Still in the Race

Debarati Palit Singh
Monday, 11 June 2018

Lyricist Shabbir Ahmed talks about recreating Allah Duhai Hai, working with Salman Khan and how he doesn’t want to write lyrics that would make his family uncomfortable.

The makers of Race 3 have recreated their most popular track Allah Duhai Hai of the franchise in the third part too. Both the songs from part one and two went on to become chart busters.

Well-known lyricist Shabbir Ahmed, who has written the lyrics, says that when a writer gets any such opportunity, “he has to create his own identity and leave a mark of his own style.” “The song was a combination of Salman Khan, Pritam and myself, so we had to live up to that. Bhai has yet again trusted me and given me the opportunity so I had to work hard. I had to be careful about the words too because the last two songs were popular. I had to make sure that the audience connects and remembers the lyrics. Because the song is talking about love and destruction, I had to get out that emotion right,” he says.

When a song is already popular, does that make his job easy or difficult? “A lot more difficult. I had to use only the tagline Allah Duhai Hai. I had to get the emotion of the song which is about prayer (duhai), destruction (tabahi) and havoc (qayamat) right and make it sound commercial. It’s a huge responsibility for a writer. I had to work with honesty and live up to the expectations.”

Working with Salman
This isn’t the first song that Ahmed has written for the Dabbang star. He has written the lyrics of several of his hit numbers — Aaj Ki Party (Bajrangi Bhaijaan), Jumme Ki Raat (Kick), Tumko To Aana Hi Tha (Jai Ho), songs of Bodyguard and many others. When he writes songs for the star, does he keep his personality and aura in mind? “Completely. Not just Salman Khan, whenever I am writing songs for any other actor, I keep their personality in mind,” he says. 

Ahmed calls Salman his Godfather. “He is my elder brother, father and he means a lot to me because he has given me opportunities and always supported me and many other people in the industry. My parents did not belong to the film industry and I come from a very modest village. He is my angel because whatever I have achieved today is because of him.” 
He adds that because he’s been with the actor for 20 years, he knows the kind of lyrics that will suit him. “He gives me a lot of inputs while writing the lyrics, which is very helpful. He has got great knowledge,” says the lyricist who has written songs for more than 94 films.
Striking the right balance

Ahmed has written songs for other hit movies like Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Jolly LLB 2, Hate Story 4, Tutak Tutak Tukiya, Welcome Back and many others. Most of his songs are party numbers. But while writing them, how does he strike a balance between entertainment and meaningful lyrics? “That’s always my focus. I want everyone to enjoy and understand my songs, from kids to elderly people. None of my songs are without meaning. I never write songs which will make my mother and sister uncomfortable and they will feel hurt. I try not to do anything that will hurt my family’s sentiments,” he says.

Many listeners complain about songs having double meanings. Are lyricists under pressure from filmmakers to write such songs? Ahmed explains, “We make films for entertainment but having said that, you cannot create what you cannot share with your own family. What is the purpose of writing content that makes your family members uncomfortable?”

Importance of lyricists 
Today, while working on a film, lyrics and lyricists are given the least importance. Most songs are more about sound and less about lyrics. “It’s true that no one gives importance to lyrics which shouldn’t be the case. A lyricist should also be given importance because they are the ones creating meaning through their words. Most big banner production houses give us respect and acknowledge our contribution to a film. Just like the composer, actor, director work hard, we also work equally hard.”

The yesteryear songs still play at radio stations, clubs, films and are even part of our playlists. But because we give less significance to lyrics now, the recent songs don’t run for more than a week. But Ahmed says that if someone does a good job, people will appreciate it. “Earlier, any kind of lyrics would work but today things have become very tough,” he concludes.

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