MEET Lekh Tezkalam, an enthusiastic 24-year-old who walks up to a film production house with heaps of self-written songs and a bagful of dreams. Though he’s been helping in his father’s business after finishing college, his ambition is to become a lyricist in Hindi cinema.
Lekh is escorted to a swanky room and introduced to Shotcall Singh, an upcoming film director, and Dhun Churanewala, a music composer who also goes by the name of Gadget Guru. Pakodas and tea are ordered, and soon, the three-way conversation goes like this:
Director: Yes, young man, you want to become a lyricist. Can we have a brief background about you?
Lyricist: Sure sir. I am Lekh Tezkalam. I have been following good poetry and lyrics since I was a kid, and I write songs too. I’ve always wanted to become a well-known lyricist. My biggest influences are Ghalib, Bahadur Shah Zafar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Urdu poetry, and Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Anand Bakshi in films.
Director: Good for you. I haven’t heard the names you mention, except Bakshi.
Composer: My grandfather used to mention some of them after two pegs of whisky. Anyway, how will you be able to help us?
Lyricist: As I said, I write songs. So far, it was a hobby, but I want to make it a profession. I want to write meaningful and memorable songs, whether on romance, sadness, happiness, tragedy, any subject. I have with me 27 songs with the word ‘Chaand’ as the theme, 34 on ‘Tanhaai’, 22 on ‘Zindagi’, 18 on ‘Bewafaai’, 26 on…
Director: These words are very old-fashioned. Give us something new. I am making an action film with loads of comedy and romance and drama. I need some masala songs. Peppy tunes.
Lyricist: My personal favourites are “Main aaina dekhta hoon toh teri hi soorat nazar aati hai” and “Teri zulfon ke saaye mein mera…”
Composer: Dude, we are in the year 2013. All these thoughts of yours were used 50 or 60 years ago. And if we want such songs, we have two legendary lyricists who have been writing since the 70s. Gulzar-saab and Javed-bhai. We can ask them. Why have you on board? If we want a song on ‘Tanhaai’ or ‘Chaand’, we can approach Prasoon Joshi, Swanand Kirkire or Irshad Kamil.
Lyricist: Dhun-bhai, I have some Sufi and Punjabi songs too. They are the current craze.
Director: We already have such songs for our film. We have taken a Japanese song and added the words ‘Maula’ and ‘Khwaja’. Everybody will think it is a Sufi song. Similarly, we have a Tamil song to which we have added ‘shaava shaava’, ‘maahiya’ and ‘raanjhna’. People will be convinced it is Punjabi.
Composer: Actually, why are we wasting our time? What we are looking for is two songs which you can write for us. The first will be one of the biggest hits Bollywood has ever heard, the kind of song that will instantly make you a superstar.
Lyricist: Really? I can’t wait. What’s it about?
Composer: It’s inspired by the ‘Delhi Belly’ song ‘Bhaag DK Bose’. The song is called ‘Tard Bas’, and we have already written the main line, which is “Abhi bas abhi bas abhi bas tard tard tard, abhi bas tard tard tard.”
Director: It’s a great song. Dhun has even copied an unknown tune from Madagascar which nobody else in India would have heard. The main line is a guaranteed success. You have to write the other lines, and you can use your ‘Tanhaai’ and ‘Bewafaai’ and whatever. We will give you full credit. I will tell our public relations team to instigate social organisations and politicians, who will then unfairly accuse us of using bad language and scream for a ban. The song will get free publicity. We will say it was your idea and pay you for that. We will also claim ‘Tard Bas’ is a very deep and philosophical term in Hindi which is used when a person has had enough. Are you ready?
Lyricist: Sir, let me think over it. I mean the song seems okay, but I will have to consider what other lines I can write. What’s the other song you want me to write?
Director: How can you be so naïve? Our film has to have an item song. Something that beats all the ‘Munni badnaams’ and ‘Sheila ki jawaanis’ and ‘Character dheelas’ and ‘Anarkali disco chalis’.
Lyricist: But sir, I have never written an item song. I can’t relate to them.
Composer: Listen, rock star. If you want to make it big today, you have to learn how to write item songs. They are very simple, but only geniuses can write them. Even your Ghalibs and Zafars never had the brilliance to write songs like ‘Chikni Chameli’, ‘Chammak challo’ and ‘Halkat jawani’.
Lyricist: Dhun-bhai, I don’t know about that. But how do I begin?
