Inheritance cannot be called nepotism: Javed Akhtar

Veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar spent most of his time at his house in Khandala during the lockdown and is in love with its picturesque location. “Within 1 hour 30 minutes from my house here [in Mumbai] you are on a hill station with clouds coming into your room and you have complete calm and no sound,” says the Padma Bhushan awardee.

Ask Akhtar, 75, says if there will be an added pressure to come up with quality scripts and lyrics owing to the time everyone has had during the lockdown, and he says, “The pressure has always been there corona or no corona (laughs). People are not willing to take anything mediocre. It has to offer something new or fresh. This is not the time where ‘sab kuch chalta hai’.” 

A recipient of five National Awards and a Sahitya Akademi awardee, Akhtar is the current Chairman of IPRS (The Indian Performing Right Society). He has been a part of the industry for more than five decades, and says that latest Bollywood lyrics “don’t irritate him”. “You need item songs also because the situation demands. I have written Hawa Hawai (Mr India;1987), Ek Do Teen (Tezaab; 1988), etc. They were item songs in a way. If you have a film and have five item songs, then that doesn’t work. You should have all kinds of songs,” he shares.

About the transition in the kind of language used in songs as well as the dialogues, Akhtar says, “On one hand I have great appreciation of good writers in films. On the other hand, there are films where you see bad and crude language and unnecessary vulgar expression. I wonder if it helps the box office at all.” 

In recent months, Bollywood as an industry has been making the headlines for a number of allegations. Commenting about the hot topic of nepotism, Akhtar says, “Inheritance cannot be called nepotism”. He further adds, “I think people are confusing inheritance with nepotism. In film industry, nepotism is not possible because ultimately, the person who is buying the ticket at the box office is the voter and that cannot be rigged. May be somebody born in a film family has a foot in the door, but that’s about all.”

About the recent drug abuse allegations in the Hindi film industry, he says, “As far as the drugs are concerned, it is the malice of the society. I have only heard and I have not seen any drug with my own eyes. But I have heard the young people tend to use drugs, but that is not just in film industry, it is the current malice of the society. That should be looked into. And I don’t know what is illegal and what is legal.” 

Akhtar, who was awarded the famous Richard Dawkins Award earlier this year, says that he has not encountered favouritism or groupism in the music fraternity. “You see Shankar-Jaikishan, Naushad and Shakeel, etc. Yes, there are people like PR Chopra who had Sahir as his songwriter. Yash Chopra also worked with Sahir for so long. It is a level of comfort. When you work with each other, you develop a sense of understanding and your communication is perfectly honed,” he concludes.

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