'Recently, I received a call from A R Rahman.'
'He said, "Someone wants to talk to you".'
'Ahmed Khan was a part of the conference call. He said, 'Mehboobbhai, I am making Heropanti 2 and you will write the lyrics".'
'"Let the three of us create the same magic".'
Many lyricists reach the point where they have dozens of successful songs in their repertoire quite late in their career.
But Mehboob, with an innate talent for wordplay, saw that meteoric rise at the very onset of his career in the 1990s.
Poor health at the turn of the century forced him to take a long break from his career but the seasoned songwriter is set to make his comeback with Heropanti 2
Heropanti 2 reunites Mehboob with A R Rahman and Ahmed Khan, the trio who worked together on the 1995 blockbuster Rangeela.
"When the three of us work together, it does not feel like work. It's more like creating something with your family," Mehboob tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh in the first of a fascinating two-part interview.
Where have you been all this while, Mehboobji?
(Laughs) I was here only.
Actually, I suffered from multiple slipped disc in 2003-2004 and was bed-ridden for seven-eight years.
I could not continue with work though I was constantly getting good offers.
I could not travel.
I could not sit properly.
I would be in pain most of the time.
As if that was not enough, my wife also started getting unwell. I thought it's better to take a break and prioritise our health.
How can you write beautiful lyrics if you are not in a good mental space?
A creative person cannot sit ideal for a long time. How did you keep yourself busy during the period?
Yes, it's indeed very difficult for creative people to do nothing.
Writers are fond of reading. I have been a voracious reader since childhood.
So whenever I would manage to bring myself to sit properly, I would pick up a book and read.
By the time my health started getting better and I thought it's time to get back to my passion, we were left to confront the pandemic.
During the entire lockdown last year, I did not leave the company of books.
In the middle of it, if a nice, catchy mukhda cropped up in my mind, I would immediately write it down and then go back to reading again.
That's how I kept myself busy all these years.
You are set to make your comeback with Heropanti 2. How did you land the project?
As you must be aware that A R Rahman, Ahmed Khan and I worked together on a film called Rangeela.
Ahmed choreographed the songs for the film.
I received the Filmfare RD Burman Award for writing the lyrics.
Rahman received two Filmfare Awards for his score.
So we were already a team.
We went on to work together on Lakeer, which marked Ahmed's directorial debut. Whether a film works or fails is all in His Hands, but people still remember the songs of that film.
We kept in touch with each other even when I was not well.
Rahman and I are very close to each other. We have worked on so many successful films whose songs are still a rage.
Recently, I was returning from a party when I received a call from Rahman.
He said, someone wants to talk to you.
Ahmed was a part of the conference call. He said, 'Mehboobbhai, I am making a film called Heropanti 2 and you will write the lyrics. Let the three of us create the same magic.'
When the three of us work together, it does not feel like work. It's more like creating something with your family.
I am proud to be making my comeback with Heropanti 2 with Ahmed and Rahman.
As you would probably agree, the entire landscape of Hindi film music has changed drastically over the past few years. Today's generation's understanding of lyrics, melody and music is quite different.
Do you feel any pressure to cater to their expectations?
Music is timeless.
You look at any singing reality show on Indian television today and you will find that everybody is singing those old timeless melodies.
Today's kids are singing songs from that bygone era, as far back as the '60s and the '70s. Why? Because those were timeless melodies.
They had meaningful lyrics and unforgettable tunes.
I often see contestants singing my songs like Kehna Hi Kya and Tadap Tadap Ke. It feels great.
I agree that with time, things change.
New people bring new ideas, fresh perspectives. But at the end of the day, only good things will hold the audience attention.
It has to be a perfect amalgamation of a powerful composition and meaningful lyrics for a song to stay in people's hearts till eternity.
While working on Heropanti 2, we are keeping the youth in mind.
But the youth also want good melodies and catchy lyrics, don't they? Their requirement is the same.
I see so many youngsters making social media videos on the '90s songs.
Recently, I saw a couple of nice videos on my songs like Yaaron Sun Lo Zara and Tadap Tadap Ke.
The craze for good things never goes out of vogue.