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When lyricist Raj Shekhar's dreams came true...

Saand Ki Aankh, the story based on the lives of sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, will be releasing this Diwali. The lyricist Raj Shekhar talks to Bhavi Gathani about his eight-year journey, the reason that makes Saand Ki Aankh a special and inspiring project and the dreamlike feeling when Asha Bhosle sang one of the songs Aasmaa from the film

Raj Shekhar is a person who didn’t have any dreams when he first came to Mumbai but as time flew by his life started turning out to be the dream that he never saw coming. “Honestly, when I came to Bombay, I didn’t have any plans as to what I want to do. My friends from Delhi University came here so I just followed them. I never thought that I would become a lyricist. I used to work as an assistant director here and then suddenly I got a chance (as lyricist) in Tanu Weds Manu. I got a lot of love from people for my work after that film. People started believing in my capabilities but I wasn’t yet confident. I always thought that it was a fluke. Even today I feel after every project that this happened in a fluke,” he says.

Talking about the influence Mumbai city had on him and the impact the film industry made to his style of approaching his work after his initial success, he says, “After Tanu Weds Manu, I got to write the lyrics for Tanu Weds Manu Returns. I don’t know if I should say this or not but during Tanu Weds Manu Returns, woh kehte hai na… Bombay ki hawa lag jaati hai. That happened to me also. As a contributor, I got corrupted. I started using formulas for my songs. I started thinking that if I will do this or that then the song will become chartbuster… so I started applying calculations in the process of writing songs. However, the songs of Tanu Weds Manu Returns did work out for people. The song Ghani bawri is still getting played in weddings, O saathi mere which was sung by Sonu Nigam was also liked by people. But I soon realised that these calculations can work for you only until they are not seen. So I started paying more attention to improving my craft of writing.”
When asked what makes Saand Ki Aankh a special project, Shekhar says, “One of the reasons this is a very special album to me is because it is a solo album for me. In today’s times where we see multiple composers and multiple lyricists working on a single project, I am doing all the six songs of the album all alone. In such a thematic film, a film that is based on real persons, it is generally preferred that there is only one composer or a lyricist working on the whole album so that the sur of the whole film remains constant.”

“The other reason is that the characters of the film are very inspiring. I remember an interesting incident when I met Tushar Hiranandani for the first time. I thought of him as the person who was part of commercial films. On the other hand, I have mostly been part of films which are not traditionally commercial. I told Tushar that his world was very different from mine but he insisted that I should read the script. When he told me the gist of the film, I had already thought what kind of songs the film would have. But when I read the whole script with Vishal Mishra, we decided on making an entirely new album. There were also times when Tushar and Jagdeep Sidhu, the writer, used to tweak the script according to the songs. The script and the songs were developed together and we were happy about it.”

The story of Saand Ki Aankh was very inspiring for Shekhar. “When I heard the script, I decided that I will make my parents listen to this story. Nowadays we easily say that we are going through mid-life crises. And here we have two 70-80 year old women, forget about accepting their defeat… they are confronting the whole world with a brave face. Their energy was very much inspiring. I am not just saying this, I really want to show this film to my parents who are in their early 60s and they just feel that there is nothing left for them to do after their early retirement. These women, living a suppressed life in such a patriarchal society, they faced the society so bravely for their dreams and today so many people want to tell their story and so many people will soon know what all they have been through,” he says.

Legendary singer Asha Bhosle sung the song titled Aasmaa, from Saand Ki Aankh. Describing how he felt when the legend sung his words, Shekhar says, “This was the most surreal experience of my life. I come from a small town but I am not somebody who gets star struck. But imagine this. You are a kid and your grandpa is playing the radio on which there is an announcement saying ‘sangeet hai OP Nayyar ka, likha hai inhone aur awaaz hai Asha Bhosle aur Mohammad Rafi ki’. That is the memory of Ashaji for me. Then when all of a sudden I get to know that Ashaji is going to sing the song written by me, it is a surreal feeling. As I am narrating the whole song to her in the studio, the lyrics and she is writing them down in her handwriting, at that very moment I could see my whole village, my friends, my home, the surroundings, the radio and the songs that were played on it… everything flashing in front of my eyes!”

The lyricist smiles as he concludes, “I didn’t come to Mumbai with any dream but all these things surely feel like a dream…”


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