A new breed of young lyricists has taken Bollywood by storm. Unlike the kurta-clad 'shayars' of the past who branched out as lyricists, they are jetsetting smart professionals who write lyrics for the love of it.
Bollywood director-turned-producer Mahesh Bhatt, whose films are musical trailblazers, is all praise for the new lyricists. "Sayeed Quadri and Neelesh Misra are the names to watch out for. They have a lot of potential.
"Quadri who wrote 'Ya Ali' ('Gangster') and Misra who wrote 'Jadoo Hai Nasha Hai' ('Jism') are in the mould of old Bollywood lyricists Raja Mehndi Ali and Shailendra. "I am going to take them on for my future ventures as well. They will go a long way," he said.
Top Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar finds ad man Prasoon Joshi, who penned the lyrics for "Rang De Basanti" and "Fanaa" among the best of the new lot.
"Prasoon is very talented. He has an edge over the others because he is a poet. I have heard his poetry and let me tell you he is good," he said.
Akhtar's other "favourites" are Swanand Kirkire ("Lage Raho Munnabhai", "Parineeta", "Eklavya"), Saleem Bijnori ("Deewangee"), Ajay Jhingran ("Kaho Na Pyar Hai"). He also finds some of Nusrat Badr's lyrics ("Devdas") up to the mark.
But Akhtar rued, "In the 1950s and 1960s lyricists were shayars. We had poets like Kaifi Azmi, Salim, Shailendra, Raja Mehndi Ali, Janesaar Akhtar and Shakeel. They were also very well-read.
"But it is difficult to find these characteristics in most of the young poets. I think most of them are in a hurry to make a mark and are taking short-cuts."
It is important for a poet to have a huge vocabulary. He should have control over meters and rhymes. He should be able to express his feelings within those meters and rhymes and write lyrics on set tunes, as is the norm in Bollywood," said Akhtar.
"A famous Arabic poet once said: 'Let no man write poetry who doesn't know 200,000 couplets.' If not 200,000, I think our lyricists should at least know 2,000 couplets! They should expose themselves to a whole range of poetry to be able to some times write a bhajan, a lullaby, a qawwali or a cabaret number..."
Misra, who juggles a career in journalism with his other passions -- authoring books (he has written three so far) and writing lyrics (he wrote his first lyrics in college), attributed his success to his "small town sensibilities".
"Romance is dead in big cities. Nobody falls in love at first sight in a big town. This happens only in the small towns. I can relate to these small joys and write about them."
Misra, who sees Gulzar and Javed Akhtar as role models, wants to tread the "middle path". "I see Gulzar as a selfish writer. Selfish in a good way. For example, when he writes 'Kajra re' he is having fun, yet he is very creative. Many may not be able to relate to his surreal writing.
"But I try and tread the middle path. Like Javed, I want to be grounded in reality and like Gulzar, I want to take the occasional flight of fancy. I want to occupy a space in Bollywood by borrowing from both schools of thought."