local lingo for the lyrics, why he left film direction, and his future projects. Excerpts:
The Saand Ki Aankh songs have become very popular. How was it to work on the film?
It feels amazing. I never expected this kind of love and appreciation from everyone, and I am glad people liked it so much.
How challenging was it, given that the songs were different from usual Bollywood numbers?
If you see my repertoire, you will notice that I have written more romantic songs, but this film had no romantic angle or Bollywood masala. The challenge was to put the song in that popular space, so that it's hummable and relatable to the characters as well. The story of the two women is very inspiring, and though the topic is serious, the treatment is not boring, and I had to match that vibe of the film. So, I did my research and used colloquial terms in the songs. For instance, Udtaa Teetar is a part of a local vocabulary used in the Northern belt of India. Also, Baby Gold is very close to my heart. It was challenging, but I am grateful that I got a chance to push my limits, and I am ecstatic that the songs have been received so well.
What are your upcoming projects?
There are three to four films in my hand now, and one of them is Raat Akeli Hai, Honey Trehan’s next film starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte in the lead role. I have done two songs in this film, and the music is by Sneha Khanwalkar.
How did writing lyrics for films happen for you?
I am an accidental lyricist. I was working as an assistant director to Anand Lal Rai, when he asked me to write dummy lyrics for the song Rangrez from Tanu Weds Manu in 2011. I ended up writing all the songs for the film, and also for its sequel. Soon, I left direction and took to penning songs full-time. I also realised I wasn’t good in direction.
Which lyricists and poets do you follow?
I follow everyone. Gulzar Sahab is on the top. Among my contemporaries, I like Amitabh Bhattacharya, Irshad Kamil, Varun Grover, Hussain Haidry and Kausar Munir. Among poets, I like Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Pablo Neruda, Kabir, Geet Chaturvedi and Babusha Kohli, among others.