Home » Interviews » “The songs written by Majrooh Sultanpuri saab are immortal” – Vijay Akela

‘Rahein Na Rahein Hum Mehka Karenge’, the recently released book that has been authored by Vijay Akela, is a compilation of some of the most memorable film songs written by the late Majrooh Sultanpuri who has been accorded the status of a legend in Hindi cinema. Apart from writing songs for films like ‘Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai’ and ‘Krrish’, Vijay has been a popular radio jockey for years. In the past he has written books on Anand Bakshi and Jan Nisar Akhtar and has published a couple of books like ‘Lashkar’ which feature poetry written by him.

In this interview, he talks about the long process of putting together and publishing this book, memories of Majrooh Sultanpuri, journey as a creative artist, upcoming projects and more.

Take us through the process of writing this ‘Rahein Na Rahein Hum Mehka Rahenge’.

The process of writing a book is always interesting for me. We spend our time with the poems or verses written by our favourite shaayars. When we write about a favourite shaayar, we try to delve into the emotions behind his words. We discover many things when we write a book about him. You might have heard a song written by him a hundred times but when you start dissecting it, you discover many things about it which you hadn’t discovered earlier. I had submitted this book fifteen years back. For some reason, it got delayed. Back then, audio streaming platforms were not there. I would listen to Majrooh saab’s song on CDs and cassettes and write them down. I am glad I went through this process as the lyrics you find uploaded on the internet are inaccurate. Sometimes, singers also mispronounce words while singing a song. I had to keep these factors in mind while writing the book.

You had once uploaded a picture of you interviewing Majrooh Sultanpuri on social media. What were your personal interactions with him like?

I had the good fortune of meeting Majrooh saab several times. I would like to share the memories of my last meeting with him which I have also described in the book. I had an appointment with him at 5 pm on a particular day. I had taken some friends along with me from University of Mumbai where I was a student. We reached around half an hour late. Majrooh saab told us that he doesn’t want to be late for his walk because of us arriving late. He said he will spare 10 minute for us. Because of limited time, I had a very brief conversation with him that day and couldn’t ask him an important question. In the song ‘Jaane Waalon Zara’ from ‘Dosti’, he wrote, “iss jahaan ke liye, dharti maa ke liye Shiv ka vardaan ho tum……”. I wanted to know why he referred to Lord Shiva and not some other deity here.

What, do you think, made him stand out from his contemporaries?

His desipana. He was somebody who was very close to his roots. He had brought the flavour of Sultanpur, his hometown in Uttar Pradesh, with him. He always rose up to the challenges. He was always invested in his work. He devoted his entire life to writing poetry and lyrics. The songs written by Majrooh saab are immortal.

With several bookstores closing down across the world, do you think there has been a decline in readership?

No, people are still reading a lot. In fact, there are far more readers today than there ever were. Ask any publication house and they will tell you that books are selling more than ever. Though there are less bookstores today, people are ordering books from e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart. Villages never had bookstores but now Amazon delivers books in the remotest of areas. Today, you will come across serious readers in small towns and villages in India. 

Picture credits: Raju Asrani Photography

As a lyricist, you started your career with the chartbuster song “Ek Pal Ka Jeena” from ‘Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai’. There have been many memorable songs after that like ‘Mujhe Mohabbat Si’ from Sunali and Roop Kumar Rathod’s private album ‘Mohabbat Ho Gayee’ and ‘Dil Na Diya’ (‘Krrish’) but you didn’t write a lot of songs for films. Why, do you think, you didn’t get your due as a lyricist?

Sometimes, people reach a certain position in life and to ensure that they remain there, they engage in a lot of unethical practices. I am not complaining but those who have worked in the industry are aware that such things happen. Connections become more important than merit or talent. I don’t want to run after music directors to give me work. I lead a very busy life and am content with all the opportunities I have got. I have worked as a radio jockey for several years. I write books. I am busy with work all the time.

You are from Bihar. Which city or town were you born in?

I was born and brought up in Patna. My father Mr. Devnandan Sinha was an engineer. I got attracted to poetry at a very early age. Initially, I wanted to become an actor but destiny led me towards becoming a journalist. Writing became my biggest passion and I explored it in different forms.

Why did you assume the pen name Akela?

I don’t remember this exactly. I was 15 years old when I adopted this name. Perhaps, because I liked solitude and talking to myself.

You have been planning to make a film for some time.

Yes, I want to make a film. I had a script which I pitched to many producers but things didn’t fall into place. Now, I am planning to make a film for an OTT platform. I will be investing my own money in it. The tentative title of the film is ‘Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye’. There are many books in the pipeline. I wrote extensively during the lockdown period. I have written another book on Majrooh saab which will come out soon. In that book, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Sanjay Lela Bhansali, Shailendra Singh, Jatin Pandit and many other luminaries from the fraternity have spoken about Majrooh saab.