Write Me A Waltz

Amitabh Bhattacharya talks about how his lyrics are born out of everyday life.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: May 17, 2013 3:11 am

Somewhere towards the end of the interview at his sister’s apartment in Andheri,Amitabh Bhattacharya—while dipping biscuit into his tea—smiles at the uncanniness of the conversation that preceded it. The last two hours were spent talking at length about his work,the easy-going,listener-friendly lingo of his lyrics and more technical things,like the metric precision of the verses he brings through his vast experience as a singer. But dig deeper into these surface qualities,and his original creative sources lie in the everyday course of life. And the tea-dipped biscuit becomes one such instance,an unexpected live sample of one of Bhattacharya’s personal favourites that go Chai mein dooba biscoot ho gaya,from the peppy Punjabi number Ainvayi Ainvayi from Band Baaja Baarat.

“Something that is inherently part of our daily lives always works. I remember laughing at the humour myself,when I came up with that line,” he says. There are more examples that demonstrate his ability to churn lyrics out of ordinary urban existence and extract humour from it,making them an instant connect with the youth: as in,Saabun ki shakal mein,beta tu toh nikla keval jhaag,from Delhi Belly’s DK Bose or Main nahin jaana bistar ko chhod ke from the Monday-blues song from Go Goa Gone.

Currently Bhattacharya is on a dream run. The 36-year-old lyricist has practically penned most of the memorable songs in recent times including Badtameez Dil from Yeh Jawaani Hain Deewani and chartbusters from Go Goa Gone. His upcoming films include Ghanchakkar,Lootera,Chennai Express,an adaptation of 2 States and Unglee. Bombay Velvet will see Bhattacharya coming together with Amit Trivedi and Anurag Kashyap for a full-fledged album after the national award-winning soundtrack for Dev D.

Role Reversal

Bhattacharya,who burst on to the scene with Dev D’s Emotional Attyachaar,could have well been typecast in the ballsy,quirky zone of the song or DK Bose. But he hasn’t limited himself. His range includes the simple profundity of old Hindi songs as in Udaan or the soulful Iktara from Wake up Sid!,Character Dheela for Salman Khan,Agneepath’s Chikni Chameli and Deva Shree Ganesha.

And to think Bhattacharya came to Mumbai from Lucknow to become a playback singer. His stepping stone into being a lyricist was writing dummy lyrics for colleagues-turned-friends such as Pritam and Trivedi’s erstwhile band Om.

“I wasn’t eager,but when I wrote I did it with thought and sincerity,” he says.

His lucid verses — loosely rooted to the Hindi-steeped milieu of Lucknow,had started getting noticed,and in 2007,he wrote lyrics for Rajkumar Gupta’s Aamir. “Lucknow has the most correct diction of spoken Hindi,and somewhere my homework happened unknowingly,” says Bhattacharya,who lent his vocals to songs like Mitra from Band Baaja Baarat and Iktara and the caricaturish voice in Emotional Attyachar and What to Do from Aiyya.

Page Turner

Aamir was followed by Dev D,a film that would compel him to take his job as a lyricist seriously. To fit director Anurag Kashyap’s brief for the song sequence,he drew the lyrical idea from one of his earliest associations with his hometown; the spoofy sher-o-shaayeris emblazoned on flashy stickers inside the six-wheeler public transports in the city. “That gave the idea of having verses that would end in anti-climactic twists,such as Tauba Tera Jalwa,Tauba Tera Pyaar,Tera Emosanal Attyachar.”

His fresh and original approach towards lyrics is direct,devoid of sentimentalism and indicates a mind that is alert to signals from his surroundings. “I seek interesting words,” he says. “Character Dheela came out of the numerous Krishna-Raas-Leela jokes on Facebook,and the Honey-Bunny jingle was modelled on a nursery rhyme,” he says.

As of the trends that he so often creates — the cuss words,innuendos and wordplay as in the delightful gibberish of Badtameez Dil — for this Kishore Kumar idoliser and a fan of the nonsensical rhyming of Bengali poet Sukumar Ray,it comes as easy as it could.

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