Melody and lyrics are the soul of a song. A lyricist explores the widest emotions at his mental disposal and weaves them into a situation the song demands. No matter what their emotional state is at that moment, the lyricist puts pen to paper to create a scenario that regales the listeners. Every one of us have been teary eyed, amused or even bemused by a song. Lyrics leave their essence on our mind long after we have finished listening to a song.
One man who is known to leave a lasting impression on the listener, through his words, is Amitabh Bhattacharya. The song ‘Emotional Atyachar’ from the movie ‘Dev D’ was Amitabh’s ticket to stardom. But the highlight of his career so far has been winning the National Award for ‘Agar Zindagi’ from the movie ‘I Am’.
The Bollywood industry has witnessed an oceanic change over the years. The way they are working in films right now, the songs form the narrative of the film. They are totally driven by the story and the situation. The lyricists are provided with sketches about how the film would feel, look and the treatment that it will receive. The director’s take about how a particular situation in the film should be translated into a song, forms the base for the lyrics.
“99% of the time the melody is blocked first and then you write the lyrics accordingly. The lyrics are written keeping in mind the dialogues of the film as well as the character on whom the song is filmed. The directors taste in music and his approach to the kind of music he wants forms the crux,”
The task of a lyricist is to fill in the pieces of a larger story, by examining the different characters. Even the best lyricists sometimes fall into the trap of straining the language. They stress on the wrong syllables to make the words easier to sing.
“Grammatical liberties are ok as long as they do not distort the language,”
feels Amitabh, adding,
“Sometimes the song is based on a particular character which is from the rural area or his lingo is what we call the ‘tapori’ style. In cases like these since the character does not follow a grammar to a certain extent in his vocabulary. One can take the liberties because this is the language the particular character would use.”
Lyrics and the present scenario
The current trend in Bollywood is of rap music, lyrics for rap songs are written in the colloquial lingo. In some songs the target audience comprises of people who do not follow Hindi or Urdu in its purest form.
“Good content is there but the shelf is broader now. There is lot of content than before. You will find both. Having said that you still have songs which are beautiful poetry with unadulterated language and people are appreciating them too.”
The other aspect is that we compare the songs of today to the songs that were made 20-30 years back. There has been a drastic shift in the demands of the filmmakers, labels and now even digital platforms.
“They feel by writing a ‘purist’ kind of a song we will alienate a major portion of the audience. So they want to create songs in a more audience friendly language,”
Apart from this a lot of factors are influencing lyrics. Our music language and thoughts are going through a process of evolution so the change is bound to reflect.
“The social/cultural changes as per the era will always be reflected in the cinema, music and poetry. It is reflecting now too,”
Overcoming Writer’s Block
Creating music or writing lyrics comes from a very sub conscious state of mind. The writer has to enjoy himself while creating it so that it flows naturally. At times the pressure of the prerequisites is massive and instead of creating we tend to engineer it. There are times when the writer gets into a situation termed as ‘Writers Block’. The block is created as one is over thinking when it is supposed to be a very spontaneous and impulsive process, implied Amitabh.
“One tends to develop it while very consciously developing something. What I do if I am stuck on a song is that I keep it aside and work on something else. Once you have had a break and are mentally ready to work on that song, you should start again. This is one of the ways to beat the block,”