Couldn't even imagine dreaming the Bollywood dream: lyricist-writer Puneet Sharma

Radhika Sharma

New Delhi, Jun 2 (PTI) For someone who had no connection with literature and cinema, lyricist-poet Puneet Sharma could write a verse or two but never dreamt of heading to the film industry in Mumbai for work.

The writer, who most recently gained acclaim and popularity with his blistering poem 'Tum Kaun Ho Bey?' at the anti-Citizenship Amendemnt Act protests, was an everyday middle-class boy who ended up studying science as that's what good students are expected to do.

'I used to write but just for the sake of it, for fun or in love. But I never thought I'll make a career out of it. I took up science as a subject since arts were chosen by those children who were good-for-nothings. I was even praised for choosing BSc in biotechnology in college,' Sharma, who hails from Indore, told PTI in an interview.

By graduation, the writer was sure science wasn't his calling but still there were no plans to enter films.

'It was such far-fetched idea to go to Bollywood that even dreaming about going to Mumbai was an impossible dream.' Sharma said he was set to do masters in business administration but ultimately decided to not go for the course as he couldn't afford to waste precious years of his life paying student loans.

'I'm stills scared of taking loans. I haven't till now. I faced a lot of heat at home because of this decision for one-two years. I lived with the tag of 'berozgaar' (unemployed) for quite some time. In second year of college, my father passed away. So there are many problems in a middle class family,' he said.

In 2008, he got a job in a radio channel and a year into the medium he decided to go to Mumbai.

'I studied and read a lot in my three years in radio. I did theatre, wrote plays and songs. It was then I realised that if I want to reach out to many people and earn money, I will have to go into films.

'I wanted to be so equipped and trained with the technical knowledge of the industry that no one could say 'you don't know how to do this',' he added.

The lyricist, who has films such as 'Aurangzeb', 'Revolver Rani', 'Bareilly Ki Barfi', 'Sanju', 'Laal Kaptaan' to his credit, said he knew how to write poetry but was clueless about writing as per tune.

For that, Sharma said he used to listen to songs across genres and write parodies of popular tracks like that of iconic Swedish band ABBA's.

'I made parodies in English and other languages. But I didn't touch Hindi songs as I feared I would end up judging myself,' he said.

When he felt he was ready for Mumbai, Sharma said, there was still one person he needed to talk to. It was actor-singer Piyush Mishra, his inspiration since theatre days.

'I arranged his number via my radio contacts. I called him up and asked him to hear me out. I said I'll come to Mumbai to struggle.

'But he told me, 'It won't work this way. If you want to be here, you will have to come here with bags. I don't know if you are talented or not. But if you think you are, then come. And if you have talent, you will get work one day'.' Sharma had his fair share of struggles and believes it's rare for a song in a film's soundtrack to work on its own if the project doesn't work.

'First film that worked and the song that was liked was 'Bairaagi' from 'Bareilly Ki Barfi'. Then 'Sanju' happened. When films started working, the songs also started getting recognition. And when that happens, people start searching about you.' But his raw 'Tum Kaun Ho Bey?' poem, which questioned the self-proclaimed contractors of society, brought him out of the shadows.

''Sanju' got me the fame but what was bigger here was that nobody asked me to write it. I had written the poem long ago, but that was the day when I couldn't control myself, I just read it. I have a problem with these things that whatever has been passed off as tradition that is the only way to go about life. Who are you to tell me how to live my life?' he asked.

Next for Sharma is Shoojit Sircar's upcoming satire 'Gulabo Sitabo', for which he has penned two songs -- the film's introductory song 'Jootam Phenk', coincidentally sung by Mishra and 'Kanjoos', voiced by Mika Singh.

'Gulabo Sitabo' is a quirky tale of two slimy scheming foxes -- landlord Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and tenant Banke (Ayushmann Khurrana) -- in a game of one upmanship.

While 'Jootam Phenk' describes the Tom and Jerry-like equation between the two characters, 'Kanjoos' defines Bachchan's character of the miserly Mirza.

'The first song says that God hasn't kept anyone free from troubles. 'Na jaane kya mann mein aayi upar wale ne banwaayi har ek choohe ki... billi ek' - That's how for every mouse, there is a cat waiting in the bushes. The subtext of the song is that life is full of problems,' Sharma, who earlier collaborated with Sircar on a short film, said.

Sharma is also attached to write an untitled satire comedy for Maddock Films, another project which he is co-writing film with 'Neerja' director Ram Madhvani and a web series he is attached to co-write with director Tigmanshu Dhulia. PTI RDS BK BK