Irshad Kamil has that rare ability to use lyrics to evoke the subtlest of emotions in the audience. And although his lyrics are always soulful, Kamil is not one to be held back by genre. The master lyricist speaks to Bhakti Mehta about his latest hits in the upcoming Tiger Zinda Hai, what inspires him to write the songs he does, and his upcoming projects in 2018
Your latest song Dil diyaan gallan from Tiger Zinda Hai has become a crowd favourite love song. How did you go about writing the lyrics of this song?
The first one we worked on for this film was Dil diyaan gallan. We had to make sure the relationship between the two characters, the love they have for each other, was adequately established in the song. And we had to show this relationship in a way that had the man wooing the woman as she was a little upset with him. That’s why it has lyrics where the hero is saying all these romantic things to her.
The melody that Vishal and Shekhar created for this song was beautiful. When the director Ali Abbas Zafar and I sat down to discuss the lyrics, we thought it shouldn’t be a hard song. It should be a sweet song that would touch everyone’s hearts. So we show all the emotions in this song. It is great that people like the song and its lyrics so much. They are tweeting and messaging the lines to me and that’s overwhelming.
You also wrote the chartbuster dance number Swag se swagat for this film.
This was the toughest song to write in the album and all of us, Ali, Vishal-Shekhar and I, sat together to discuss it. We were tossing about a lot of ideas and discussing the hook line for a long time. We worked really hard on this song because the track was supposed to have good content while also being a dance number. Today, dance songs usually don’t have substantial lyrics but we needed this song to be strong on lyrics as it talks about togetherness and world peace. It talks about how you welcome everyone with the same respect. We decided that jo baat hum karna chah rahe hain, woh swag se aani chahiye. It should convey our message with the right attitude. That is how we came up with the catch phrase Swag se swagat.
From fast-paced songs to romantic tracks to bluesy numbers, you seem to be a master at penning lyrics for all genres. What is your process when you get the brief for a particular song?
I would like to mention that three of my songs have been record-breakers this year – Hawayein from Jab Harry Met Sejal and the two latest tracks from Tiger Zinda Hai. And this is because all the numbers have connected with the audience on some level. Even though it has been months since Jab Harry Met Sejal came out, people still remember Hawayein and Safar and the lyrics, which is great.
My process is to understand the character, the story, the situation, and then write for it. I like to get into the skin of the character so that the words come out right. When I think from the perspective of the character, I can write lyrics that are relevant to the song. It doesn’t matter whether it is a party song, a romantic number, bluesy or of any other genre.
This is the fourth movie you and director Ali Abbas Zafar have worked on together. What is your bond with him like?
He is a brilliant director. I have worked with him on all his films. Our connection is very good on both the personal and professional level. He is a very hard-working guy and a very intelligent person. When you speak to someone like him, even when your ideologies don’t match, there is a lot you learn. Your horizons are widened even through the differences. Talking to him is a very productive experience. In an environment like that, everybody – whether me or Ali himself or Vishal and Shekhar – has their say. With people like that around, you don’t feel the pressure of work. You can just sit and sip coffee when you experience writer’s block, or go home, and sometimes they inspire you with ideas.
The first two songs of Tiger Zinda Hai have created a huge splash among the audience. Can you tell us something about the other songs in the album?
The album is a collection of very interesting numbers. Five more songs will release in the forthcoming days and each of them is of a different genre. One is based on women and how they are empowered, how they need to be respected. It is a very inspiring song. Then there is another number which talks about the religion of humanity. It is about how we are all equal and should not be divided by any other religion. There is also the title track of Tiger Zinda Hai, which is very powerful and energetic. There is a lot of character in this particular song.
2017 was a lucky year for you with Jab Harry Met Sejal, MOM, Raabta and now Tiger Zinda Hai. What about the upcoming year?
Right now, I am working on Sajid Ali’s Laila Majnu. Apart from that, there is Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s next directorial that I will be writing for. I am working with Leena Yadav on her upcoming project too. I am working with Aanand L Rai on his next project, which features Shah Rukh Khan. Many films are in the pipeline but their titles have not been decided yet.