Lyricists of my age: Prasoon Joshi

In the 1990s, lyrics was not something that people were much worried about. There were music directors whose music sold with whatever words or unwords were there. Of course, good lyrics could be a plus, but one could do with tu cheez badi hai mast mast and sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bolen as well. But fortunately, things changed for better with the next decade, at least to some extent. During those times, came a lyricist, who started slowly, but went on to give some of the best lyrics Hindi film industry would find in that age, especially from such a young lyricist.

Prasoon Joshi started his Journey in Hindi film industry with Bhopal Express where he wrote the lyrics for a single background track composed by Shankar Mahadevan, followed by a single song for Rajkumar Santoshi's Lajja, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and composed by Ilaiyaraja. He took time to find his movies, but most of the movies he chose got him good recognition. That is how Prasoon is one of the best known lyricists in film industry with less than twenty movies to his credit, a few of them having just a song of two written by him.

After this he wrote lyrics for Love at Times Square, Kyon and Aankhen as well, but his name got recognition when he wrote lyrics for Hum Tum (2004), his second complete Hindi album after Kyon. The album was hit not just due to its music, but Prasoon's lyrics in Ladki kyun got him quick recognition among youth, at the same time fetching him a screen award for the romantic title song.

Also, Kyon had all the songs written by Prasoon and with Bhupen Hazarika composing for the album, the songs were nice, but the movie was lost due to lack of enough publicity.

His next album Phir Milenge (2004), where he wrote lyrics for most of the songs, was not really a hit, but then the Revathi movie on a topic as serious as AIDS had quality in not only its story and screenplay, even the lyrics said a lot about the movie. Khul ke Muskura le tu, dard ko sharmane de was an example of poetry that wasn't very easily found in the Hindi film industry those days, or even today for that matter. Lines like utaar gham ke mozay, zameen ko gungunane de, kankaron ko talwon mein gudgudi machane de were freshness coming alive.

Be it Jeene ke ishare, Khushiyon ki Koshish mein, or Kuchh Pal, Prasoon's lyrics were just wonderful. Probably that is the reason (along with SEL's beginning guitar tabs) that it's even today one of my most favorite and most heard albums. Phir Milenge also saw Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Prasoon Joshi's successful collaboration, which later gave us many good albums.

His next album the same year, Rok sako to rok lo had a fine soundtrack too, but the music was lost with the movie.

Then after a break, he came up with A R Rahman composed Rang De Basanti, which made him known throughout. And why not, Prasoon wrote a series of awesome songs for the album, from a completely submissive-romantic tu bin bataye to a head-held-high Khoon Chala, from zindabad-zindagood and har dil mein gud-gud karta H2SO4 to a tear-inducing luka-chhupi, and a lot more. It was probably for the first time that I was hearing a stanza starting with Ae Saala (considered a swear word, at least at my home) ended in something like 'roobaroo roshni hai', or simplifying, a song which looked so rowdy at the start, was one of the most inspirational, zealous and in a way even patriotic numbers I knew.

I wouldn't guess how many offers Prasoon must have rejected after RDB and Fanaa (which came just a few months after RDB) as the next movie Prasoon wrote for was Taare Zameen Par, which appeared near the end of 2007, more than a year and half after Fanaa. Interestingly, all three albums had Aamir as an actor, the last one being his directorial debut as well.

So, talking of Fanaa, there wasn't much too new in the album, except that Prasoon had used some good poetry in the romantic songs. But Taare Zameen Par, a movie with its lead role being played by a child, needed more than mere good poetry, and Prasoon did it perfectly when he got all the mothers (and even not-mothers) crying in cinema halls listening to Maa. The album had bum bum bole, inspiring children to imagine the most vivid things, as well as the title song kho na jaayen ye taare zameen par reiterating the value of children to the world.

His next, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, again didn't do well, though the album had a couple of songs with good lyrics, namely pyaar ke liye, which started beautifully with kabhi socha hai kya, barish kyun bhaaye, kyun geet bewajah, hoton pe aaye, and Beetay kal se.

Prasoon continued his collaboration with Aamir Khan as he penned the lyrics for Ghajini, which was actually a masala movie, but Prasoon came up with some really wonderful poetry for the album, especially in kaise mujhe tum mil gayi where he used hyperbole in a wonderful manner. Here is a little aid to memory if you don't remember.

main to ye sochta tha, ke aaj kal, oopar wale ko phursat nahi,
phir bhi tumhe bana ke wo,
meri nazar mein chadh gaya,
rutbe mein wo aur badh gaya..

The beginning of 2009 saw him writing for another Rahman album, Delhi 6, where he wrote an effervescent Masakkali, a humble Arziyaan and an almost spiritually romantic Rehna tu. Poetry with lines like 'Mujhe teri baarish mein bheegna hai ghul jaana hai' and 'Mujhe teri lapat mein jalna raakh ho jaana hai' made the song a treat to listen to. Prasoon's folk'ish lyrics in Sasural genda phool recorded with high beats were received with zeal, though his Kaala bandar, which asked people to look into their own selves did not get equal recognition. But then it was Delhi 6, the title song that saw him doing those witty things again that he did in Paathshala. See how he mixes up almost utterly useless lines with some lovely words to get an effect -

Bada kaske gale lagata hai
dhadkan ki dhoom sunata hai
iske baayein taraf bhi dil hai
iske daayein taraf bhi dil dil hai
haan, ye sheher nahi mehfil hai..

Frankly, a proclamation of baayein taraf and daayein taraf dil sounds like some crap '90s lyrics to me, but when you say ye sheher nahi mehfil hai immediately after that, somehow the whole scenario changes. Something rare I'd say.

