Words Do Matter!

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‘Hum Tere Bin Hum Reh Nahin Sakte
Tere Bina Kya Wajood Mera
Tujhse Juda Gar Ho Jayenge
Toh Khud Se Hi Ho Jayenge Juda’

These are a couple of lines from the song “Tum Hi Ho” from ‘Aashiqui 2’, arguably the most popular song of 2013. The song not only struck a chord with the listeners but also helped Mithoon (the composer and lyricist of the song) win many awards, including an award for best lyricist. I was not very disappointed with the fact that he won many awards for his composition (though I strongly felt that there were many other songs and albums which were far greater in quality). What irked me was the fact that he actually went on to win an award for ‘best lyrics’, edging out people like Prasoon Joshi and Irshad Kamil, among others, who were also nominated for the award. Well, I do not seek to express my grief over veteran lyricists losing out to an amateur lyricist like him. I wish to talk and put forward my views on a far more serious issue; an issue that troubles and disturbs me as a listener of Hindi film music.

The lines (which I quoted at the beginning of this piece) could be written by anybody who has a decent command over Hindi and is familiar with a couple of Urdu words. The lyrics are not only over simplistic but also filled with grammatical errors.

A lot of composers write ‘dummy words’ while composing a tune which would help them in presenting it to the producers or directors. After the makers approve the tune, a lyricist is brought in to write the lyrics. These days, a lot of composers retain the same dummy words in the song, which the listeners get to hear in the final version of the song. Sometimes, the composers are so confident of their writing skills that they themselves decide to write the lyrics.

The composers are not the only people who should be blamed for the degradation of lyrics in Hindi films. There are a couple of lyricists as well who write songs that reek of grammatical errors and are filled with flake mataphors, which only the ones who write these songs would be able to decipher. From what one hears, a couple of lyricists write Hindi songs in the Roman script and not in the Devnagri script!

To illustrate my point a little better, I would like to point out the grammatical mistakes in a couple of songs released in the recent past:

In “Tum Hi Ho” from ‘Aashiqui 2’, there is a line in the song that goes, ‘Tera Mera Rishta Hai Kaisa, Ik Pal Door Gawara Nahin’. This would have more sense (grammatically) if the line would have been something like ‘Ik Pal Ki Doori Gawaara Nahin’ or ‘Ik Pal Rehna Door Gawara Nahin’. There is another line from the same song, ‘Tujhko Diya Mera Waqt Sabhi’. Waqt is an Urdu word which means time. ‘Waqt Saara’ instead of ‘Waqt Sabhi’ would have been more inappropriate. Even if one ignores the grammatical mistakes, the lyrics come across as stale. The songs that Mithoon has written for his recent releases ‘Samrat & Co.’ and ‘Ek Villain’ are no better. To camouflage his shortcomings, he uses many Urdu words in the songs that he writes but they are so inappropriately placed that it only helps in bringing his inadequacy as a writer to the fore. He writes ‘Main Parinda Besabar, Thha Udaa Jo Dar-Ba-Dar’ and then one is startled to hear the lines ‘Koi Mujhko Yun Mila Hai, Jaise Banjaare Ko Ghar’. Mithoon leaves the first phrase unfinished which is confusing because the first phrase coupled with the second phrase does not seem to make any sense whatsoever.

Vishal Dadlani, apart from being the lead vocalist of the rock band ‘Pentagram’, is one half of the famous Hindi film composer duo Vishal-Shekhar. While Vishal is an accomplished composer and vocalist, he seems to have another talent, that is, of writing lyrics. Vishal has written some good English songs with his band members for Pentagram. How one wishes he did not extend his skills to writing Hindi songs. Vishal has himself stated that he is not familiar with highbrow words in Hindi and Urdu and he uses simple words. Nothing wrong with that but how would he explain the numerous grammatical errors and vague metaphors that seep in the process? He often fumbles with the ‘Ka’s and ‘Ki’s (referring to the use of Hindi words that denote masculine noun and feminine noun respectively) and goofs up with the very basic grammar that would draw the ire of a Hindi teacher in a primary school!

Vishal wrote the song “Hairat” from ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ which had the following lines ‘Dheemi Dheemi Chalne Lagi Hain Ab Hawayein, Dheemi Dheemi Khulne Lagi Hain Aaj Raahein’. ‘Hawa’ (wind) is regarded as a feminine word while raah (path) is considered to be a masculine word. So it should have ideally been ‘Dheeme Dheeme Khulne Lagi Hain Aaj Raahein’. These are the kind of mistakes that one would find in most of the songs written by Vishal Dadlani. Many of Vishal Shekhar’s songs which are considered to be new-age classics, sadly, have some really uninspiring lyrics written by Vishal. In “Tu Hai Aasman” from Jhankaar Beats, he comes up with ordinary lines like, ‘Tu Hai Aasman Mein, Teri Yeh Zameen Hai, Tu Jo Hai Toh Sab Kuch Hai, Na Koi Kami Hai’.

Shekhar Ravjiani, Vishal’s partner, is not very active on the writing front and has officially written just one song (apart from the hook line of ‘Aas Paas Khuda’ from ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ (2010). The song that one is referring to here is “Hamesha Tere Saath Rahunga” from ‘Krishna Cottage’ (2004). ‘Jab Pyaar Kiya Toh Na Socha, Na Samjha Na Bujha, Jab Dil Diya Toh Kaise Rahe Nazar Mein Koi Duja, Kehde Koi Kitna Bhi Koi Kahe, Kehde Koi Jo Kahe Main Toh Bas Ek Baat Kahunga, Hamesha Tere Saath Rahunga’. I could come up with such lines in my sleep! One could almost imagine Shekhar struggling to find rhyming words.

