“Till date I haven’t written a single mainstream song” – Vaayu
He describes his journey in Bollywood as unexpected, unconventional and crazy. Slowly but steadily making a headway into the world of Bollywood lyrics, Vaayu has lent his words to several songs in films ranging from Rann, Rakht Charitra, Department etc to the soon to be released ‘Jolly LLB’. He has penned the number ‘Jhooth Boliyan’ which is a rejigged version of a popular Punjabi folk number and a satirical take on our democracy. The growing popularity of the number and it’s wacky lyrics speak for itself.
Nothing excites him more than a clear brief and he looks forward to writing a mushy, romantic track.
In a freewheeling chat with Pandolin, the budding lyricist shares the story of his unplanned foray into Bollywood, the diverse lyrics he has written, how experimentation is the need of the hour, unrestricted future plans and more.
When did your relationship with lyrics start?
I have been writing songs from childhood. This continued even in college. I would listen to songs and then compose my own songs.
Music directors normally work in two ways with lyricists. They could either make a tune and as a lyricist my words have to match the meter and tune. The other way is that I give them my lyrics in a certain meter and then they compose the song.
How did you get your Bollywood break?
I got my first break in Bollywood right after I completed my Masters from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication in 2009. My first film was ‘Rann’ with Ram Gopal Varma where I wrote the song titled ‘Sikkon ki Bhook’.
There were some programmers who were pitching for the background music of Rann. They had to make a presentation and asked me to write some lyrics so that the presentation is more effective. When the song was made, RGV liked it very much and also sent me a message praising my work. From then on he gave me several other films including Rakht Charitra 1 & 2, Department, Not a love story etc.
I was not aiming to become a lyricist so soon but it just happened.
You’ve done several films with music composers Dharam – Sandeep. How has the association with them been?
One of my friends was launching an online album and he contacted Dharam to program the album. My friend then asked me to write a song for him and that is how I met Dharam for the first time . We developed a good personal relationship. So now whenever Dharam and Sandeep are pitching for a film I write the lyrics for them. We jam together, make songs and have also presented some songs to Satish Kaushik, Siddharth Malhotra and others who have loved it.
Bollywood has opened itself to experimentation as that is the need of the hour.You cannot give people something stale.
How did Jolly LLB happen?
I was trying to work with music composer Krsna since some time now. When I got in touch with him, Krsna too liked my writing. We tried working together on a few films earlier but those didn’t materialize. Finally he told me he was making a song on the Punjabi number ‘Ki main Jhooth Boliyan’ for Jolly LLB and asked me to write couplets for the song. The director, Subhash Kapoor, liked my words and that is how I bagged the song in Jolly LLB.
Please tell us about the kind of music featured in the film. What are the various genres of songs composed?
Jolly LLB has a mix of songs that are mostly popular numbers which will work well with the audiences. It has fun numbers, a light melodious track and various other interesting songs. I have written only one song, Jhooth Boliyan, which is a situational, fun composition based on a popular Punjabi folk song. It is a humorous-cum-satirical song which points out current events in society. Subhash Kapoor has himself written most of the songs which are innovative and have unique lyrics. He has adopted a quirky approach for the numbers, for example the song ‘L Lag Gaye’, which will definitely appeal to the masses.
Can you tell us about the process of how the song ‘Jhooth Boliyan’ was composed?
In most situations we are given a brief which tells us about the setting of the song, it’s mood, the kind of film it is and so on. With Jolly LLB, Subhash gave us a clear brief that he wants to make a song based on Jhooth Boliyan.
Music directors normally work in two ways with lyricists. They could either make a tune and as a lyricist my words have to match their composition. So I need to keep the meter, the tune etc in mind and accordingly write. The other way is that I give them my lyrics written in a certain meter and then they compose the song. In this case, the song Jhooth Boliyan already has a meter to it, so Krsna asked me to write mainly couplets that would match it and that is how the song was composed.
[pullquote_right]We are mainly doing commercial writing, education may happen but that is not the prime agenda of most songs. You cannot blame commercial writers for not educating people because that is not what they are trying to achieve.[/pullquote_right]
How was the experience of working with music composer Krsna and director Subhash Kapoor?
It was a good experience working with Krsna as I like his compositions and we have been trying to work with each other since long. He has trusted me and my work, giving me creative freedom. Though I’ve penned only one song it has been an interesting experience working with him as he is very clear on what he wants. We are now looking at working on more projects together.
