Piyush Misra inspires vacuum cleaner salesman turned lyricist Swanand Kirkire

| Updated: 17 January, 2024 12:48 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Swanand Kirkire is a name that resonates with lovers of soulful and meaningful songs in Hindi cinema. He is the lyricist behind some of the most popular and acclaimed songs of the past two decades, such as ‘Piyu Bole’ from ‘Parineeta’, ‘Bande Me Tha Dum’ from ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’, ‘Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh’ from ‘3 Idiots’, and ‘Manwaa’ from ‘October’. He is also a versatile artist, who has worked as a playback singer, writer, assistant director, actor, and dialogue writer in various films and television shows.
But how did this man from Indore, who started his career as a vacuum cleaner salesman, become one of the most celebrated lyricists in Bollywood? What inspired him to pursue his passion for theatre and music? What were the challenges and struggles he faced in his journey? During an exclusive interview with The New Indian‘s Executive Editor Rohan Dua, Swanand Kirkire shares his story of transformation and success. He talks about his childhood, his family, his education, his mentors, his influences, his achievements, and his aspirations. He also reveals some interesting anecdotes and insights from his personal and professional life.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Rohan Dua: When your written songs fell on lyrics and went on to become the soulful music on the compositions of the Amitri Trivedi’s to the Shantanu Moitra’s, that is something which has brought a sense of relief, a sense of joy and sense of empowerment to all of us Indians. From a man from Indore, how did you become the Swanand Kirkire who brings such beautiful colours to the song in Mumbai?

Swanand Kirkire: My story is very simple. I come from a middle class Marathi family in Indore. Indore is the city of Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar. A lot of marathi people reside there. My father used to work in Bank of Maharashtra and my mother also did a job but both were singers, although during that time it was not easy to be a professional singer. They were disciples of Pandit Kumar Gandhar and that brought skills and traditions in my life.

I did many other things like even tried doing an NCC certificate but I wasn’t medically fit for it. Then I started working in various kinds of jobs like selling vacuum cleaners door to door. But one thing that I was really into was theatre. Music was present at home but my uncle used to do theatre. I thought I can’t do anything else but theatre, which I actually enjoyed, I should pursue that. Then I applied to the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi in 1993. I came to Delhi in 1992.

Rohan: By that time, did you have an interest in movies?

Swanand: Yes, the interest was already there. In Indore, movies used to release a day earlier.It used to be a testing ground. From art cinema to Manmohan Desai’s hardcore commercial cinema, I used to watch everything. By that time, VCR also came into the scene. Then I came to NSD where I studied design and direction. Then I met Piyush Mishra, who is a lyricist and writer, in a group. Seeing him I got inspired by him and then I started writing lyrics for the play, in my own way. In plays, I started doing direction. Although, I never thought I will become a lyric writer nor do I even have the calibre to it.

I used to sit in Mandi house and eat food there. Whenever I go to Delhi, I still visit Nathu sweets in the Bengali market. I used to go to the Refugee market and there were two specific dhabas that I ate in. I also used to cycle near India gate and then go to attend NSD classes.

Rohan: This was also a period when you were modest with your earnings, modest with your expenditure and not many avenues for revenue generation, but still you had the passion.

Swanand: This was during NSD when we got Rs 600 as stipend and then about 300 was spent on mess and all. So effectively we had Rs 250 in hand with which you had to live your life. Sometimes, to manage I used to do somebody’s makeup or play a small role in Doordarshan’s serial.

Rohan: Did you start writing songs from that time only?

Swanand: I started writing plays, starting translating them. I wrote songs for Hari Shankar Parsai’s play ‘ladi najariya’. I translated a play ‘chaltvat’ by a Marathi writer Vidhyadhar Pundli. I also wrote my own play ‘bela meri jaan’. When I was going out of NSD, I wrote a play based on Bhagat Singh’s documents which was played in NSD. I kept his ideology infront of people.

So that year was the 50th year of independence and a director named Manju Singh, who was commissioned by Doordarshan to do a show on Bhagat Singh saw my play on him. And since they needed a researched writer for it, which I was, she brought me to Mumbai from Mandi house. That was my entry into Bollywood. Unlike other people who go through alot of struggle, this wasn’t the case for me when I came here. I had work in hand and I came by a flight. They gave me a place to stay and I started my work. The show went on for about 2 years. Then after it got over, I came to realise about the true colours of Bombay.

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