Alok Shrivastav | Renowned poet and notable Bollywood lyricist, who is a critically and internationally acclaimed writer and author of Academy Award-winning books Aameen and Afreen, talks with SUPRIYA RAMESH about her poem for Rajesh Tailang’s short film Selfie, her Bollywood journey and
Tell us about your penchant for writing.
I always wanted to become a poet. When I told my mother that I wanted to become a poet and a writer, she hesitated at first, but then she told me to follow my dream. My father was quite reluctant about it. Angry about this, I used to go to my mother and tell her that I would become a successful writer and one day Jagjit ji and Pankaj Udhas ji would sing my ghazals. I was 15 at that time.
Later, my family supported me. When I was around 13, I spent a lot of time listening to ghazals. When my friends used to go out to play in the summer, a friend of mine and I used to bring tapes of Jagjit, Pankaj and others and play them on a tape recorder. We used to listen to them sitting in a closed room. When I turned 18, the passion ignited in me again. I met two friends who belonged to the fraternity of writers and also felt that it should not just be a hobby, but a profession. Since then, there has been no turning back.
Tell us about your Bollywood background and the projects you’ve worked on.
My literary works have been voiced by fire ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Jaswinder Singh, Sudeep Banerji, Shankar Mahadevan, Rekha Bharadwaj, Shaan, Kailash Kher, Richa Sharma, Javed Ali, Malini Awasthi, classical singer Ustad Rashid Khan , Shubha Mudgal and Amitabh Bachchan. I also collaborated with the famous sitarist Anoushka Shankar for the album Traveler, nominated for the Grammy Awards in 2012.
Then I was awarded as a lyricist for the award-winning Indian-American film Patang: The Kite and for the theme song of the film Can’t Take This Shit Anymore. The film won the national award in the Best Film on a Social Issue category. I gave lyrics in the multi-starred movie Vodka Diaries. His album, Eternal sung and composed by ghazal singer Jaswinder Singh received the AAMA award for best album of the year.
What was your experience with Rajesh Tailang when you worked for Selfie?
My association with Rajesh Tailang as an artist and friend has been around for a long time. We used to always think about working on something together. He had the idea to make this short film but he was stuck with the script and how to present it. Later, he approached me with the idea of presenting the short film in the form of a poem rather than a screenplay with dialogues. He told me the basic idea and his thoughts behind this film in order to write a poem to convey the story. You can tell that the short film is based on the poem and it portrays the whole story in a poetic way.
When did your creative association start with Amitabh Bachchan?
My creative association with him began almost 10 years ago. When Aadesh Shrivastav who was like my older brother and music composer listened to one of my poems, Aao Soche Zara, Aao Dekhe Zara Humne Kya Kya Kiya. He called me and told me that he wanted to make it a national song and wanted it to be recited by Mr. Bachchan. This is how my association started with Amitabh sir.
Aadesh Shrivastav sang this song and a few paragraphs were recited by Amitabh Bachchan, who was called Nation Song. It was released on all media platforms on August 15, 2012. After that, I sent him poems, sometimes he tweeted them.
In 2016, a program called Ek Nayi Subha, which was held in Delhi (India Gate) at the end of two years of current government, I was privileged to write content for the program alongside Amitabh Bachchan. Later he also recited my poem Main Naye Bharat Ka Chehra Hoon, which I had written for Doordarshan on their 60th anniversary and which went viral instantly.
I also worked with him at KBC as a consultant on several occasions. It was a privilege to share screen space with him. Since he is the son of a very great poetic personality, his generosity, love and respect for poems is phenomenal.
And he also shows that appreciation towards poets and writers. The best part of working with him is that he knows Hindi well. It gives you that ease and comfortable space to work with it. He also writes very well and the suggestions he gave while working were really compelling. Working with such a legend is like a great learning opportunity.
Tell us about your recent collaboration with Ashutosh Rana for writing the Hindi translation of Shiv Tandav Stotra.
For a long time Ashutosh ji had this wish to translate the Shiv Tandava Stotras into an easy language. So when he came up with this idea, I was interested and took it on enthusiastically.
I was very happy that with the blessings of Lord Shiva, I translated the shlokas beautifully and performed the whole thing effortlessly with him.
We are both very spiritual towards lord Shiva and working together for something like this is amazing. He recited some of my poems, but it’s something more important that we worked on.