When passion is your armor and creativity is the driving force, then success is the by-product. Laced with these two essential elements, Rajasthani lad Kunaal Vermaa has become a prominent name in the Hindi film industry. His abilities to write, compose and sing are earning him accolades and taking him places.
Kunaal has worked with almost all the renowned labels in Bollywood, including T-Series, Sony, Zee Music, Universal and many others. In the short span of his career, he had delivered many superhit songs like Chale Aana, Malang (From Malang), Ghar Se Nikalte Hi, Hasi, and many more. He has written hundreds of songs so far, and the career has just begun.
Anand Gupta from The City Stuff caught up with the effervescent artist, who unraveled those pages of his life which were hidden. He shared some explicitly interesting incidents. Here are the excerpts
Who kept your name and what was the thought behind it?
Ans: My father kept my name. I once asked him, he said that there was one actor Kunaal Kapoor who happened to be Raj Kapoor’s relative. His movie released at that time. He liked the name and Christened mine behind him. He wanted to keep a name that would sound new always in any era.
When did you start writing?
Ans: I started writing in 2002, and I continued writing like an amateur until 2009. During that period, I didn’t know what to do, I was doing my designing got quite busy with that. I would come home and write something that got me addicted to. However, I gave a gap of 1-2 years in the writing.
How did you get back to it?
Ans: When I got in touch with people having no know-how about writing, I became friends with them. They inquired why did I stop writing and then guided me again toward it. They encouraged me for music and lyrics and told me that poetry is a good thing, but for creating an identity indulging in lyrics writing would be beneficial. Then I started listening to lots to of music and reprised them. It became my practice. In the meanwhile, I was also working with several new composers like Amit Mishra, who did a song “Hasi” (Hamari Adhuri Kahani) with him and Ved Sharma.
There were many other people I was in contact with through social media. They used to send me something or the other, and my practice would happen. Then, I when was convinced that I had to make music, I shifted my focus from designing. And then started meeting musicians and composers. There I got to know how music is composed and created. Then I started working on my solo album. Everything started happening on its own after this link by link.
What was the process of the solo album? Can you please brief a little?
Ans: That was my writer-composer album which had 12 songs. I exhausted all my funds at some point while accomplishing the audios in whatever capacity I had. Then I felt the urge for someone to sponsor in the making of videos. I kept on meeting people for a while, but nothing happened. Once I went to Delhi, and I had a friend (Sachin) from Jaipur. He had his boss (Sanjay) in the car. He had come from Vadodara. He had my CD in the car and played them and liked it and agreed to pay for the videos. He called me to Vadodara, and we talked. Created videos; some videos worked others did not.
How did you start in films?
Ans: I did some Rajasthan films, did some albums and lent my voice to some songs. But I could not connect to the masses. However, I did reach the Rajasthani audience. But I had a bigger hunger than that. And suddenly in 2014, I received a call from Ami Mishra. He told me that Bhat (Mahesh Bhat) wants to meet you, come tomorrow. When I visited his office, I got to know the song ‘Hasi Ban Gaye’, which I wrote for Ami a long ago he liked it a lot. He wanted to include that in the film. Also, he had other things to discuss. A female version was there to be written, and I volunteered to write that authoritatively. I wrote the song the next day. Overall it took us three days to complete the song. And from there, my journey in Bollywood started.
Has the behavior of your friend changed after your success?
Ans:- See, I have thousands of friends. Now, the circle has become bigger. I have a few and close friends here (Rajasthan) who still are my friends. And in Mumbai, where I work with many people, but can call a few people my family. They are really good people. I don’t believe in numbers (friends).
What is the contribution of your friends in life?
Ans: The contribution of my friends in my life is immense. Since childhood, there are a few people who’ve held my hand and strolled along, even now. Come what may, whatever I become, their behavior will never change for me. They can still scold me on the phone. There were some people who came and left. However, they taught me a lot. They all are quite valuable to me because I chose them.
During your journey, who was your mentor or guru?
