A commerce graduate from Allahabad University, Rashmi Virag has given words to several Bollywood film melodies; Dus Kahaniya, Zinda, Humari Adhoori Kahani, the list is endless. A Sufi at heart, he has risen to prominence with several successful songs like ‘Zinda Hoon Main’, ‘Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon’ and ‘Muskurane Ki Wajah’. He has also won several awards including the 60th Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist.

With his latest song, ‘Mere Tere’ from the Saif Ali Khan starrer Chef, the lyricist beautifully conveys the emotions of relationships, distance and separation that the characters are experiencing. In a chat with Pandolin, he tells us more about his journey, inspiration, process of writing and more.

Rashmi Virag

Rashmi Virag

From commerce to writing lyrics, how challenging was the shift?

I believe in taking life as it comes. I never plan anything; I’m not ambitious. I’m just a boat drifting away in the sea. I am enjoying the journey; the destination is immaterial for me. So, I just flowed.

Where do you draw inspiration from while penning your songs? Do you need a mood/atmosphere to write a particular track?

My source of inspiration is the honesty that comes with each new song and its music. If I’m writing for a particular tune, my source of inspiration is the honesty stored in the melody. If the melody is pure and fiery, even that comes as a source of inspiration. However, if it’s the other way round, wherein I have to write the lyrics and someone has to mix a melody with it, then it cannot be called the source of inspiration.

In that case, what works is the love that exists between the two creators of the song, my music director and I. We need to be pure and attached to each other, we need to understand each other and we need to be selfless to the subject matter; selfless because we’re going to give birth to something in that moment, which is going to stay forever in the world, long after we are gone.

Which genre of music do you feel most comfortable writing?

I’m comfortable in writing anything that is nice, simple and easy and just connects with the audience. When it comes to pure emotions, romantic ballads, love songs, songs of despair, songs of pain, songs that have a sense of belonging, songs that make you miss somebody, songs that make you remember somebody, songs that remind you that there’s something called love that exists on this planet; all of this is what I feel for.

The reason that I write songs, in the first place, is because there’s very less poetry left in the universe, there’s very little love lift in the universe. If my songs can add to the livability and happiness quotient of the universe, I would feel I have achieved something, I’d rather really believe that I’ve achieved something.

What’s the theme of your upcoming song “Le Ja Mujhe” from Chef?

The song is about multiple relationships. The relationship between the father and the son, between a separated husband and wife, the relationship between Saif Ali Khan, the protagonist in the film, and his work. This song had to cover all the relationships that exist in the film. Yet, the beauty of this song is, when it plays on the radio, it stands really strong as a standalone song. It’s a song about distance, separation, relationships, what went wrong and what really could happen within a story.

What are the key things that you keep in mind while writing a song?

I simplify things. I always make sure that even when the writing is simple, the thought has to be big. Saying the simplest of things in the most interesting manner is the trick.

Our audiences are simple and emotional; so for a song, you just need to connect with them. When I write a song, I always question myself: will this song be heard by somebody alone on the phone or on the radio? Will listening to this song make a difference to how someone feels? If I’m able to answer these questions positively in my head, I’m home.

Another thing that I also keep in mind is that how much of myself am I putting in any song. If parts of me are not invested into the song, then in that case, I’m a professional songwriter, which I’m not. I’m an emotional writer. I need to cut myself loose; I need to pour myself, my love, life and emotions into the song that I write. This is why all my songs stand out so beautifully. When people listen to my songs, they know that this is a Rashmi Virag song and this has been a very special achievement that I’ve been able to get during this period of time.

How was your experience of working with Amaal Mallik on this song from Chef?

Amaal and I connect on multiple levels. The first thing being that we’re both Sufi at heart. We have an unconditional love affair with the work that we do, and this selfless love for music holds us together. We both believe in simplifying things, we believe in reaching out to the audience from the centre of our hearts and this is why when we work together, we come up with songs that are unique; people know this is an Amaal Mallik and Rashmi Virag creation.

Another beauty of working with Amaal is that he never gives up. He’s not one of those guys who’ll say I’m the director, this is my melody and this has to happen just the way I feel. He is a selfless person who’ll do everything only in the interest of the song or the music. An extremely accommodating and transparent human being, hence, the experience was as usual, very beautiful.

Are there any new songs that you’re currently writing?

There are many and many that are coming up with Amaal and with Pritam too. One cannot say which movie the songs will be featured in, but I’m in active mode and there’s a lot going on. You’ll hear more of my songs, very soon.