Manoj Muntashir, the popular lyricist in the Bollywood music space is not a new-found name. Having been in the industry for more than a decade now, his ride primarily started post Galliyan from the romantic-action film Ek Villain in 2014. Although before that, he had been part of a couple of films, but in his words, ‘the presence was not felt.’ He won the IIFA Awards, Radio Mirchi Music Awards, The Indian Icon Film Awards, and many more for Galliyan in 2015.
Music Plus met the man of poetry for a candid chat to know how he made his presence felt in the commercial cinema space, what he focuses on before writing lyrics, his preferred music genre/lyrics and so on.
Down the memory lane
Manoj shared that he was writing a lot of scripts for television shows and reality shows. He started with KBC, followed it up with India’s Got Talent, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and many more. “I wanted to become a lyricist. I came to Mumbai from my hometown Amrithi, a remote village in U.P. But, Bollywood is a very difficult industry, I didn’t have any contacts. No one knew me. I didn’t have anyone to give me a shelter, so I was dwelling on pavements.”
“It is during that time, I got to write for a T.V show, somehow Mr. Bachchan read it while planning for KBC, and he liked it then called me. I met Mr. Bachchan and my life changed. Before I could even realise, I was doing everything on television and I was working 365 days a year, without a break, without a holiday. So television brought me and established me completely,” added he.
Lane, route, path, galli, galliyan: Speaking about his much-loved song ‘Galliyan’
He was writing songs, however, but none of them were hits, neither did he have time for films. Yet, he used to write for himself. Like most writers even Manoj had an OCD for words. “One fine December morning in 2013 I woke up, went out for a jog. There is a lane that connects the main road to my place where I stay in Goregaon. So I noticed there was a stone on one side of the lane where the name of the street was engraved, Govindji Shroff Marg. So I just picked that word, ‘marg’. While jogging the word kept playing in my mind along with alternative words such as lane, route, path, galli, galliyan. In just 90 seconds the lines came in my mind and I wrote, ‘Yahi doobe din mere, yahi hote hai savere, yahi marna aur jeena, yahi mandir aur madina. Galliyan teri galliyan’, he hummed the song. He shared those lines with a lot of his friends, some of them were big composers too. None of them liked it.
Around 12 o’clock in the afternoon, Manoj got a call from Ankit Tiwari who is like a brother to him, asking whether he can compose a song on those verses. “I relied on him and agreed to it. Ankit goes for evening walks and he composed the song during one his walks. The very next day he played it to Mohit Suri who was desperately looking for a great song for his film Ek Villian. That’s how the song was included in the film and then the rest is history.”
Melody-lyrics or lyrics-melody?
Galliyan was just one song, but how does the process of writing a song work for Manoj. When he is writing, it work both ways for him, depending on the song. He shared that if the song requires lot of thinking, it is better to write the ‘mukhda’ first before working on the melody. “If it is a club track or a party number, then I would say it is important to have the right beats, so that you get in the right mood. You get the composition and tune right. But, if it is a romantic track, in my case most of my tracks are first written and then composed. Most of them, be it Kaun Tujhe Yu Pyaar Karega, be it Tere Saang Yaara, Galliyan or more recently, Main Phir Bhi Tumko Chahunga, woh gaane humne pehele likhe hai aur likhke phir compose kiye,” Manoj simplifies.
Romantic songs over party numbers
Manoj stated that party numbers are meant for dance floors, and no one puts their heart in it. A romantic song stays with you forever. “If you like a romantic number, you can listen to the track for months, whereas party songs lose their steam after sometime. They are intended to give you some adrenaline rush. Of course in my case, I prefer romance. I am known for my romantic songs. But when I’m writing the entire film, I have to get done everything no matter what.”
When a Nazm, Phir Bhi Tumko Chaahunga became the biggest hit
When asked what he focuses on before penning a song, the answer was pretty prompt from Manoj. His absolute focus has been on the ‘situation’, at all times. Sharing a charming story about one of his writings, Manoj said there is a track which he wrote in 2001, when he was not even a part of film industry. He wrote it for himself, for his wife in fact.
“I was newly married and I had to be in Kashmir alone for some work. I was missing my wife. While taking a walk around Dal Lake a thought came across my mind. Yeh hare dharkto ke patte jab shakho se gir jaayenge, jab jheel ka paani sukhega aur saare kawal kumlayenge, yeh wadiya jab so jaayengi, aur aawaze kho jaayengi, meri jaan mai uss khamoshi mai bhi pyaar ke nagme gaaunga, mai phir bhi tumko chahunga. I just wrote it and kept it in my diary. Time passed and it transformed into a complete Nazm.”
‘Nazm’ is a freestyle Urdu poetry format with lyrical verses and making it into a contemporary song was a huge challenge and required nerves of steel. “Here again, Mohit came to me as he wanted this song to be a part of the film Half Girlfriend (2017). I told him that a Nazm can never become a super hit song, also I didn’t want to tamper with its sanctity, I was not intending to change too many things. Mohit believed in me and we went ahead, of course Mithoon and Mohit both deserve the credit.” added Manoj.
It went on to become a blockbuster song of 2017. In 2018, Manoj was awarded Mirchi Music Awards and Sony Mix Audience Music Awards for the soulful number. In age where lyrics taking a backseat, Manoj’s words are blessings to every music lover.