Ans: I’ve learned a lot from my friend. We’ve been together since we were in grade 7. He makes me understand my every mistake. I stay and spend most of my time with him, even more than my family. He always taught me to become a better person in life. He has scolded me for that. He’s the only person to whom I pay heed to the maximum. So, the first credit goes to him. His name is Dinesh. And the time that I’ve spent alone has taught me a lot. It has taught me what I am. So, feel “Time” is the big mentor. Besides, there’ Sanjay Ji (discussed earlier) and Ansh, my friend. And there are many more people.
In the industry, Bhat Sahab, Mohit Suri, Amaal Malik, Mr Dev, Sajid-Wajid sir, Bhushan Ji from T-series have cared for me like a child.
While preparation which writers do you like to read, write and listen to?
Ans: The songs they write are my favorite, not them as such. I feel a good song can be written by anyone. And every writer cannot write a good song every time. But sometimes they surprise with their writing. Then, I’m forced to become their fan.
Virag sir is there, Manoj Muntashir, my most favorite is Amitabh Bhattacharya,
How is your camaraderie with the contemporary lyricist?
Ans: Well, whatever I like about a writer, I always congratulate them doesn’t matter how big or small they are. I have good relations with all. But they are a few writers I meet with quite a warmth, and we share a healthy competition. Whenever we meet, I say you’ve written that particular line so well, next time I’ll write better. There’s a very healthy relation among Rashmi-Virag sir, me and Vayu.
When did you feel that ‘you have arrived?’
Ans: The moment came after a while in my life, because after writing “Hasi” I went back. And ‘Hasi’ had not become hit by then. It only gained popularity after the film (Hamari Adhuri Kahani) released. I was in Jaipur during the time and started living here. I felt arrived when I wrote ‘Chale Aana’ (De De Pyar De) for Amaal. But there was time for its release. During the period, I had also written “Ghar Se Nikalte Hi”, a classic song written by Javed Akhtar Sahab. I was nervous as it was a huge responsibility to fill his shoes. And whoever heard this song told me that the level of the song was really high. It was a level up, they said.
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Do you remember your first autograph, how was the experience?
Ans: It happened during the launching of my album. I had gone backstage. There were many people in the audience to whom I signed my autograph. I remember that vividly.
Tell us about the compliments that touched your heart?
Ans: I have received several compliments. People love me. During the wrap-up party of Half Girlfriend (wrote songs) at Ekta Kapoor’s residence a little earlier than the usual scenario. I found Mohit Suri sir there. He told me that you write very well. I said thank you, sir. He reiterated that you seriously write really well. He compared me with the legendary Anand Bakshi sahib and advised me to write from outside the city (Mumbai). He calls me Rajadhani because I’m from Rajasthan and write swiftly.
What is the process behind the song Chale Aane?
Ans: People usually make up stories when things become hit. But what I’m telling you happened to me in reality. It so happened that the girl I loved then didn’t pick up my call late at night and lots of insecurities and negativities surrounded my mind. I took my car and drove it in the entire Jaipur. I was driving it till 4:30 AM. No one stopped me. I thought that when something would happen to me, then she’ll realize. But nothing like that happened. I reached my home, storms were strolling within me. I wrote three songs that day, and I didn’t know when I slept. When I woke up, the first song I saw was Chale Aana. The other song has released too, and the third one will soon release in a film.
The same day evening Amaal (singer) called up and asked for a sad song. But I refused him due to a bad vibe. But then I saw his message and his composition fit my lyrics perfectly. I called up and said that I’ve done some stupidity and if you get it and sent him the lyrics. He jumped with joy and shouted Bro, you will have to come to Mumbai right now. Since then, I’m in Mumbai. I also started working for Pritam Da by then.
What is your camaraderie with Ravindra Upadhyay?
Ans: Ravindra bhai never shies away from working with budding talent. In our Rajasthan industry, he is the most supportive person. He’s that person who inspired us. So, respect comes naturally to him. He worked with us during the time when we were clueless. He still supports me. Whenever he calls me for some work, I feel really nice and proud.
Tell us about your relation with Rapperiya Baalam?
