Thrilling youngistan, shocking old-istan, the new breed of song-writers in Bollywood is re-writing the rules of the game. What’s going on?
Some 15 years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting the late, brilliant poet-lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri. Like any fan and admirer of his incandescent work, I piled on and badgered him with a zillion questions about poetry, lyric writing, Bollywood, the works! I remember one distinct response to my pointed question about the difference in the treatment of love — from a lyricist in B-town’s perspective — between his time and the present. Gracious, (as befitting true-blue artists of his era), but with a wicked twinkle in his eye, the great man said “Hamare zamane mein, mashook ko hum Mere Mehboob ya Chaudvin ka Chand kehke zikar karte the. [pause] Aaj Kal, ek bahut hi popular gaana hai Tu cheez badi hai mast, mast! Wah, bahut khoob! Aaap khud hi andaza lagaiye, huzoor.” (In our time, we used to address the person we loved as my beloved, or the full moon. These days, there is a very popular song, you are a big item, cool, cool. Great! You can draw your own conclusion.)
While I cracked up, the writer of immortal lyrics like Teri aankhon ke sivan duniya mein rakkha kya hain, allowed himself a mischievous smile. Today, if he — or any of his illustrious contemporaries like Kaifi Azmi, Shakeel Badayuni or Sahir — were around, they could well have had a collective cardiac arrest listening to the quality of lyrics, rocking the scene, darling tere liye.
Not everyone agrees. Theater actress Lushin Dubey believes that even back in the fifties and sixties, lyricists like Sahir did switch lanes to adapt and go with the times and mood of the character, no matter how bizarre or un-romantic. “Who can forget his Tel maalish, champi in a heavy dark and dense film like Pyaasa?”