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“My dream to write songs for a Ranbir Kapoor film finally came true with Animal” – Raj Shekhar

Raj Shekhar is considered to be one of the few lyricists today who is contributing towards keeping the essence of poetry alive in film songs. In the past, the lyricist has weaved magic with his words for songs created for films like ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, ‘Hichki’, ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’, ‘Veere Di Wedding’, ‘Tumbbad’, ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ and ‘Saand Ki Aankh’, among others. The wordsmith is currently enjoying the popularity of ‘Papa Meri Jaan’ and ‘Pehle Bhi Main’, the two songs he penned for the Ranbir Kapoor – Rashmika Mandana – Anil Kapoor – Bobby Deol starrer ‘Animal’, a film which has emerged as one of the biggest box-office successes this year.

In this interview, Raj Shekhar talks about the process behind writing his latest chartbusters, realizing his dream of writing for a Ranbir Kapoor film, collaborating with Sandeep Reddy Vanga, upcoming projects and more.

‘Papa Meri Jaan’ and ‘Pehle Bhi Main’ are the two songs you have written for ‘Animal’. While ‘Papa Meri Jaan’ became popular before the release of the film, ‘Pehle Bhi Main’ went viral as soon as the audience discovered it while watching the film. Both the songs are completely different from each other. While the former describes the feelings or emotions of Ranvijay Singh (Ranbir Kapoor) for his father Balbir Singh (Anil Kapoor), the latter is a love song. Which one did you write first?

‘Pehle Bhi Main’ was the first song I wrote for the film. Ranbir Kapoor has been one of my most favourite actors. I always wanted to collaborate with him on a film. Irrfan saab was another actor whom I wanted to write songs for. That dream got realized with ‘Jaane De’ (‘Qareeb Qareeb Singlle’). My dream to write songs for a Ranbir Kapoor film finally came true with ‘Animal’. The one dream of mine I am still waiting to be fulfilled is writing songs for a Shah Rukh Khan film.

‘Pehle Bhi Main’ has been composed and sung by Vishal Mishra. For this song, what came first – the tune or the lyrics?

Vishal composed the tune first and then, I wrote the lyrics. Vishal knew that I was a big fan of Ranbir Kapoor. Even he has been a big admirer of Ranbir. At his studio, we would often play clips from Ranbir’s films, mute the audio and play our songs as if they were a part of those films (laughs).

One evening, around 10 pm, I received a call from Vishal. He asked me to come to his studio and said that he wanted me to introduce somebody. I met Sandeep sir. He briefed me about the situation. When I asked him who the lead actor of the film is, he named Ranbir Kapoor. Vishal was looking at me with a big smile on his face. Even I was smiling from ear to ear. When I asked Sandeep sir how much time I have to write the song, he told me that I don’t need to write it in a rush. He informed me that they were going to shoot the song in the next twenty days and would need the song recorded before that.

I made him listen to the mukhda in 4-5 days. As soon as he heard the first mukhda, he said “I am liking this”. After a couple of days, I wrote the antara. Initially, the song was supposed to have just one antara. In a flow, I wrote a second antara. When Sandeep sir heard both the antaras, he decided to keep them both.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s films don’t have lip sync songs. Does the process of music making takes place after the shoot of the film?

I don’t think so. Both ‘Pehle Bhi Main’ and ‘Papa Meri Jaan’ were made before they were shot.

While you had worked with Vishal Mishra on multiple projects in the past, ‘Papa Meri Jaan’ marked your first collaboration with Harshvardhan Rameshwar. How was the process of creating the song with him?

A month after ‘Pehle Bhi Main’ was recorded, I got a call from Sandeep sir. When I met him, he spoke to me about a situation in the film. He said that the song we will be working on will be used in multiple junctures in the film. I remember writing 12-13 stanzas for the film. The structure of the song is quite unique as it does not follow the conventional mukhdaantara structure. There is just this one tune which keeps repeating. The process of writing this song was a little complex as it was about the father-son relationship. Sine I hadn’t read the script of the film, I was only following Sandeep sir’s brief. You might be surprised to know that I haven’t met Harshvardhan till now. He lives in and operates from Chennai. Sandeep sir was constantly in touch with him and me and we faced no issues while communicating with each other. I never felt that I didn’t meet the music director.

‘Papa Meri Jaan’ has been sung by Sonu Nigam. You have earlier collaborated with him on songs like ‘O Saathi Mere’ (‘Tanu Weds Returns’) and ‘Sheher’ (‘Unacademy Unwind with MTV’).

Yes, ‘Papa Meri Jaan’ was my third collaboration with Sonu ji. As soon as the track was ready, Sandeep sir was sure that he wanted Sonu ji to sing it. I was there when he was dubbing for the song. He is one singer who understands every single element associated with a song. When you listen to the song carefully, you will realize how beautifully he has enacted every word.

Do you think the humungous success of the film has benefited the songs?

Yes! This is the first time I have worked on a film of this scale. When a film reaches out to a large audience, the songs also leave an impression. Every song from the film has become a huge hit. Even tracks like ‘Ranvijay’s Entry Medley’ and ‘Jamal Kudu’, which were not a part of the album, have gone viral on social media. When a film does well, everybody benefits from it.

While you have been a part of soundtracks featuring multiple composers and lyricists in the past, you have mostly worked on films where you were given the opportunity to write all the songs. After ‘Animal’, are you more open to the idea of working on albums where multiple composers and lyricists are involved?

Anything for Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan (laughs). I have been working in the industry for more than a decade and now, I am finally getting the opportunity to collaborate with people I always wanted to work with. Earlier this year, I got the opportunity to write a Hindi song for a Malayalam film featuring Fahadh Faasil, who is also one of my favourite actors. I prefer working on albums where one composer and one lyricist are entrusted with the responsibility to put together the album. However, I am willing to be a part of a multi-composer and multi-lyricist setup once in a while. The project should excite me. Although there were multiple composers and lyricists working on ‘Animal’, Sandeep sir ensured that songs were made everybody was in sync with his vision.

What are you doing next?

I am working on the third season of the Netflix show ‘Mismatched’ at the moment. One of the films you will hear my songs next year is ‘Phir Aayi Haseen Dilruba’.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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