Varun Grover talks about writing the lyrics of ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’, stand-up comedy and his favourite ’90s songs in this exclusive interview.
As a lyricist, you are known for writing lyrics which are in sync with the script but technically “out-of-the-box”? How do you manage to be different, yet efficient?
I try to avoid the cliché. Since I grew up on Hindi film music only and all my ‘education’ is old Hindi film songs, I know what all has been done, which words and phrases have been used and in what context. So I try to avoid those things and keep reading newer stuff to bring in the quaint, lesser used, or true to the milieu of the film words.
You wear different hats – creative script writer, lyricist, stand-up comedian and now director (Maa Bhagwatiya IIT Coaching)? Which one gives you the most creative satisfaction and why?
Director’s hat is still a year away. Most satisfaction would be as a stand-up comedian I think because that is completely my own expression without any friction or transmission loss. Script writer or lyrics writer has many constraints and is writing for somebody else but a standup comedian is his or her own boss.
You posted the full lyrics of “Tu” from Dum Laga Ke Haisha on your blog. The antara was recently released but it didn’t appear in the movie?
For the album it was cut as per the film’s OST and in the film it plays in opening credits which is only a 2-minute sequence.
Anu Malik has greatly praised your work in his interviews. What were your expectations before working with him and how did you find the experience working with a senior composer?
My expectation was to work with somebody with a huge ego but I was pleasantly surprised to see how generous he was in complimenting others. It was a privilege to work with somebody you have grown up listening to and Anu ji came up with some of his best work in recent years for this album so it was just great all the way. One especially great perk of working with him was to listen to stories of yesteryears – of his association with Hasrat Jaipuri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Qateel Shifai, Gulzar, and Javed Akhtar.
As a stand-up comedian, what process do you use to retain and reject your own material before you use them for the final show?
I have no such process. I generally write new stuff on the day (or week) of the show and present it to the audience straightaway without any testing. I like that process as then me and audience discover some of the jokes at the same time. That’s like both the partners reaching orgasm simultaneously.
In the past, many composers have developed a rapport working with lyricists E.g. Nadeem-Shravan and Sameer, Anand-Milind and Sameer, Himesh Reshammiya and Sameer etc. How do you think this rapport is developed between a composer and a lyricist?
I think the primary necessity for such a rapport to be built is that both of them should share the same world-view and same aesthetics. Music, compositions, words, and friendships can and will flow from that only. Or at least that’s how they work for me.
Based on your experience, do you think a lyricist can earn a decent living by solely working in Bollywood?
Yes surely. We make the maximum number of films and even in our darkest of films, we need 2-3 songs. Ab jis shahar mein har hafte mela lagta ho, wahaan moongphali ki dukaan kaise nahin chalegi?