There was a time when Kumaar would fight it out with a composer over creative differences that resulted in the lyricist losing work.
But having spent over 17 years in the music industry in Mumbai, he has mastered the tricks of the trade. Some of the most popular Hindi film songs in recent times, be it Baby doll from Ragini MMS 2, or Jumme Ki Raat (co-written by him) for the Salman Khan-starrer Kick or Besharmi ki height from Main Tera Hero, have been penned by Kumaar and he is obviously not complaining. But somewhere underneath, being the go to lyricist for dance and item numbers in the Hindi film industry, Kumaar is an unsatisfied poet.
“I didn’t come here to become a businessman, but since the industry made me one, I now work with money in mind,” says the 40-year-old.
It is something he made peace with years ago, and he has no qualms in presenting himself as a Hindi film lyric-writer who delivers exactly what the producer and director demand. His hits aren’t exactly couplets emerging from the narrative of the film, but rather hot-selling hooklines that will help push the fortunes of the film.
In today’s world of instant gratification, the industry’s new obsession, he says, is catchy hooklines. Producers and directors expect the lyricist to magically conjure up words and phrases that are often directly proportional to their music sales. And if that is art, then Kumaar has mastered it. “It has become a regular brain exercise for me. People always don’t need to understand every word, it’s the phonetics that does wonders,” says the writer, who is a regular with composers such as Vishal Shekhar, Pritam and Meet Bros
Anjjan, among others. He considers Dostana’s Maa da ladla and Desi Girls in 2008 as major turning points in his career.
As someone who wears his punjabiyat like a matter of pride, Kumaar’s “USP” is his natural hold over the language. “The occasional Punjabi words that slip into the Hindi songs help a lot,” he says, picking up examples of Baby doll and Subah hone na de, both gigantic hits. But talk about the objectification of women in item songs and he gets defensive, putting it all on the filmmaker’s demands. Although he claims to have rejected offers where he was crossing the line.
But there is more to Kumaar than his party songs, which is evident from his more soulful numbers such as Ishq bulava from Hasi Toh Phasee or Mere nishaan from OMG: Oh My God! A self-confessed Sufi by heart, Kumaar adheres to certain ideals. “I don’t follow the work of others nor do I read books. You won’t find glimpses of literature in my songs, and all I want is for my songs to reach all kinds of people,” says the writer, who got his first hit with Sukhbir’s wildly popular ’90s hit Ishq tera tadpave. As a BA graduate from DAV College Jalandhar, Punjab, he came to Mumbai in 1996 to become a lyricist. “I was first drawn towards lyrics through Sahir Ludhianvi’s works, but later I was completely driven by Anand Bakshi’s lyrics. I think that is the example of perfect lyric writing for Hindi film music. It conveys deep thoughts through simple words,” he says.