The latest Film Companion Adda featured leading lyricists Swanand Kirkire, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Varun Grover, Anvita Dutt and Kausar Munir. They spoke to Film Companion editor Anupama Chopra about their process, the challenges they face, and the future of the Hindi film song. On the topic of item numbers, and the rules of writing one, Amitabh Bhattacharya spoke about his experience of creating Chikni Chameli, a popular song starring Katrina Kaif for Agneepath.
“When I came into the industry, I had no clue what I was doing because I came into lyrics writing quite reluctantly. I wanted to become a singer. So when I started, for the first few years, I was never thinking about the consequences of what I was writing or how my songs were perceived. I have learnt a lot since then, about what I do and don’t want to do during the course of my career. For example, when we did Chikni Chameli I remember the rest of the songs of the film were made and a so-called ‘item number’ was needed, Ajay-Atul and I had tried quite a few attempts but nothing was getting approved. It had come to a point that other composers and lyricists had also been asked to give their options. In the end, and I don’t know whose idea it was, we decided to take the rights of a Marathi composition by Ajay-Atul and do a Hindi version of it.
At that point, we just wanted to crack it so that the entire album stays in our kitty. My only concern was to get the song ready and to match the parameters of the tune, so my technical or lyrical sensibility took over and we arrived at Chikni Chameli, which was approved by everyone. However, now after many years, the perception of society and our awareness as artists has changed. Now when I look back, if I was in the same situation and the same tune is provided to me today, then I wouldn’t go with those choice of words because I have evolved as an artist. Today, when I am listening to a tune, I also try to understand and evaluate the consequences of my lyrics. When I started I was around 30 and now I am 43, so now I look at it differently.”