Q: As we all know Bollywood is all pervading, but I have been following your work keenly, and I would like to know, how does this transition from writing your own poetry to Bollywood lyrics come to you? Do different mindsets go into it? Or is it more or less the same?
Kamil: See, writing poetry is still my hobby. Writing lyrics is my profession. Writing my own poetry is my passion, while writing my lyrics, I earn my livelihood. So, yes, there is obviously a difference between them. Writing poetry does not seem like work for me. That is like refreshing myself, it is a way to relax, it is a hobby, a habit. So, switching from poetry to lyrics writing, or the opposite, to me, is not a very big deal.
Q: Sir, you have a lot of experience in the work that you do, working with eminent music directors, and having a PhD in Hindi. Who would you consider your role models in this field of lyric writing for films?
Kamil: Not a single person influenced me. I read a lot many books, a lot many poems and lyrics. There are a lot many poets, not all very ‘filmy’, and I liked their poems. I like Russian poet Rasul Hamzatov, I like reading Tagore as well, I like Bashir Badr and Wasim Barelvi as well, I like Japanese poet Kazuko Shiraishi as well, I like German poet Rilke as well. I like Punjabi poets Shiv Kumar Batalvi and Surjit Partar, I like Hindi poets Asad Zaidi, Nirala, Manglesh Dabral, Kumar Ambuj.
Q: And all this reading manifests into writing your own words and thoughts?
Q: And among the people, who have given your thoughts and words a more musical meaning, all the music composers and directors, whom do you enjoy working with most?
Kamil: More than the music director, what matters is the project. While making music a lot of people put in a joint effort. The director, music director, the lyricist, and even the writer of the story collaborate in making music for the film. It is a collaborative effort. There are some projects which were really enjoyable for me. Recently, I loved working with Vishal-Shekhar for Tiger Zinda Hai, I loved working with A.R. Rahman on Rockstar and Tamasha. I have done so many movies with Pritam! I have done most of my work with Rahman, Pritam and Vishal-Shekhar.
Q: Would you say one of your favourite directors is Imtiaz Ali, given you have worked on so many of his films?
Kamil: A man can choose a favourite only when he has a lot of choices (laughs).
Q: So would agree to the fact that you are Imtiaz Ali’s favourite?
Kamil: (laughs), Vice versa, I think!
Q: To talk about your versatility, you have written songs like “Kun Faya Kun”, and then again written songs like “Swag Se Karenge Sabka Swagat”. How do you switch between these many moods?
Kamil: Basically, when you are a driver, you can drive any car (laughs). When you are a writer, and a professional one at that, you should know how to write particular genres. You should know the right ingredients for a song like “Kun Faya Kun”, or, “Swag Se Swagat”, or, “Tune Maari Entriyaan”, or, “Agar Tum Saath Ho”.
Q: What are your next big projects lined up?
Kamil: I am working on Bharat now, starring Salman Khan. It is directed by my one of my favourite directors, Ali Abbas Zafar; one of the most friendliest people. I am working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, on Love Letters from Kashmir, I am working on the remake of Arjun Reddy, called Kabir Singh, starring Shahid Kapoor. And now, I almost starting on my next with Imtiaz Ali (laughs).
Interviewed by Anurag Mazumder