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Agony & Ecstasy

As the songs of the upcoming romantic film Kabir Singh grow increasingly popular, lyricist Irshad Kamil talks to Bhavi Gathani about his method of writing songs, his long journey in the industry, the unexpected response to his songs and more

It’s been 15 years in the Hindi film industry for lyricist Irshad Kamil and he has given us some of our most memorable songs. Kamil describes his journey by saying, “I didn’t even realise that it’s been 15 years. As I look back, I realise that it has been a really great journey. I have experienced so many ups and downs internally as well as externally. There were songs that were praised to the skies and others that were not able to meet the audience’s expectations.”

He adds, “I have even lost count of the number of songs I have written. In these 15 years, I have done a lot of films and received a lot of love from the people. The best thing about my work is that people have always reacted to it. It has never gone unnoticed. This is the most satisfactory thing for me.”

Kamil has been saying that his music has always clicked with the audience before the release of the film and the same has happened with Kabir Singh. The film has not released yet but its songs are topping the charts. “Music is one thing that needs to connect with cinema-goers. It is imperative that a film have impactful music. In Kabir Singh, the song Bekhayali shot up like anything as soon as it released and people loved it. I got this type of feeling during the film Jab We Met. We happened to release the album of that film in the market just like that and suddenly the whole album was a hit.”

Elaborating on the Kabir Singh songs, Kamil says, “As soon as Bekhayali was released, the way it became a hit was unbelievable. People are reacting to each and every line of the song. They are praising every word of the song and quoting every phrase in it. Be it Bekhayali or the other song, Mere sohneya, these are the types of songs that touch the heart of the audience. However, it is not necessary that every song will give you that warmth of attachment or you will connect with it strongly. But what happened with Bekhayali is a real surprise to all of us.”

The lyricist speaks about the challenge of working on the music of a film that’s already a hit. “More than a reference, Arjun Reddy was a challenge for me. Arjun Reddy is already famous among its audience and its music is also very well-known. So my challenge was to give the bigger audience something different. How can we connect with the bigger audience with our music? That was my challenge and that was the benchmark I had set for myself.”

He adds, “This is the second time I took up such a challenge, the first time being with the film Aashiqui 2. The first film Aashiqui released in 1990 and it was already famous for its songs, so I asked myself at the time why am I doing Aashiqui 2? I did that film as a challenge and Kabir Singh was my other challenge.”

The most challenging song from the film for Kamil was Bekhayali. He explains, “There are some people with whom you can connect effortlessly. The same happened with Sandeep Reddy Vanga. Because I had already watched Arjun Reddy, they did not see any need to give me a detailed brief. They just told me that this song was about purity of love and pain. It’s not a so-called break-up song or a sad song. The character, Kabir, is suffering the pain of separation. He has this extreme angst towards society and, at the same time, with the same intensity, he has a desire to get his love back. Bekhayali is basically a song of agony, angst, purity and pain. This three-to-four minute song shows Kabir Singh’s intensity of love, his angst towards society, his suffering, his anger towards his love and himself, and the pain of separation.”

Kamil prefers to connect with the character and the situation before he writes his lyrics. According to him, that is how his songs manage to connect with people. “Just like everyone else, I have a common man inside me. But when you are working on a song, you become the character you are writing for. If I am writing a song for Kabir Singh, then at that moment, I become Kabir. I have to just search that surface or that point within me where the common man as well as the fictional character Kabir meet. I write a song keeping that surface in mind and that is how the common man listening to the song feels the pain of Kabir.”

The lyricist also talks about his previous film, Bharat, and the response to the film’s music. “Even in Bharat, my struggle was to search a surface where the common man and Bharat met. The song Chashni was loved by the audience so much. People are grooving especially to the lyrics. There is another song Slow motion and it’s an upbeat song. It is a fun song that is set in a circus show. Both these songs are different but were equally loved by the audience and they were able to connect with them.”

“After Kabir Singh, I am working on the film Love Letter From Kashmir directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Then I also am working on Imtiaz Ali’s next. Apart from that, I have a few more films for which talks are on,” Kamil signs off.

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