‘Ideas are like mangoes. There are two kinds.’

Like in Kannada cinema, where topnotch literary talents like Jayant Kaikini have given lyrics a good name, Bollywood is wafting on the wings of poets like Prasoon Joshi. The ad man from the Hills of Almora, whose lyrics for Rang de Basanti and Taare zameen par have left ears tingling and cash registers jingling, discusses the art and the craft in a superb interview with Guru Dutt‘s grandniece Nasreen Munni Kabir in the latest issue of Tehelka:

How do ideas for a song come to you?

We don’t choose ideas. Ideas choose us. We can’t grab a thought. A thought grabs us. You have to be receptive, ready to receive thoughts…. For example, there are two kinds of mangoes. The kind you pluck and then you wait till it ripens. And the kind that is ripe and falls on you—a tapke (just landed). They are the sweetest kind because nature is ready to offer it to you, while the others are premature. Songs are like that. Some just fall out of your imagination.

How does poetry express thought better than prose?

Through its economy. Take this example: Navak andaz jidhar deeda-e jana honge/ Neem bismil kai honge kai bajan honge (Wherever the eyes of my beloved fall/ Some are wounded, others slain). The idea is so precise. If you had to explain this in prose, you would have to write an entire page. And prose allows less participation. Why do you think prose is more loved? Because prose is for lazy people. Poetry is for people with a fertile imagination. It’s like a buffet. You must serve yourself because the meal will not be served at your table. It’s a pity we have mostly lost the passion for poetry.

Doesn’t music do the same?

Music is like a container but the content is poetry. I tell musicians, Sharab pahaunchhaa te aap hain, lekin sharab banaa te hum hain. (You deliver the wine, but we are the ones who make it.)

Read the full interview: Prose is for lazy people, poetry is for those with a fertile imagination