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Interviews |  05 Dec 2016 18:25 |  By Kavita Yadav

I will burn out if I don't stop: Manoj Muntashir

MUMBAI: 2016 was meant to be his year and so will 2017, by all appearances. We are talking about the man who got the industry talking about him with the 2014 hit ‘Galliyan’ - Manoj Muntashir.

The lyricist began his journey as a scriptwriter with Indian television's biggest property ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and continued to write for some of the biggest reality shows on TV. He took to lyrics soon after, but B-town success knocked on his door only post ‘Galliyan’. There has been no stopping for Muntashir since. He took home the biggest slice of the Bollywood pie in 2016, but in 2017 he is poised to take a bigger bite.

In conversation with, he  chalks out his plans.

2016 has been about you. You’ve written lyrics for films like ‘Rustom’, ‘Kapoor & Sons’, ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’, ‘Tum Bin 2’ ‘Akira’ and so many others.

The year has been magnificent in terms of work, quality and quantity. I knew that my hands would remain full, but I did not expect so much. If you had to ask me at the start of the year if I would write songs for 20 films, I would have fainted. I have written around 100 songs this year and around 65-70 of them have released so far.

“Galliyan was my fortieth song”

Did you manage to churn out all those songs single-handedly?

My shoulders are strong so I can carry the weight. I never crumble under pressure. Moreover, lyrics’ writing is such a business that nobody can be your helping hand. The day you get someone to help you write, will be the biggest mistake of your life. Wherever you are is because of your flavour, how can you borrow it from somebody? It will be a diluted version. I have never made that mistake.

Poetry was inherently designed to take you in that zone. To create a feeling of intoxicated thoughts, those were later penned. If someone has helped me at all, it is my books and thoughts of well-known poets from - Ghalib to Shakeel. I have read all the big shayars and their ideas have helped me.

‘Galliyan’ changed the Bollywood ballgame for you. Some believe that you have been fortunate. What do you have to say about it?

Everybody feels that ‘Galliyan’ was my first song, but the truth is that it was my fortieth song. I wrote my first ghazal album for Polygram Records in 1999. In 2005, I wrote my first film song for Universal. From there, it took me nine years to get my first hit in 2014. ‘Sabhi masruff hai mere safar ko apana kehne mein, kise fursat hai, in kadmon ke chale kaun dekhega.’

“I still remain the highest paid on TV”

Did you have to struggle a lot in the initial days?

When I left Amethi (UP) in 1999, I just wanted to write songs for the big screen. I was a 22-year-old, lost in an alien world. I dwelt on the footpaths of Mahakali Road for a year. I used to sleep with the vendors. During this time, I wrote something that reached Bachchan and he asked me to meet him for KBC. He picked up a small town boy and I realised that I had some magic that nobody else had. I started getting a plethora of shows. I hiked my price and gradually became the highest paid writer on TV. I still remain the highest paid on TV. So a lot happened on the way but, to accomplish the dream that I had come to achieve, it took me 14 years.

Are you one of the highest paid lyricists in Bollywood?

I am one of the highest paid, but I will try and break it. Very consciously, I chose to be new because with every passing day you either become old or new. Moreover, when you get respectable projects like ‘Dhoni’ you know you’re going the right way. My forthcoming projects are ‘Kaabil’, ‘Baadshaho’, ‘Half Girlfriend’ and ‘Bahubali 2’.

“We do not have a Gulzar and a Javed Akhtar currently..."

‘Bahubali’ was your first film as a Bollywood dialogue writer. Will you take up more projects as a dialogue writer?

I will be writing the dialogues of ‘Bahubali II’. I wouldn’t write dialogues for any other film because I need a huge kick to write them. I need a magnum opus like a ‘Mirzya’. Whether it works or does not work, does not matter. I won’t write for small films. We should keep challenging ourselves. We should stay unhappy and unsatisfied to achieve more and that is what I constantly keep doing.

“Gulshan Kumar has given a new lease of life to non-film music”

Singles are the next big thing in India. You have written a few singles for T-Series. What is your take on it?

In India, there is no separate music industry, it’s just Bollywood. In the West, Justin Bieber is a bigger star than Brad Pitt and so are Adele and Rihanna. In our case, we are always relying on films. This does not allow independent singers, music directors or lyricists to grow. That is why we do not have a Gulzar and a Javed Akhtar. Earlier, the album covers had pictures of singers. I feel Gulshan Kumar has given a new lease of life to non-film music. It has benefited every artist and musician in this country.

Sex seems to be one of the most important ingredient in most of these singles' videos.

Sex has always been the highest selling commodity. ‘Pyaar Manga Hai’ is a genuine hit, not a forced hit. I won’t take credit for writing this song. Of course, Abhijit Waghani did a great job, Armaan Malik and Neeti Mohan sang it to their best. I wrote as much as I could. But leave these things on one side and the steamy portion on one side, it worked. It’s a market. As makers of music, it is our responsibility to show another side of music too and we are. T-Series is venturing into devotional albums. We did ‘Maiya Teri Jai Jaikaar’ with Arijit Singh.

Pyaar Manga Hai

Maiya Teri Jai Jaikaar

“Aashiqui was a huge success but we did not let that blessing be a blessing”

The songs these days seem to miss the charm of a Kishore Kumar or a Lata Mangeshkar's song. What is it that’s missing?

As a human mind, we can only process certain things. We have overstuffed people with music and there is no variety. The wow factor is gone. I have written 50 songs that sound like ‘Galliyan’ because that is what people making music want. We need to start thinking radically different. Every big success is a blessing and a curse. ‘Aashiqui’ was a huge success but we did not let that blessing be a blessing. We caught the template of creating all songs like it. We missed the fact that Aashiqui was fresh and that is why it was a hit. But I am hopeful for whenever the 80s trends repeat, an ‘Aashiqui’ arrives. Someone will have to play Noah.

“I have the muscle power in my writing”

Are you waiting for a script that offers you the space to write poems like Javed Akhtar in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’?

That is my forte. Javed Saab and Gulzar Saab are shayars not just writers. I am also a shayar, a hardcore poet. I have the muscle power in my writing. I was with Neeraj Pandya and he is a great admirer of poetry. He said he said he wanted to use my poetry in ‘Baby’. I did not know where my poem would fit in ‘Baby’ but he used it -- ‘Main Tujhse Pyaar Nahin Karta’.  

You will hear one of my poems in ‘Half Girlfriend’. That shows how beautifully the industry is coming back to poetry. The theme song of this film is my poetry sung by Arijit Singh and composed by Mithoon.

Won’t you exhaust your energies at this speed?

I have written four songs in a day at times. Nobody has optimum work - people are either overworked or underworked. There is no balance. I will be drawing a line soon. I will burn out if I don’t stop. I know I am running a blind race right now.