Bombay Showcase

Everyone’s a poet

Politics and poetry:Kapil Sibal made his Bollywood debut as a lyricist with the 2013 crime drama, Bandook .— Photo: Rajneesh Londhe  

It is now commonplace to see actors and artistes transition into the world of politics: Smriti Irani, the Union Human Resource Development Minister, is a case in point. But it isn’t everyday that you see a politician enter showbiz. Former Union Minister and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, 67, is one of the few politicos to make an occasional foray into Bollywood. This week, spot Mr. Sibal’s name in the credit roll of the Jimmy Shergill-starrer, Shorgul, as lyricist for two songs.

If you’ve been following Mr. Sibal on Twitter, you would know he’s a poet. Mr. Sibal has often shared his couplets on his timeline. “I have been writing poetry for a long time, but mostly in English. I wrote my first poem at the age of 13, in school. But it was three years ago, that I switched to writing in Hindi.” And what caused that switch? It was the desire to reach out to a larger audience, he says. “English poetry is somewhat esoteric. Not many buy English poetry books. I realised that I wanted my poetry to reach out to the masses. That’s when I switched to Hindi.”

Most of Mr. Sibal’s recent works are in Hindi, so it comes as no surprise that he chose to be lyricist for Shorgul , a political thriller. The movie is not Mr. Sibal’s Bollywood debut though. It was the 2013 crime drama Bandook . “I wrote a duet for Bandook , and Shorgul is my second film,” he says.

Mr. Sibal has penned two songs for Shorgul : ‘ Tere Bina ’, a love song, and ‘ Mast hawa hawa ’, an item number. “Writing ‘ Tere Bina ’ was a wonderful experience. Especially the final product, sung by Arijit Singh and accompanied to sitarist Niladri Kumar’s music, made my lyrics come to life. ‘ Tere bina ’ is about a young man missing his love after she’s gone. While the theme of the film is love, the context in which it is placed is political. It took a lot of effort to write these lyrics. Sometimes it’s difficult to write words in the context of the kind of music the director has imagined, and to ensure that the emotions of the words are consistent with the theme.”

Mr. Sibal belongs to the old school: not one to appreciate modern-day lingo and the quirky, sometimes meaningless Bollywood lyrics. “There is a lot of shorgul [chaos, noise] in today’s lyrics. I find these to be jarring to the ear.”

For him, it is of prime importance that his lyrics retain meaning and emotion. “Writing lyrics or poetry requires a considerable amount of thought and emotion. It isn’t instant coffee.”

Mr. Sibal’s favourite song-lyrics are from the films Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).

Despite Hindi being his favourite language, Sibal’s favourite poet is the 20th century American poet, E.E. Cummings. He is also a keen reader of William Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a special poem. Among Indian poets, Vikram Seth’s works resonate most with Mr. Sibal. His own poetry is a smorgasbord of themes, and covers the spectrum of human emotions. In the past, Mr. Sibal has written about the girl child, deprivation, religion, politics, and social movements like the one led by Anna Hazare against corruption.

Which of his own poems does he like most? “The one poem of my own I love is about how the poor go to temples and other places of worship to pray for a better life, but ultimately they remain poor. So this one angry young character in the poem questions god and asks what the point of praying is.”

Despite his poems receiving acclaim, Mr. Sibal’s biggest fans remain his grandchildren. “My grandkids insist on listening to the music albums I have recorded earlier with musicians like A.R. Rahman.” He firmly believes anyone can write poetry: “Every person has a poet in him or her. You don’t often recognise it, but it is very much there. Poetry comprises a multitude of emotions, and we humans are sentient beings. Now, how you translate those emotions into words is a process that requires some effort. To some it comes intuitively, others have to try harder. But everybody is a little bit of a poet.”

The writer is an intern with The Hindu

Writing lyrics or poetry requires considerable amount of thought and emotion. It isn’t instant coffee

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 1:30:57 PM |

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