Bollywood has not seen many long-term director-lyricist pairings but Imtiaz Ali-Irshad Kamil’s combination has been one of the most enduring ones, lending a poetic and introspective perspective to the Hindi film music. Kamil, 45, credits his deep friendship with the director for their success in Bollywood.
The lyricist says he shares a unique bond with Ali that took off when neither of their careers had and that is the reason why the two are completely in sync with each other. “Imtiaz and I go way back… When he had not even made Socha Na Tha and I had not written a single song. It is a friendship that is quite deep. We can debate on any issue and talk about anything without sugar-coating. We have a no-holds-barred conversation, so that we can work together to make the project better,” Kamil told PTI in an interview.
Ali’s upcoming film, Shah Rukh-Anushka Sharma-starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal marks the duo’s ninth collaboration and the songwriter says he is glad to have a friend in the director as they can be brutally honest with each other. “If I wrote something bad that does not fit the situation, Imtiaz would sit with me calmly and joke about it. He once said to me, ‘Irshad yaar, imagine how Sahir (Ludhianvi) sahab would have written the song for me in this situation, would he write something like this?’ After this, I would quietly get up, take my paper with me and start working on it again.” Kamil says, like any other relationship, this give-and-take is a two-way street and if he is not convinced with one of Ali’s character arcs or storylines, he is not shy to call a spade a spade.
It is one of their “frank debates” that made the filmmaker change the climax of his 2009 film Love Aaj Kal, starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. “In Love Aaj Kal, the modern-day lovers were not supposed to have a happy ending like the old-time lovers in the original script. So I told him, we won’t be sending out a good message by resorting to this climax. When he was shooting for the film in London, he called me saying he has decided to reunite the characters of Jai and Meera in the end.”
Kamil, who has become famous with his relatable lyrics be it the critically-acclaimed Chameli (2004) or the soul-stirring Rockstar (2011), says he still does not feel that he has “arrrived” in the industry. “I still don’t feel that I have arrived. I want to see and reach that summit when an artiste feels that he/she has arrived. But yes, I do feel that I am trying to do my best to bring about a change and I feel people are accepting my work. And that is a bigger thing for me.”
He believes that it is important for a creative person to figure out a style to communicate. “It takes time to find out your signature but it is important to find one. Sometimes even you don’t know what your USP is… It can be the usage of a phrase, a word, a verb or a thought. You even create your own verb while writing lyrics. “Even the songs that I have written in a lighter space, you won’t find them absolutely empty for example, Tune Maari Entriyaan. There will be a certain quality in such songs that will make you feel that I may have written the song,” says Kamil.