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Interviews |  23 Dec 2008 16:47 |  By chiragsutar

Neelesh Mishra - 'We are the backroom boys whose names are not read out on FM stations'

Listeners know Neelesh Mishra as the man behind the lyrics of 'Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai' and 'Chalo Tumko Lekar Chale' but the multi-tasking lyricist has not stopped there. With Anurag Basu's 'Kites', Anees Bazmee's 'It's My Life', Kunal Deshmukh's 'Jashan', Piyush Jha's 'Sikandar', Tanushree Basu's 'Puraani Jeans' and Guddu Dhanoa's 'Deewana Must Die' in the pipeline, the journalist – lyricist – novelist is up to something BIG this time.

In an interaction with Chirag Sutar, Neelesh Misra speaks on the world of words and of course – Bollywood!


What are the projects you are currently working on?

My next film as lyricist will be 13B, a Reliance film, which has music by Shankar-Ehsan and Loy. It is a thriller with a very interesting story with romance deeply woven into it -- and it provided me some interesting opportunities as a writer. I have even written an embarrassing item number for it -- only my second so far!

Do you work on multiple films at a time?

All the time! Not just that, I am workaholic multi-tasker and joke with my friends that I am working hard to get a nervous breakdown ... For example, right now I am juggling my lyric writing projects, screenplay, two book projects, my passion for photography and my full time job as a journalist, something I love.

How did you get into doing screenplays?

My co-writer Dr Neelima Pandey and I have written Alibaug and are in the process of writing Mozhi. There are also some interesting projects coming up screenplay-wise.I have stayed away from writing screenplays for a long time. I had preferred to continue writing books that can be made into films. It is something I intend to continue doing, and will do screenplay projects as and when interesting themes come along or when I believe I can bring some substantial value to the project with my writing.

How open are producers or music directors to new ideas from a lyricist?

I think a lyrics writer can be more audacious now in terms of themes and words. And I see interesting improvisations. But my experience has been amazing with the people I am working with.

Bollywood lyricists use many clich?©s. 'Dumbing down of the lyrics' is common.

I agree, there is dumbing down of lyrics, often in the name of simplicity or reaching out to people. But at the same time, I also see around me very interesting new writing that is simple yet connects directly with listeners and viewers. I think the constant challenge for us writers is not to get trapped in clich?©s and to use new imagery, new words and a new idiom in our writing. Our biggest challenge is often our own writing.

Do you think the contribution a lyricist makes often gets overshadowed?

Sadly, yes. We are the backroom boys whose names will not be read out on the FM stations, who will barely get any royalties, Most people don't even know who wrote a certain song because unlike earlier, radio stations don't feel the need to mention their names. Heck -- even most singers often don't know whose song they are singing!

Often lyrics are written to fit tunes, doesn't that kill creativity, inspiration?

It's a challenge, but very satisfying when one pulls it off. But there interesting changes on that front as well, and one sees music directors often asking lyricists to write first, which is then composed later. That is a very encouraging sign.

What kind of trends do you observe, there was a time when Bhojpuri lyrics where catching on.

I think we are often are a bit too quick to try and catch trends. The only trend is that there are at all times some good lyrics and some bad lyrics!

Are lyricists commensurately paid in Bollywood?

Nah.Wish it would change fast, because it prevents a lot of outsiders in Bollywood like me, who cannot sustain themseleves only on Bollywood fees, from taking up lyric writing as a vocation.

Corporate houses are investing in films. How beneficial is the multi film deal signing trend for a lyricist?

To each his own -- I am not doing such deals, though.

Do you think it's important for a lyricist to know 'Urdu'?

Not quite. These are all stereotypes. All that a lyricist needs is to be a good storyteller.

Which are your favorite songs and who are the writers or lyricists who have influenced you?

Pradeep ji, Faiz, Anand Bakshi saab for his simplicity and directness, and I am a great fan of Gulzar saab. Perhaps one line which I unknowingly utter at least three of four times a day while going about my life is "Dil dhoondta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din" ... often I dont even realise I am saying those words, but they give voice to the state of my mind so well ... My contemporaries are also extremely talented and one is always pleasantly surprised or touched by a lot of writing.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I do not listen much to Western music and find myself at sea when my friends are talking about it ...

I read you are also looking forward of getting into 'Direction'. What kind of film would that be?

Well, please do not read much more in this than there is. I am keen to direct at some point. Direction is a craft that needs a lot of learning, experience and skills. I don't have those skills yet. So I want to assist a director from start to finish on a film and then embark on my own journey.

Any non-film albums that you are presently working on?

Yes, one with Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, which features the young and extremely talented singer Akriti Kakar. I shall be probably working on a series of albums soon with a major music company, just chiseling the idea.