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"Being a period drama made it an inspiring challenge"

Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya talks to Bhavi Gathani about his memorable journey in the film Thugs Of Hindostan, completing a decade in the industry and more

National Award winner lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya’s decade-long career in the industry has given us some beautiful and heartfelt songs. The music of Thugs Of Hindostan adds another feather to his cap. Talking about his collaboration with Ajay-Atul, Bhattacharya says, “The association this time was as good as the other times or even better. Thugs Of Hindostan was a different kind of album compared to what we did earlier. I have worked so much with Ajay-Atul over the years. Apart from camaraderie, we have a good equation musically, and Thugs Of Hindostan was another step in exploring that further.”

About the research that went into the film, Bhattacharya says, “The language used in the song as lyrics… a lot of it comes from the dialogue in the film. The script and the dialogue come in handy at times like these. It helps you better understand the language, behavior and interaction of the characters as well as their world. In this film, the director, Vijay Krishna Acharya or ‘Victor’, has written the dialogue himself. He has a very good command over language and the way he weaves humour and sarcasm into the dialogue is very interesting. That gave me the basic tonality for the lyrics, coming from Firangi and Khudabaksh’s character. That is what I incorporated into the lyrics and they have turned out to be very interesting. I am glad everyone is enjoying them.”

According to Bhattacharya, writing the lyrics of TOH had the advantage of applying imagination to the songs. “Films set in the present day require a different kind of approach to their lyrics because lyrics need to be expressive for listeners since they are coming from their time and age. In TOH, the advantage we had was that it is a fiction-based film in a period which we have to imagine because we haven’t lived in it. It is the time of the late 1700s and we took a little poetic approach where we used some words that are not prevalent in our times. It is a mix of a little pure Hindi and Urdu. So we used words like ‘vashmalle’. Where Vashmalle is concerned, looking for the hook phrase of the song, which becomes the name of the song, we wanted it to be a little unique, we wanted it to stand out a little. It should be timeless. And in the film, it is a celebratory phase where you sing and dance and enjoy. So, it fit very well.”

Talking about the challenges and what made him enjoy working in the film, the lyricist says, “Honestly, every song and every film is challenging these days. In this day and age, there is a wide range of cinema and entertainment being produced every day. Therefore, it is a challenge to make a song stand out and get people interested in watching or listening to it. I have worked for 10 years in the industry and it is a challenge to reinvent yourself. Thugs Of Hindostan was a period drama, so it was an inspiring challenge.”

He adds, “Also, the film has two of my favourite stars, Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, who are coming together for the first time. So this was a challenge in a very good way. I enjoyed every bit of it, doing all the songs and cracking new ideas. The album has just three songs but we worked hard for two years, cracking various versions and ideas of the song. The journey was very interesting.”

Bhattacharya made his debut in the industry in 2008. Speaking about the changes in the industry since then, he says, “I came into the industry as a lyricist. Compared to the music of the ’90s and early 2000s, music had already evolved. There was a whole new way of music and films. The process has only gone further. The one change that I have observed since then is that there is so much clutter in content that it is very challenging to cut through it and get everybody to like your product. That challenge and the pressure have become bigger now.”

Confessing that he loves to work in every genre, Bhattacharya adds, “As long as I am trying my hand at all the genres, I stay interested and engaged in my work. All the major albums that I have done in my career which gave me recognition, like, DevD, Band Baaja Baaraat, Agneepath, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Lootera, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Dangal are the albums which have had the entire range of music. You had a love song, a song of heartbreak, there was a funny, peppy number, an item song… that is what keeps the balance for me, that is what keeps me interested in my work. If I start writing one kind of song, I will get bored. One day, I write a love song, the next day I write a spiritual song, and the next will be a comical song. That keeps the balance for me, and I enjoy it a lot.”

Bhattacharya always prefers to add words to the tune. “I think better when I fit words to tunes. That is how I have become a lyricist. But there have been situations where I had to crack an idea or a line first and then the music was composed. For example, in Dangal, there was a song called Baapu sehat ke liye tu toh hanikarak hai. This was the thought I cracked first and then it became a song. Similarly, in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the song Mere saiyaanji se aaj maine breakup kar liya… I cracked this line first and then it became a song. Then there were songs like Ae dil hai mushkil, Channa mereya, Badtameez dil and Kabira which were all there in tunes and then I made the lyrics. It’s interesting both ways.”

Finally, talking about his upcoming project Kedarnath, he says, “Kedarnath is interesting because it is again another album with Amit Trivedi, with whom I started my career. I have done some of my best work with him. Also, I like Abhishek Kapoor’s previous work. I loved Kai Po Che. This is my first collaboration with him. It was very interesting working with both of them. There are four songs in the film and I am very happy with the way they have turned out. The first song has released, which is Namo namo, and the rest will be coming out in the following weeks. I am really happy with the album.”

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