Arko Pravo Mukherjee broke into the scene with his songs from ‘Jism 2’. Arko, along with Munish Mukhija, was credited with writing the songs composed by him. The lyrics were far from being memorable and one believes Munish (producer-director Pooja Bhatt’s husband) was brought in to polish Arko’s flawed writing. Looking at the kind of songs Arko has written for the films he has composed so far, one feels the guy has a very shaky command on Hindi and Urdu but he seems to have mugged up some Urdu words which he keeps using in his songs to make them sound impressive or to come across as a credible wordsmith. He writes some awfully predictable lines like ‘Apne Roothein, Paraye Roothein, Yaar Roothe Na, Khwaab Tootein, Waade Tootein, Dil Yeh Toote Na.’ and then, in a bid to impress the listener chips in with a phrase mixed with Urdu and Punjabi words like ‘Allah Waariyan, Main Toh Haariyan, Tooti Yaariyan, Mila De Oye.’ Arko’s latest release as a composer and lyricist was “Meherbani” from ‘The Shaukees’ (2014), further highlights his inadequacies as a lyricist. The phrase, ‘Tujhse Mila Toh Paa Liya Har Cheez Main’ should have ideally been ‘Tujhse Mila Toh Paa Li Har Cheez Maine’. He uses Urdu words like ‘tarz’, ‘marz’, ‘taabeer’, ‘taqdeer’ but fails to string them together in sentences or phrases that could make some impact.

Singer Shaan has written most of the songs (and even composed some) for his private albums. The Hindi songs written by him are absolutely shallow, thanks to his poor vocabulary. ‘Tumko Dekha Hai Jabse Rehti Ho Tum Hi Iss Dil Mein Mere, Par Yeh Toh Socha Na Tha Main, Aa Jaogi Tum Manzil Mein Mere’ in ‘Badal Gaya’ from his private album Tishnagi is case in point. Shaan, it should be ‘Maine’ and not ‘Main’! And, why do you bring down your own song with such dull, done-to-death phrases? Shaan also wrote the song “Yaaron” for the film ‘Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena’ (2005) which was sung by him and Sonu Nigam. I’m not even going there!

Arko, in an interview, stated that in the West, a musician composes and writes his own songs and that’s the reason he prefers writing his own lyrics. That is such a stupid thing to say! Most of the musicians writing songs in English are the ones who follow English as their first language. In India, we have so many languages and even though Hindi is the national language of India, the degree of proficiency and fluency with which people speak the language varies from state to state. Of course, a person for whom Hindi is not the first language, can speak it more fluently and could have a better command over it than a person for whom it’s the first language, if he is keen to learn the language properly.

I am not against the idea of composers turning lyricists. I just wish composers would evaluate as to where do they stand as lyric writers and should take the plunge only if they feel they are good at it. The only person who has excelled both as a composer and a lyricist is Ravindra Jain. The man is not only a genius composer but has an immaculate command over Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit. Jain wrote most of the songs that he composed, occasionally hiring other lyricists to write his songs. Perhaps, the only instance he wrote for another composer was for Aadesh Shrivastava. Ravindra Jain had written a couple of songs for the Saawan Kumar Tak directed ‘Salma Pe Dil Aa Gaya’ (1997). It would be interesting to know as to why Saawan Kumar roped in Jain to write a couple of songs, when he himself was a lyricist and wrote the songs for all his directorial ventures.

Anand Raaj Anand came to Mumbai to become a singer. With him, he brought tapes of songs composed, written and sung by him. Anand went on to release a non film album as a singer and eventually went on to compose for several films and non film albums. Anand has worked with various lyricists, most notable of them being Dev Kohli. However, if you look at his filmography, you will notice that he has written most of the songs where he was credited as the composer. While Anand has hardly written some path breaking songs as a lyricist, one can’t deny the fact that he has a good command over Hindi, Urdu and even Punjabi. One can’t find faults (grammatical mistakes, oddball metaphors) in his songs and he does not really disappoint as a lyricist. He wrote the philosophical “Kuch Khona Hai Kuch Paana Hai” from ‘Pardesi Babu’ (1998) which had simple lyrics but carried depth and meaning.

Anu Malik would often lighten the mood, in the various reality shows he has been associated with, with his ‘shayari’ (poetry). His humorous poetry would make everyone laugh and people would often take digs at it. He composed and wrote two songs Tinku Jiya” and Chamki Jawani” for ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ (2011) . Both the songs being the so called ‘item numbers’ were expected to carry some fun quotient and keeping that in mind, Anu did well as a lyricist.

Vishal-Shekhar have worked with some brilliant poets like Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi and Irshad Kamil, among others. Can’t they see the difference in the quality of the songs written by them (Vishal, in particular) and the ‘real’ poets. Sayeed Quadri embellished Mithoon’s earlier compositions with his profound poetry. Does Mithoon really think he writes better than Quadri?

Every aspect of a song be it composition, orchestral arrangements, mixing and lyrics – are equally important. If a song goes wrong in any of these departments, it would spell disaster for the song as a whole. Sadly, an average listener does not pay a lot of attention to lyrics which explains such songs becoming huge hits. But, that does not mean the composers should go on with this practice. They must understand the value of lyrics and let their compositions benefit from meaningful verses written by people who are good at their jobs.

Disclaimer: The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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