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Jiya Jale – Nasreen Munni Kabir

Jiya Jale – Nasreen Munni Kabir

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Jiya Jale – Nasreen Munni Kabir

Shweta Kapoor


You have collaborated with Gulzar sahab for two books. How would you describe your experience working with him?

It is a pleasure working with Gulzar Sahab. One always learns something new about language and poetry. He is fabulously punctual and respects your time and never lets you down. If he says Thursday 11am, he means it. This is rare in the Hindi film world in which time is elastic.


What according to you makes Gulzar sahab’s work iconic and extremely distinct?

Few writers have a voice and he is one of them. You read one of his verses, without knowing who has written it, and you can guess it was Gulzar Sahab. People struggle to be instantly recognisable and he has this in-born talent. His use of metaphors is also very personal to him and it is very unusual. You need to think about what the song says.  Many are opaque. Many others are philosophical in nature, a questioning of life.


You have written numerous books on the lives of various people in music and movie industry. Can you share with us some of the interesting and unknown facts that you’ve learned on the go?

Each subject is so different. My aim was to try and maintain the individual’s voice in the books, so when you read the book, you feel you’re in the room hearing us talk.

You must get beyond the surface and you need time for this. You have to earn the trust of the subject. It is a relationship where rigour and discipline are also very important. My questions must surprise them as they have given thousands of interviews — so how to make the conversational book making them think in a fresh direction. Some stories will be repeated because one cannot rewrite history of events for the sake of a book. What happened happened, but with time, the approach to the event, or understanding, will change.


How do you think should the translators treat a song so as to do justice to the original as well?

Be simple, not too clever, not to try and force rhyme or pretend to create a new meter. 

Metaphors do translate, sometimes directly, sometimes not. MOST important is to remember that the English translation is not written as a song to be sung, it’s a written translation of the original. 


What are some of your favourite modern songwriters? How do you think the lyrics of songs have changed over the years?

Too soon to give an answer. And the answer would be too long! We need to hear more songs by the current generation of lyricists to comment on their work. When we speak of the great lyricists, this discussion takes into account a whole body of work over years. 


What is your take on the current trend of remixing the old songs in Bollywood these days?

Every generation finds the rhyme that it likes. So perhaps it’s a way of not forgetting the old songs.


If you were to choose three Bollywood singing legends, who would you choose? Also, what is your next project on? Is it a movie or another book?

About the Interviewee:

Born in India, Nasreen Munni Kabir is a London-based filmmaker and author of several books on Hindi cinema, including a conversation book with Zakir Hussain. She has made over 100 TV programmes for Channel 4 TV (UK), including Lata in her own voice, Bismillah of Benaras and The Inner/Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan (2005, Channel 4/Red Chillies). Former governor on the British Film Institute board, she continues to curate Channel 4 TV’s annual Indian film season.

Photograph Credit: Peter Chappell