Prasoon again came with SEL in London Dreams, where he wrote an enthusiastic Barso yaaron, and Man ko ati bhaave saiyyaan in which he has used some uncommon complex Hindi words, which give a comic effect to the song. Though I still have problem with the use of the word 'chaman' which is closer to Urdu, in a song where he's used all the words close to Sanskrit. Anyway, what I found the best in the album was Khwab ko raag de, a song that asks you to wake up and realize your dream. The depth of the lyrics in the song is phenomenal. While he asks you to burn the sleep away in order to reach your dreams, he also says 'khwabon ke baadal chhane do lekin rishton ki lau ko bacha ke barasna' (let the clouds of dreams pour down, but make sure to save the flame of relations from this rain). Wonderful.

Also, the album has Jashn hai Jeet ka, whose lyrics remind me of Shakespearean novels the way the singer talks about believing nobody in his way to victory, while 'Shola shola' is yet another rise-and-shine inspirational number from Prasoon's pen.

The same year he wrote Dhoop ke Sikke for Sikandar, which was a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composition. The song talks about childhood in the terror struck areas of Kashmir, in a very innocent, but striking manner. The lines 'baarood jab bachcha tha wo titli pakadta tha, wo amiya bhi churata tha, patango par jhagadta tha... magar dhokhe se tumne uska bachpan bhi to loota hai, zara dekho to uski aankhon mein wo kabse rootha hai' and 'Bahut jaldi dupatte odhna sikhla rahe hai hum, Kyon zindagi ko raat se milva rahe hai hum' are some of the most thought provoking lines I have heard on the subject. Do listen to the song if you missed it in the crowd of hits.

In 2010, Prasoon wrote lyrics only for Break ke Baad composed by Vishal-Shekhar. Here Dhoop ke makan is a song with some lovely poetry, while Main jiyoonga talks about a guy who has just had a break up and is promising to himself to live life despite his sorrows. One of my favorites, for its hope and uniqueness.

Aarakshan once again brought him with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and this time he not only penned the lyrics, but also shared the credit for composition of the song Saans Albeli/ Kaun si dor, sung by Pandit Chhannulal Mishra. Here, besides two romantic (one of them sad, and with much better lyrics than the other) songs, Prasoon wrote Mauka, a song that asks for a chance promising a watchable flight after that, and Roshanee which talks of equality for all.

Talking of upcoming movies, he will be writing lyrics for Kunal Kohli's Teri Meri Kahani and Rituparno Ghosh's Sunglass.

No, this discussion cannot be over without mentioning Shubha Mudgal's Ab ke Saawan and Man ke Manjeere, the latter also supporting women's liberation, especially against domestic violence, for which he wrote lyrics. I wonder how he has used all those alankars while writing such a wonderful song on such a serious issue.

Besides this, he has also written lyrics for Silk Route's romantic debut song Dooba dooba rehta hoon.

Prasoon has also worked for many collaboration projects, like Sapna Dekha hai Maine about Indian girl child for CRY, and Asha wali Dhoop ki Ummeed hai for Tsunami victims.

If you look at all this, you find that Prasoon is not just a poet of finest quality, but he can take up issues, and present them in a manner that even money-minded Bollywood is able to adjust. Be it an AIDS related Phir Milenge, or a social-patriotic Rang De Basanti, a dyslexia based Taare Zameen Par, or a socio-political Aarakshan, Prasoon Joshi has been an important part of not just the albums but movies themselves. The other good thing about him is the meaningfulness in his lyrics. His words are seldom without meaning, and at the rare times when they are, he'd entice you with some other aspect of his poetry where he might be focusing, and keep the freshness alive.

Hope he keeps coming up with more such, and if possible, even better poetry and lyrics.


Liverach said...

awesome write-up =D
I always liked Prasoon Joshi, and everyone around generally likes his stuff, but the indepth stuff you picked up on is really interesting to read.
I actually love the lyrics of Kaala Bandar, especially that line "kasme toh moongphali hain, jab jee chaahe hum khaate/ upar se na na na karte/ aur thaali aage sarkaate"

haha height of satirical.
His lyrics are pretty thought-provoking, and you can easily relate with them. You have no idea HOW many times I've listened to "Main Jiyunga" during exam time xD hahaha

Sakshar said...

Nice article... you should write such articles once in a while besides posting the translations... Good read...

Harshit Gupta said...


Thanks a lot for the comment. :)


Thanks. Planning to come with a few more of this type. It's actually a wonderful feeling to write such things, as I have been doing this analysis for years now, almost all the time.

Thanks for the encouragement. :)

vishal12 said...

Very good summary of his work - peppered with some interesting factoids that I was completely unaware of (like he wrote lyrics for Dooba Dooba, for instance.)

I have been always impressed by his lyrics - although sometime I find it difficult to appreciate (or may be, understand) his poetry. For example, Rehna Tu starts with a brilliant mukhda, but every time I hear 'To dono ke baaNye haath sang kaise... Ek daaNya hoga, ek baaNya hoga...' I can't help but cringe at the naive analogy he has used in this otherwise heavenly song.

Sometimes, his poetry seems too similar to (or inspired by?) Javed Akhtar (Kabhi socha hai kya belongs to that category) but then he comes back and uses words like 'daffatan' and I forgive all his Ghajini-esuque mediocrity. :) I mean when was the last time we heard the beautiful word 'daffatan' in a Hindi movie? (Wasn't it Nikaah?)

I really admire, and always look forward to, his work.

-- Vishal

PS: Liked you blog. Keep up the good work!

Himesha said...

This is really niceone..Thanks fr sharing..

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