Mind the Wordshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/mind-the-words/

Mind the Words

Lyrics in Bollywood songs have taken a turn for worse. The recent examples being Tooh from Gori Tere Pyaar Mein! or Party all night from Boss. Is bad poetry a pre requisite of a hit song?

Subhash Ghai,Filmmaker

The quality of lyrics in a song is dictated by the business side of films. Priority is to sell a song. The song needs to have a lot of commercial value for people to buy it. After Javed Akhtar and Gulzar,we still have some really good song writers such as Irshad Kamil,but they have their own pressures to make a song a commercial hit.

It must not be forgotten that the quality of lyrics is also a reflection of the taste of the young generation,most of who don’t like poetry anymore. Also,songs are “watched” these days,and not just “heard” as it was the case before. Lyrics get second priority,and the lyricist writes song keeping this in mind. That’s why it is right to blame the lyricists alone; they are a product of the environment. 

Earlier,films such as Pyaasa or Sujata had a very different theme,they were made during the time of depression and that reflects in the lyrics. These days,the language is a bold mixture of Hindi and English. The youth talks in a similar language which we call Hinglish. Today’s lyrics are a result of the needs and tastes of the current generation. Earlier,love songs had melody,they were set in a scenic landscape,where the hero had to dance with 40 people to prove himself to the heroine. When the format itself has changed — right from the beat to language — what is the point of having poetry in songs? 

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However,there is latent or inherent value to songs that have melody and these will be remembered for years to come. A recent example is Aashiqui 2,whose songs I believe will stand the test of time.

The language of songs has become crass,but so is the lingo of people. Look at the way our TV presenters and anchors talk,it is not living-room language. I think lyricists should be able to maintain a balance between what’s popular and what’s dignified. Kamil has written all kinds of songs for my film Kaanchi — right from serious and romantic to funny. But even with funny songs,he has tried to say something and give a message.

Kausar Munir,Lyricist

I agree that there are some songs that are crass because the attention span of the listeners has reduced. But at the same time,we have to understand that it’s not just about the sensibilities anymore,it’s also about the business. The whole business is about wanting to catch people’s attention. Not everyone has Gulzar’s talent.

Even I see myself pulling out of projects that require me to write lyrics that I don’t agree with. Maybe even I don’t have the skill-set to write a song that can be both popular and at the same time,not offend sensibilities. I write songs for the love of writing. But there are people in the industry who pursue it as a profession and earn their bread and butter writing songs. It is very difficult for them to say “no” to a project and they end up giving in to these demands. I think the buck should stop at the music companies and music directors who demand that songs should be written with the commercial aspect in mind.

Even in the past there have been songs that had crass lyrics such as Sexy sexy mujhe log bole or Choli ke peeche kya hai. So,it isn’t a new phenomenon. Another point composers and filmmakers often make to defend such songs is that they say if the song is set in a brothel,the language has to reflect that environment. But then there are people who are able to write popular songs without degrading its artistic quality.

As a trend,the decline had started in the early ’70s with the ’80s and ’90s being the worst. The standards have reached a new low again,but then again there are people like Amitabh Bhattacharya and Swanand Kirkire who have been doing great work and manage to write a good song.

Just the other day,my 12-year-old daughter asked me: “Mumma,why don’t you write fun songs like Radha teri chunri?” The audiences want fashionable lyrics. But there should be a balance,like say Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani that has songs such as Badtameez Dil and Dilliwali Girlfriend,but also had something like Kabira.

Debate conducted by Meenakshi Iyer