Planet Bollywood
"I cannot say person to person that I知 the lyrics writer of Ringa Ringa from Slumdog Millionaire" --Raqueeb Alam (lyricist & singer)
- Amanda Sodhi           Let us know what you think about this feature article

PlanetBollywood.com writer Amanda Sodhi brings you an exclusive interview with singer and lyricist Raqueeb Alam. Alam has many song lyrics to his credit, including Ringa Ringa from the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

Since there aren稚 too many interviews of you available, I知 going to start off this interview by asking you to tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into lyrics writing and singing.

I came to Chennai for studies. I was doing Mechanical Engineering. My parents were not able to send me money for my education as my father was a simple school teacher and had very limited salary. When I was moving from my hometown Madhupur to Chennai that time itself he told me, 迭aqueeb it痴 very tough to send you money as you know my income is limited, and I told him, don稚 worry Abbu I will earn and learn. We are three brothersno sistersand, as a father he had the responsibility to educate all his childrenhe could not send me all the money and keep my two brothers uneducated and behindSo, I started singing in Hotel TridentAnd, once I got the test of money, earning became primary and learning became secondary. I wanted to be a singer after my studies, but I never thought that I can write lyrics. Since I can sing, it helps me a lot to write the lyrics.

You致e written lyrics for Ringa Ringa from the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Yet, there still isn稚 much known about you. Do you intentionally stay away from the media?

It痴 not like that. The media didn稚 notice me. I cannot say person to person that I知 the lyrics writer of Ringa Ringa from Slumdog Millionaire.

Tell us about how you got a break as a lyrics writer and singer

First time I sang for dubbing a movie to Hindi, and also I wrote lyrics for the dubbed version of a movie called Devi, from Telugu to Hindi.

How did you meet AR Rahman? What is your experience like working with him?

Once I met a lyrics writer named Mr. P.K. Mishra who wrote for Roja, Hum Se Hai Muqaabla, etc. and he took me to Mr. Rahman. I sang for the first time with Sonu Nigam for Mr.Romeo, the Prabhu Deva and Shilpa Shetty starrer. One day Mr. Rahman called me and he asked me, 鼎an you write lyrics? I said I will try my best and I wrote for Deepa Mehta痴 Water. The song was Aa Shaam Rang Mei Rang Doon.

You致e worked with Rahman for a very long timehow have you seen him evolve as a music composer over the years?

He is a genius, no doubt. The best thing with him is, he takes work from me in a very easy wayonce he gave me two hours time and he asked me to write two songs and I wrote them on spot by god grace!

How have you seen yourself evolve as a lyricist over the years?

I don稚 know...I feel that somebody is holding my hand and writing on behalf of me

You work on very limited lyrics assignments擁s this because you are very selective on which assignments you take on?

YeahI like to accept assignments in which there is scope to do something different.

What I find very wonderful about your lyrics is that you are able to write lyrics for 吐un songs yet you still use so much rich imagery. Jiya Se Jiya and Blue Theme Song are both examples of this. Tell us a bit about your process for writing lyrics. For example, does the film痴 director tell you about the situation the song will be picturized on? Does the music director compose a tune and you write lyrics to fit the tune? Or, do you write lyrics first and then the music director composes a tune?

Yeahthe director gives me brief of the songmostly I write on tunebut sometimes I write first and then the composer composes based upon the lyrics.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing to fit a tune and writing first and having the music composer compose accordingly?

For me writing on tune is easier because when I hear the tune a number of times, the tune itself starts giving the words according to the mood of the song

Do you have a book where you jot down lines to use for future lyrics assignments of yours?

NoMost of the songs I wrote, I actually wrote on the spotMeherbaan from Ada I wrote in 30 minutesYou won稚 believe this, but Rahman sahib was standing near the mic and I was writing and I wrote four lines and gave it to him and by the time he sang, I wrote another four lines...like that I completed the song in 30 to 40 minutesJiya Se Jiya I also wrote on the spot. For Sultan The Warrior I wrote two songs in two hours.

What is your opinion of lyrics these days?

I am too small to comment on this because I知 holding the finger of my senior writers and trying to walk aroundevery writer is a guru for me.

Who are some lyricists from this generation that you think show promise?

I think Gulzar sahib and Prasoon Joshi ji.

Are there any songs which are your favorite? Any favorite lyrics and/or poems?

Favorite songs include, 滴um intezaar karenge tera qayaamat tak, 摘k ladki ko dekha, and 溺aa tujhe salaam.

Favorite poems include, 迭agon mein daudte phirne ke hum naheen qaayal, jab aankh hi se naa tapka toh phir lahoo kya hai, by Ghalib; 釘adaa hua to kya hua, jaise ped khajoor, panthi ko chhayaa nahi, Phal lage ati door, by Kabir Das; and 典eri Payal se ghata jab kabhi takrati hai, Gungunaate hue barish ki boond aati hai by Qatil Shefai.

In addition to Hindi, you are also fluent in Tamil and have worked on Tamil projectsDo you think that the media tends to not give as much coverage to non-Hindi projects and artists?

Noit痴 not like thatmaine khud apne aap ko is layaq nahi samjha is liye khud ko media ke samne lane ki koshish nahi ki.

You致e written some very lovely lyrics for Ada, however the film hasn稚 released yet. Do you think it is important for a film to do well at the box-office in order for a song to get maximum recognition?

Yeahif a does well, the songs will be popular as wellI hope Meherbaan can be nominated for best songInshah Allah.

Is there any advice you壇 like to give to aspiring artists?

Mehanat kaa paseene se hunar ki mitti ko saano aur imaandari ke sanche mein dhal do...

Could you tell us about your upcoming projects?

Right now I知 doing only one project 鉄ultan The Warrior and Rashid Ali's music album.

Is there anything else you壇 like to add to this interview?

Will request to all readers to please pray for me brother!

It was nice talking to you, Raqueeb. I hope we get to hear many more of your soulful lyrics in the years to come. God bless!

Thank you so much.


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