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Amitabh Varma turns singer for his single, 'Awalla'
Lyricist Amitabh Varma has released a single ‘Awalla’ written and sung by him. With Sufi overtones, and meaningful lyrics, the melodious number has already garnered popularity and appreciation
Trained as an editor in Film and Television Institute of India, Amitabh Verma is known for his lyrics in Hindi films like 'PK', 'Khubsoorat', 'Life in a Metro', and many more besides being a writer, director and a classical singer. His feature film 'Teen Do Panch' (written and directed by him) starring Shreyas Talpade, Bidita Baig is slated for an OTT release some time.
In this exclusive interview, Amitabh Verma speaks about the album, films and more
Your single 'Awalla' is soulful and melodious in terms of lyrics and music. How did you think of writing this one? Why did you want a single? The accompanying video is also well shot. I always wanted to sing. In fact my friends in school, college and even FTII used to think that I would eventually become a singer. But somehow as I got busy with editing and later writing and directing, singing took a back seat. My wife Shruti Anindita Vermaa would always tell me to get back to singing.
Last year finally I started missing it and began practicing. After about six months I felt I was ready to go to a studio to record. When we decided to record the first song I wanted it to be something that was in my comfort zone. So 'Awalla' came to my mind. 'Awalla' is a traditional folk tune that I had loved and I thought of using it. My friend Nirmalya Humtoo Dey, a talented musician, composer, and arranger came on board and the song was made. Today everyone wants to do a single as that is the trend.
You get to know if your music is being liked by people or not. I intend to create more songs in the same genre but they would all be singles. After creating the song we felt the need of a video as well. Because I was singing for the first time, we had no music company on board. That made our life simpler as far as creating a video was concerned. We were accountable to ourselves and made the video as per our liking. It was conceptualized and directed by my wife Shruti Anindita Vermaa. The the song has Sufi elements and the lyrics mention Meera, so we decided to shoot it in Mathura and Vrindavan. We got a lot of support from the administration and Mr. Shailja Kant Mishra in Vrindavan so the shooting process became easy.
You have sung it in a soothing way. What made you sing this? Were you trained in classical music?
I have always liked songs from this zone and it also happens to be my comfort zone so it was easy for me to sing. I have learned Hindustani classical music when I was a child. That training helped me sing.
How has the response been so far to 'Awalla'?
The response has been amazing and overwhelming. From the industry, people like Pritam, Vishal Bhardwaj, Onir, Resul Pookutty and many are loving it, unknown people are reaching out and appreciating the song, lots of people are sharing the song, people are subscribing to the channel. It really feels nice when your work is universally appreciated. With so many people liking and subscribing to my channel in just four days of the release of the song I feel I am doing it right. At the same time I am already kicked to move to my next song.
There seems to be an increasing viewership for singles. Many seem to be getting them out. Why? Do you have plans of doing more such singles?
Of course, I have already planned my next few songs that I am going to record. The next song that I am going to is a cover version of Jagjit Singh's Jhuki Jhuki si Nazar. After that there are many more songs that are there in the pipeline. I have to record it now and make the videos. It will happen soon.
How did you get interested in writing lyrics? Did you do so from a young age or was it only in FTII?
Lyric writing started when I was in FTII. Music Director Pritam was my batchmate and friend. We were both big-time RD. Burman fans. We always sat in his room and jammed. Pritam used to compose songs but they were written in Bangla by him. He wanted someone to write lyrics in Hindi for those songs. He insisted I write for him. I was not sure if I could, but he was very confident. On his insistence, I tried and managed to write. I also realised that I could write songs.
After coming out of the institute I started working as an editor my first work being Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Khamoshi' where I was working as an Assistant Editor. Pritam was meeting directors and playing the songs that were made in the institute. All those songs were written by me and on hearing one of the songs director Hansal Mehta called me and offered me his film 'Chhal'. That was my first film as the lyricist. Even the song 'Alvida', which was used in 'Life in a Metro', was made 10 years before it was used in the film. So, lyrics came to me on a platter.
What do you think are the prerequisites for lyric writing?
One should have a sense of music and knowledge of language.
Is this a passion for you now?
Music has always been a passion. Since my childhood I used to sing. It is only now that I am doing it professionally. I plan to keep doing it now.
You have written many songs for Hindi films? How do you conceptualise a song? What are the factors that play a role in it?
When you write a song for film you get the situation. There is a script and the director gives you a brief. You have to keep in mind the character, who is going to be singing the song. All these factors come together, and the song is made. These days the tune is composed before and the lyrics are written after that. So, in that sense, it is better to have a music sense to write songs.
You seem to share a good rapport with Onir as you have written for all his films...
I share a great rapport with Onir. It is more personal than professional. As I have already said that I am a trained film editor from FTII. When I came out of the institute, I started working with Onir first as his assistant and then as his associate. Later I got my first writing break from Onir. I wrote the songs for three music albums produced by Onir. One of which was with Mr Bhupen Hazarika. The other two were composed by Pritam. After that when Onir made his first film 'My Brother Nikhil' I wrote the dialogues and songs for the film. Since then I have written for all his films.
What are your future projects?
I have just directed my first feature film called 'Teen Do Paanch'. It has Shreyas Talpade, Bidita Bag, Brajendra kala, Sheeba Chadda, Akhilendra Mishra, Lovleem Mishra and Akashdeep Arora. It should come out soon on one of the OTT platforms. I am already working on my second film. I have a production company called ME 2 Films that my wife Shruti Anindita Vermaa and I run and we do some amazing projects there. The next in the company is a series for Kids called 'Zip Zap Zoom' that has already been shot, a series called kaleidoscope of the North East, which is a musical travelogue and a film on Ras Khan.