I don’t want to have a particular style of writing – Munna
Knowing lyricist Munna Dhiman is like knowing about different philosophies of life. Just like his work, he is a beautiful soul whose words promise to touch you in more ways than one. From Haal-e-Dil, Nishabd, U Me aur Hum to Delhi Belly, Fukrey, Bhoothnath Returns and the Season 2 of Satyamev Jayate, Seasons 2 and 3 of Coke Studio; he has often expressed simple yet important things in a very eloquent manner. Here is the story of his journey into films, which is nothing short of a fairy tale.
Tell us about your journey as a lyricist into films?
I always had an inclination towards writing but didn’t know how to get into films. So I got a few poems published in a book named ‘Kavitayen’. I randomly sent the book to different filmmakers by picking their address from the film directory. Fortunately I was lucky that director – writer – producer Vishal Bhardwaj read that book and gave me my first break to write for a band called Aasma in the album by the same name. It was followed by various other opportunities for films such as Ramji Londonwaley, Nishabd, U Me Aur Hum and Haal – E – Dil. In fact we even did a jingle together for Cadbury from which a line – Me Khush hun aaj khamakha – got quite popular. That is how my journey as a lyricist began.
How would you define the role that Vishal Bhardwaj has played in your initial career?
When I first went to Mumbai, I didn’t know anything about the place. That was the time when he (Vishal Bhardwaj) inculcated a lot of confidence in me by boosting my morale. I would often get a younger brotherly treatment from him as he would be protective towards me. Since I’d been writing poetry or songs for theatre plays in Chandigarh, I was sure of the fact that songwriting is not difficult for me. I assumed that it came naturally to me but after going to Mumbai I realized that writing for films is completely different from writing in a particular tune to various technicalities involved. And he knew that I was new in the industry and was getting used to how things work, therefore he showed a lot of patience. During this initial process, an unconscious learning of writing for Hindi films was simultaneously taking place. Sometimes I would join the film discussion and there were times when I would go to the recording studio.
How did the other projects happen?
Music Director Ram Sampath perhaps also read that book of mine and called me to ask about a song that he was doing for some festival. After we did that song, we associated again for Sona Mahapatra’s debut called Sona. Since then we have worked together on various projects such as Delhi Belly, Fukrey, Jumbo – an animated film, Bhoothnath Returns, wrote six songs that were featured in Satyamev Jayate’s Season 2 and Coke Studio Seasons 2 and 3. We have also done a couple of jingles together.
It has been a decade that you have been working in the industry without shifting your base (Chandigarh). How have you managed that?
I would like to thank technology and my luck for that. Mumbai is a very energetic and vibrant city. Though it is a dream city for any artist, it is a tough place. Whenever I’m required over there, I go to Mumbai but come back once my work is over. Being a writer it becomes easy for me to work from anywhere because I can send my work through mail or phone. Though I get less work as I’m based in Chandigarh but I’m satisfied with the amount of work that I’m doing. Things are currently working out in this manner, but if they don’t work, I will move to Mumbai.
Are there any regrets because the fact that you aren’t based in Mumbai decreases the probability for getting more amount of work?
Had there been any regrets, I would have been based in Mumbai and not somewhere else. Though I can get more work if I shift to Mumbai but that will probably take away a peaceful life from me. Jaha me ab hoon, waha kaam thoda hai par suqoon hai!!!
Do you think that your journey is nothing short of a fairy tale and you’ve been quite lucky in grabbing good projects?
Definitely! There must be people who write much better than me but haven’t got any chance. And I have been lucky enough to have written full albums for different films. I think it is a blessing and your luck plays a huge role. Getting a chance is difficult as well as very important for any person as only then can he show his talent.
And what kind of changes have you seen in the demand of the lyrics over the years?
A good song is always in demand and will always be. But these days filmmakers and music directors are looking for songs that would instantly become a hit. So people look for songs whose hook line has a tendency to get famous immediately. If a song gets hit, they may call it a good song. Though it’s a separate case that they may start disliking it in the long run. But if it can create a buzz instantly then it has a great demand in the film industry. So every kind of work is happening these days. On the other hand I think this is a very prolific time in songwriting. If you look at most of the prominent people who are writing for films right now, they are all very talented and are doing great work.
The best part is that nowadays the industry is open and welcoming to new talent in every field, whether it’s a lyricist, composer, singer, writer, director, actor, cinematographer etc. I think when few new people do remarkable work, it opens doors for other new people too. Not only that; the industry is now more open to new themes and subjects of films too.
How challenging is the job of a lyricist?
It is very challenging because as a lyricist you are writing according to the situation; so matching it becomes very tough at times. At the same time it should be a song that appeals to the masses. Sometimes you feel you have written or composed a very good, meaningful, catchy and appealing song but others are not convinced with it. That’s when you have to accept others’ views and write something else.
Every lyricist of Bollywood has a certain style of writing. Tell us about your style.
I don’t want to have a particular style. I want to be capable of writing for all situations because in films you have to write for different situations. If you look at the work of well – known lyricists you will see that they are all very versatile. There is no harm in having one’s own style and if that style is in demand, then it is a win-win situation for you. But it is always better to be versatile.
And what process do you follow for writing?
If I’m writing songs for the entire film, then it is a must to listen to the entire script and story. But there are times when the director needs lyrics for some particular situation, then hearing the whole story isn’t important.
How do you write on different situations?
Writing on different situations is a skill. Some acquire this skill naturally and some learn with time. This skill is a must because writing songs for films is very different than writing poetry or songs in general.
Besides films, you have also regularly written for seasons of Coke Studio and Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate. How different is the experience of writing for these shows as compared to Bollywood?
It is a little different. Even in shows like these, you have a theme for a particular song. But these shows are a platform where you get a chance to write different kinds of songs, which you may not get in films. Same is the case with music albums where one gets more space for different types of songs.
Have you ever wished to diversify to writing stories/dialogues?
Script and dialogues are not my cup of tea. It is a very tough job. I did some scripting work for TV earlier. I might try it in the future too but right now I feel it is very tough for me.
What is your take on writers being underpaid in the industry?
Things are now changing. There is a lot of churning going on within the industry and writers are fighting for their rights. Things are moving in a positive direction and I’m very positive about it.
Which films are you currently working on?
There are a couple of songs that I’m working on. They may get released this year. Also I’m thinking of making a short film. Let’s see what happens.