Director: Simple. We had a song on ‘Zandu Balm’ and one on ‘Fevicol’. You could choose another brand. Not such a big headache.
Composer: Shotcall-ji, now that you mention headache, why not do a song based on Saridon?
Director: Excellent idea. Dhun, you are a genius. Lekh, why don’t you write an item song based on Saridon?
Lyricist: Let me try, sir. Can it be as simple as ‘Sar dard se phata jaaye, toh lijiye Saridon’?
Director: Is that an item song? Ha. You’re funny. Sounds more like an advertisement. Dhun, do you have any ideas?
Composer: We need to think of words that rhyme with Saridon. Just like ‘Fevicol’ was made to rhyme with ‘alcohol’, ‘petrol’, ‘missed call’ and ‘marriage hall’. What say, Lekh?
Lyricist: Hmmm. Saridon. Saridon. What possibly rhymes with Saridon?
Composer: Got it. Revlon. We could use two brands in the same song and thus beat everyone else.
Director: Superb. Saridon and Revlon. We could also add ‘babycorn’. ‘Switch on’, ‘Turn on’. See how fast we think.
Composer: Seriously, Shotcall-ji, you have the makings of a legendary lyricist. And if petrol was pronounced ‘pet-rawl’ to rhyme with ‘Fevicol’, we can make ‘Gulab jamon’ rhyme with ‘Saridon’. It’ll sound tastier than ‘Jalebi Bai’.
Director: Fantastic. We can have this song picturised on the hero and the item girl. I’ll finalise the item girl by tomorrow. And we can call Champakali of Chinchpokli to sing the song. Her voice is so manly she can sing both male and female versions. We can save some money by paying only one person instead of two.
Composer: I have the tune ready. It’s a song from Papua New Guinea. Am sure nobody would know the original so I am safe. Lekh, why are you so silent? Come on, think of the actual lines. The main line should have ‘Saridon’, and the other lines should use all the rhyming words.
Lyricist: Give me two days, Dhun-bhai. I need time to think.
Director: There is no time. The film industry doesn’t work that way. We need things immediately.
Lyricist: But sir, I need some inspiration.
Director: Just imagine any item girl. Close your eyes and think of her belly button, and how she gyrates to the music. That’s adequate inspiration. The words will come naturally.
Composer: Shotcall-ji, Shotcall-ji. I was actually imagining Mallika Sherawat, and I got the first line. The female voice will sing: “Mere maathe pe honth chipkalo toh behtar hai Saridon seyyy.” To give it a rustic effect we can pronounce it Serry-dawn.
Director: Marvellous! Outstanding!
Composer: Then the hero will sing: “Mere gaalon ko laal rang daalo tum Ravalawn seyyy.”
Director: Wow! Revlon pronounced as Ravalawn. Amazing!
Composer: ”Mere life ko tum meetha bana do, gulab jamawn seyyy.” Then, “Pulao ko swaadisht bana do babycorn seyyy.” Then, we can have: “Is kamre go thanda kara lo tum fayn switch-on seyyy.”
Director: Lekh, are you listening? That’s what’s called songwriting. Not your ‘Chaand’ and ‘Sooraj’… Arrey, where’s Lekh disappeared?
Composer: Don’t know. He was here a minute ago. One second, will ask your secretary. (Goes out and returns in two minutes). Shotcall-ji, Maria informs me that she saw this Lekh fellow covering his face with a handkerchief and running out of the building like we was in a 100 metres race. Everybody outside was wondering what happened to him.
Director: Today’s kids, I tell you. No knowledge, no dedication, no effort. Just want to become famous overnight. They only want money. Anyway, let’s celebrate. Mere maathe pe honth chipkalo toh behtar hai Serry-dawn seyyy. La la la la la la la la la la Ravalawn seyyy.
Composer: Mere life ko tum meetha bana do, gulab jamawn seyyy … Is kamre go thanda kara lo tum fayn switch-on seyyy… I have one more line, with one more brand. It’ll be a hit among all the tech-savvy folks, and make our song the biggest caller tune ever. It goes – Mujhe What’sApp pe mey-ssij bhejo Vodafawn seyy…
Director: Wow! Wow! Wow! Doo roo roo roo roo doo roo roo doo roo babycorn seyyy… Ha ha ha ha! We will rock Bollywood with ‘Tard Bas’ and ‘Saridon’.