Kausar Munir is a gifted poetess who has taken Bollywood and the music industry in general by storm in a short span of time. A female lyricist in a predominantly male-dominated profession, Munir has made a mark with her meaningful lyrics and captivating poetry.

In a chat with Journey India, Kausar Munir shares the story behind the lyrics of the Coke Studio song ‘Naariyaan,’ the categorisation of women, her journey with the song and the long road ahead

Journey India: What made you pen down the lyrics for ‘Naariyaan’? What were some of the emotions or situations associated with creating the lyrics?

Kausar Munir: Coke Studio was a rare opportunity to express myself freely- no brief, no script, no bosses! So naturally, it was the best possible platform for me to speak about what matters to me, about being a woman in a world were gender perceptions are skewed. I addressed that skewed perception through ‘Naariyaan.’

Journey India: The song looks at how women are always labelled into categories. Could you please share your thoughts on that?

Kausar Munir: Women, all over the world, are either venerated or berated - when that is farthest from the truth. I wanted to express a very basic truth, which sadly should be a given and not need retelling- that women should not be categorised as only black or white. It’s unjust and dehumanising. We are every shade in the book and then some more, not just devis (goddesses) or daasis (servants)!

Journey India: The song has very serious and powerful lyrics. What were some of the emotions you went through while it was being produced for Coke Studio?

Kausar Munir: I felt a sense of urgency to set the bar right on the unfair ‘categorisation’ of women. Popular culture has always promoted the mother-sister versus the slut image of women and this was my chance to use the same medium to at least put my voice out there.

Journey India: How does it feel to have your lyrics evolve from idea to reality?

Kausar Munir: It felt great to have no directives or ‘feedback.’ To be able to hear my words put to song, the way they were meant to be.

Journey India: What did you want your audience to take away from this song?

Kausir Munir: I hope that the take away is to get a better understanding of women. That we are as frayed and flawed as we are wonderful- basically we’re human!

Journey India: Were you at all anxious about the response to this song?

Kausar Munir: I suppose, it has the risk of being misunderstood. Especially in the male part, which is clearly a sardonic voice. Where he is cautioning the woman that what she is saying may not be heard or just heard superficially. I was anxious for the state of gender perception to be brought out right in the song J

Journey India: How was it collaborating with Amit Trivedi? Has he done justice to your lyrics with his composition?

Kausar Munir: It’s always a great joy to work with Amit Trivedi. He’s an original talent, a genuine human being and a wonderful friend. He responds to words straight from the heart and that’s why his music is so pure. This track is such a work of pride for me.

Journey India: The lead female vocalist Shalmali, plays an instrumental role in bringing out the lyrics of this song. How was it working with her? What makes her the right fit for this song?

Kausar Munir: Shalmali’s first song ‘Pareshaan’ from Ishqzaade was with Amit and me, so it felt a bit like a homecoming for this team. There’s a surprising quality in Shalmali’s voice, a khanak (jingle) that she brings to every song. This unique sparkle was required for the song.

Journey India: What is the kind of music which gets you excited? What kind of music do you want to be able to work on?

Kausar Munir: From Hindustani vocals to western classical piano, from old Hindi film songs to experimental jazz- all good music gets me excited. And when there are memorable words/lyrics in songs, it matters a lot to me. I can’t get past lazy thoughts and forced rhymes!

I’d like to work on a project where words are as important as the music, where melody is given more prominence tan it usually is. Music and lyrics have to be equal partners. 

Journey India: What are you working on next?

Kausar Munir: I am working on my own free verse poetry (nazms) right now.