As Subhash Kapoor has himself written most of the songs, he had many valuable inputs and thoughts on Jhoot Boliyan too. He was also very sure of the kind of song he wanted. There were times when he would tell me certain changes and would end up making the changes himself. Infact some of the lines in the song are written by him as well.
The song Mehrooni penned by you for a short film has been creating waves. Could you tell us more about the song.
Mehrooni is part of a short film that is a love story. The song revolves around a woman who is knitting a sweater for her husband. She is suffering from an illness and is soon going to die and hence wants to leave her memories through the sweater for her husband to cherish.
I wrote a complete poem and excerpts of this poem have been used in the song. This short film was being made by a friend, Faraz Ali, who approached me to write the song as he liked my writing. He narrated the film so beautifully that the song started developing in my head during the narration itself. I am very happy with its outcome as Rekha Bhardwaj has sung the song and Arijit Dutta composed it very well.
Your lyrics range from intense in films like Rakht Charitra to a satirical Punjabi number in Jolly LLB and also a number like Mehrooni. What kind of songs do you enjoy writing more?
I never educated myself to write a particular kind of song. I like listening to all types of music ranging from ghazals, quirky numbers, rock , pop and so on. So I also enjoy writing different varieties of songs. The thing that mainly excites me is a clear brief , when I know what I need to exactly convey. That makes writing anything all the more enjoyable.
What has been your most challenging song till date?
The most difficult song would have to be ’Karma dharma’ from Rakht Charitra. The whole mukhda of the song is in Sanskrit and I never learnt Sanskrit. RGV told us that he wanted a song based on shlokas. The song was an aggressive number that spoke about power, how you can kill anyone you want and so on. Finding a shloka that fit in this situation was very difficult. We had to go through various scriptures and find shlokas that would match. We finally found some references in Shiva’s shlokas but they were still not apt. So we decided that we will make our own shlokas.
The director had already composed the tune, so we had to write something that would fit in it. We wrote the shlokas in Hindi then got it translated into Sanskrit. But there was a lot of back and forth with the translation and getting it to fit into the tune. It took me around 4- 5 days to figure just the mukhda. It was tough but came out well in the end.
With unconventional songs and lyrics becoming a trend, do you think Bollywood is more experimental now? What is your take on the kind of words being used today?
I would agree that Bollywood is now open to experimentation. But every era has had people who were experimenting right since the time of Kishore Kumar and R.D.Burman. But our generation which has access to all kinds of media, wants something new all the time, be it songs or films. You cannot give them something stale. Bollywood has opened itself to experimentation as that is the need of the hour.
Coming up with new words is important for any writer. You need to keep up with the trend and if you want people to accept your words , you need to learn from them and give them something that they like. We are mainly doing commercial writing, education may happen but that is not the prime agenda of most songs. So a song like Bhaag D.K.Bose does use an explicit openly but at the end of the day everybody remembers and enjoys the song. So the agenda is accomplished. You cannot blame commercial writers for not educating people because that is not what they are trying to achieve.
But yes, as writers we should not forget our responsibility and not write demeaning or offensive content.
What are your future plans? Any specific songs you wish to write? Would we see you writing dialogs too?
My future plans are not restricted only to lyrics. I am already working on the dialogs for a project. I am also writing for a non – fiction show for television. I want to write stories and screenplays for movies and finally make my own film, which is the ultimate goal .
[pullquote_left]The thing that mainly excites me is a clear brief . That makes writing anything all the more enjoyable.[/pullquote_left]
How would you sum up your journey from your first song till date?
I have had a truly wild journey. The kind of songs I’ve written have been largely unconventional. Be it the first one that pointed out the evils of the media, followed by Rakht Charitra wherein I wrote two songs in veer ras, or Department where I wrote an item song or Jolly LLB where I’ve written a satirical kind of number. There has been a huge variation in the songs I did. Till date I haven’t written a single mainstream song and that has been great. But yes, now I would want to write some romantic numbers and even funny songs.
Vayu’s wise-words for budding lyricists:
Be a good listener and see what the trend is, what is popular amongst the people.
Most importantly keep experimenting, come up with innovative words.
Learn to rhyme and also learn to fit the song in a particular meter.
You can train yourself by taking a popular song and changing it’s lyrics and see how the outcome is. Keep making changes till you achieve something that people are bound to like.
Doing parody is the best way to start as a lyricist.