Javed Akhtar needs no introduction. Sreya Basu caught up with the man behind immortal Hindi song lyrics during his visit to Kolkata for Indian Idol 4 auditions.
These days we are seeing a lot of you as reality show judge. What's in judging that interests you?
Judging is a cushion-job. You sit back, relax and comment or criticise others' performance. Jokes apart, by judging shows I get to meet so many talents whom otherwise I would have not interacted. In the show Lead India I met some exceptionally talented intellectuals, in Indian Idol I heard some immensely talented singers.
How do you balance time between judging contests and writing?
I am never a busy person. When I was writing scripts in early 1970s, then also I was almost a jobless person and the situation is same now. I never do many films a time and so always have enough time for other things like seminars, social works and judging reality shows.. I never overload myself so that I can concentrate in whatever I am doing and deliver my best.
Your son Farhan is all set to act in Bollywood film ROCK ON. How do you feel?
Farhan will be showing the first cuts of his film to me within a few days. He pleasantly surprised me when he directed DIL CHAHTA HAI. And now his new avtaar will surely 'rock' me.
Farhan will also be making DON II. Are you involved with the project?
I heard about the film. But he himself has not talked to me yet. If he asks me to write a few songs for his film, I will do that. As far as I know, Farhan and a writer friend of his are scripting the film.
But are you convinced about remaking films like SHOLAY and DON? Please don't be politically correct just because Farhan has remade DON.
Let me tell you the backdrop of the original DON. That will help you get your answer. DON suffered despite an interesting script since it was made on a shoestring budget. Producer Nariman Ali could, somehow, complete the film. The remaking was justified as the film deserved it. As for SHOLAY, I don't think there is any scope or need for improvisation in the film. There is nothing new or original that one can add to the film. It's all there.
Almost all members of your family (ex-wife Honey Irani, son Farhan Akhtar and daughter Zoya Akhtar) are directors. When are you directing a film?
Writing is an addiction and once you get addicted to it; it is very difficult to concentrate in other things. It makes you lazy and no job seems more interesting than writing. Often I think I will do this and that but ultimately land up with my pen and paper. I am too lazy to make films.
What do you think about the young generation of lyricists?
Priorities of the society over the last 30 years have dramatically changed. There is a shrinking of language in today's society. Young lyricists don't give enough importance to the craft of poetry. Passion, emotion and fantasy are important. But craft is the science of lyrics writing. I personally believe that Bollywood songs were the worst in 1980s. Thankfully the youngsters have realised that and are working at it.
There is always a critical comparison between your and Gulzar's poetry. Would you like to comment on this?
I respect Gulzarsaab a lot. He is a true icon. So it will be unfair to comment on his poetry. But I can talk of my art form. I have always aimed at making poetry understandable even to a person who does not have the remotest idea of the art. If I can't communicate my lines to people what's the use of making it public? Some poets don't realize that. They go on writing abstract poetry and say they don't care if people understand them or not. Ambiguity forbids simple expression. This is definitely not my genre.
While you chose your words, the lyrics of 'gur ki dali' song in the recent film KHUSBOO does not sound Javed Akhtar-ish. Why?
This is another tragedy of Bollywood films. The 'gur ki dali' song was written for some other film of the same director. The background of the song was set in a remote village and the occasion was a rural nautanki. So the lyrics written were apt. But the director did not use the song in that film. When he made KHUSBOO he had this song with him and put it in the mouths of the hero-heroine who are college students and singing it on the roads wearing skimpy clothes. But this is Bollywood and you can't help it!
Who is your idol as lyrics writer?
There are so many of them-Shailendra, Shahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, my father Jan Nissar Akhtar, Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, Bharat Vyas, Pradeep, my father-in-law Kaifi Azmi and Anjaan. It is from them that I learnt it is difficult to write difficult songs, but it is most difficult to write easy songs with transparency of language that people can relate to.
What's the success behind your marriage with actor Shabana Azmi?
Shabana and I are best friends. Our friendship is so strong that even marriage could not ruin it.
What are your forthcoming projects?
I have just finished writing a book on poetry called Lava. Besides there are a few films, the recent releases including LOVE STORY 2050 and BR Films' BANDA YEH BINDAAS HAI.
Aren't you writing scripts any more?
Oh yes! Definitely. I have already finished two scripts. I am waiting for the right director and right producer to hand them over.
After spending over 30 years as a lyrics writer I am sure words reside at your pen-tip. Isn't it?
Now-a-days I don't have to try hard to fit in the words to the music. But that doesn't mean that I don't have to do my homework regularly. I have my own set of vocabulary that needs to be upgraded every day.
- Sreya Basu, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network