Not treated Baahubali 2 as separate film: Manoj Muntashir
"Transcreating the same emotion in a different language, keeping lip sync intact is the mother of all tasks"
Manoj Muntashir is the man of the moment. Having written the dialogues and lyrics of a magnum opus like Baahubali (1& now 2), he has given Hindi dubbed versions of South Indian films a new lease of life. Muntashir, who has been well-versed with epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan since childhood, believes that he was naturally trained to write for a saga like Baahubali. While the songs of the historical drama are coherent with the narrative, the lyricist and writer who is known for penning iconic tracks like ‘Galliyan’ (Ek Villain), ‘Tere Sang Yaara’ (Rustom), ‘Kaun hai wo’ (Baahubali 1) et al believes in surrendering to the situation and that’s how he comes up with soul-stirring lyrics.
Here are excerpts from our candid conversation with the man who creates magic with words.
You’ve written lyrics for a varied variety of songs, not restricted by genre. How do you mould yourself for each song?
Situations are my feed. Every situation, no matter how similar it looks from the top, is vastly different when you get into the detailing. So I allow the situation to dictate and control my writing. That’s how I can write love anthems like ‘Galliyan’, ‘Tere Sang Yaara’, ‘Kaun Tujhe’, ‘Phir Bhi Tumko Chaahonga’ and a quirky number like ‘Uff Ye Noor’ with equal ease.
When I approach cinema, I try to write something with an archival value, whereas in TV, my aim is to catch immediate attention
Is there a particular process of writing a song that you follow to get into the right zone?
I live with the situation and the tune (if already made) for a couple of days. I allow both these things to soak into my subconscious. When I feel, “Now I understand the situation as much the director does and the tune as much the composer does,” I sit down to write. It barely takes any time to pour the words on paper thereafter.
Having written for Baahubali – The Beginning, was it a natural progression to write for The Conclusion as well?
Of course. Having delivered the most successful Hindi dubbed film in the history of Indian cinema, I was the obvious choice for Baahubali 2. I did my personal research on why the Hindi dubbed versions of films from the South had stopped working despite having superstars like Rajni sir, Nagarjuna and Chiranjeevi. I realized that the Hindi audience find it difficult to relate to a film where lips are moving in a different way and dialogues are spoken in a far different manner. They hesitate to own such a film. So the problem was, we lacked perfect lip sync and Hindi approach. I ensured that Baahubali 1 was written with a Hindi mindset and idioms. No more translating business. And the results startled everyone as the film crossed 100 crores even while it faced stiff competition from a film as big as Bajrangi Bhaijan.
Nature silently groomed me when I was in my school to grow up and write Baahubali
What was the brief from director S S Rajamouli?
Rajamouli sir is a man of very few words. He had a one-line brief – “Stay true to the film”. I hope I didn’t disappoint him.
Transcreating the same emotion in a different language, keeping lip sync intact is the mother of all tasks
How would you describe the songs of Baahubali 2? Is there a common underlying theme in all of them?
The songs are mostly situational. M.M. Kreem sir never designed the music with an intention to make it stand out from the film. It (the music) was designed to be coherent with the narrative. Hence songs like ‘Mamta se bhari’ and ‘Kaun hai wo’ were hugely appreciated after the release of Baahubali 1 and the same is going to happen with Baahubali 2. ‘Jay-Jaykara’ and ‘Jiyo Re Baahubali’ have already found their way into the playlists of music buffs.
Which was the most challenging song to write and how did you overcome that?
‘Panchhi Bole’ in part 1 and ‘Veeron Ke Veer Aa’ in Baahubali 2 as both the songs were lip sync, with mostly close shots. It was a humongous task to follow the tune, respect the narrative and match the lips, all together.
Every situation, no matter how similar it looks from the top, is vastly different when you get into the detailing
When it comes to dialogues for Baahubali 1 and now 2, what is the kind of research that goes into making them sound authentic?
I have grown up reading Amar Chitra Katha, watching Ramayan and Mahabharat on TV. I had read the legend of Hatimtai, novels on Draupadi, Sita, various puranas and epics during my school days. So there was no preparation as such which I can boast of. But epics and literature run in my veins. When I took Baahubali 1 in hand, I realized that I was already trained for the subject without even knowing about it.
In a nutshell, nature silently groomed me when I was in my school, to grow up and write Baahubali.
What are the challenges of working on a multi lingual film like Baahubali?
Transcreating the same emotion in a different language, keeping lip sync intact is the mother of all tasks. It sounds easier than done. It wouldn’t have been possible had I not been supported and guided by the associate producer of Baahubali 1 and 2, Devika Bahudhanam. She was the angel who patiently handled my tantrums and converted a wreck like me into a writer that the country is praising.
Since the film is a continuation of a story, are there certain aspects one has to keep in mind while writing the dialogues, to maintain continuity?
Yes, every scene has a string attached. I have not dealt with it as a different film. To me, Baahubali 1 and 2 are the same film. I have maintained the consistency and continuity to the last decimal point.
I ensured that Baahubali 1 was written with a Hindi mindset and idioms. No more translating business
You’ve written for television and films, is there a difference in the way the dialogues are thought and written?
Television is fast food, consumed and forgotten. Films stay with you forever. I have the track record of writing the maximum number of reality shows in this country including cult shows like KBC, Jhalak Dikhla Ja, Indian Idol Junior, India’s Got Talent, MasterChef India and every award show on the tube. But cinema is a different ballgame. Here we get more time and space, a better and bigger canvas to express ourselves. So when I approach cinema, I try to write something with an archival value, whereas in TV, my aim is to catch immediate attention.