Ans: He is an excellent musician. I’ve learned a lot from him. But after a point, there comes a time that two people with different ambitions should change their track. He wanted to be a rapper, and I wanted to be a writer. I had to do the Rajasthani flavor to an extent. I always felt that I had a bigger hunger. Then I went to Mumbai, and he’s still working here. I follow his work, doing great. We still talk, everything is fine. People say we don’t work together anymore. I have never spoken about it before. We have worked respectfully with each other, and I appreciate that.
Take us through your process of producing lyrics?
Ans: First I receive a situation from the director. Then, sometimes I receive a melody from the composer, or sometimes I write it. When the format is created, the director asks me to finalise it. Sometimes actors also give their input as they have an image in their mind. For example, during the shooting of De De Pyar De, Luv Ranjan sir(Pyar Ka Punchnama series) called me, while dubbing the song Chale Aana. He said Ajay Devgn had suggested some changes in the lyrics, so some words were flipped in it. “Sun lo” was changed to “Jaan Lo”. So, sometimes actors also suggest the changes, and I don’t have a problem with that. A director has a vision, and he knows what and how to shoot. So, it (words of lyrics) should fit the situation.
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Has there been an incident that touched your heart during work?
Ans: (Giggles) Let me tell you a lovely thing. I was working with Sajid-Wajid sir (working on a big project). I feel we do not have a relation of senior-junior but that of younger and elder brothers, like a family. They support me in everything. Once we were working in their small flat on Sunday. Four people happened to come to meet them, 2 were from Gujarat and the other 2 from Rajasthan.
They were talking about events and businesses. I was in my writing zone and was working on my phone. I speak less. Suddenly, sir said sorry I didn’t introduce you to him. He said, he’s Kunaal he’s a very good writer. The guests exclaimed, Kunaal Vermaa? And sir stared at me. And then they started unwrapping information about me, calling all my songs as favorites. And I was looking at them awestruck.
Sir said you are a “rockstar”. And when next time I came to Jaipur he gave me a list of items to be purchased. And when I went back, we met Sohail Khan sir. He gave the sweet to him and quipped that Kunaal has got it and he’s a very popular writer. Such things feel really good.
Where do you write? Do you need some room or a place to write?
Ans: No, it is not like that with me. There are different types of writers in the industry. There’s a writer who writes in his vibe, and what he feels like, does not work under pressure. Some writers work as per the situation. But I’m always in writing. People know me because they know if I have 1 hour or even half an hour, I will complete the song, irrespective of mood or zone. I’m habitual of writing 6-8 songs a day.
I know how to switch to another song after finishing one. I know how to switch mood from sad to romantic to a party number. My known people tell me that the mind setup I have swiftly jumped from one thing to the other.
Do you write for yourself too?
Ans: When I’m alone I write for myself, but it doesn’t stay with me (giggles), someone or the other takes that from me. Sometimes when I put a status, Amaal calls me up, Bhai deletes that, it’s mine (laughs).
Have you sought formal training in music as you sing very well?
Ans: I’ve learned guitar while making music so that when I’m writing, I know things. I have helped out several musicians with melody, and they have featured in several films. So, it tells me that I know music and I’m also a composer.
And when Bhushan Ji (Kumar, T-series) heard my songs, he has offered me songs back to back as a composer. My first song was Phir Mulaqat in Cheat India (starring Emraan Hashmi). Then I got to work on Armaan’s single, followed by Adnan Sami’s single, which is a big deal for me. I’ve made music and written for Akhil Sachdeva’s single. And several projects and films are coming up. I feel I’ll also do playback. I was working on my album as well, which got halted due to Corona. I’ve covered some of my favorite songs that will release soon.
Which singer do you want to work with and couldn’t work with so far?
Ans: I’ve worked with all the singers almost including Arijit Singh, Jubin Nautiyal, Darshan Raval, Arjun Kanungo and many more. I don’t think there’s anyone left. But yes, you can say about music composers. I want to work with Rahman, sir (AR Rahman) and Vishal Dadlani.
Have you helped someone to get a job in the industry?
Ans: New composers pitch their compositions to writers as they work in all labels and with every composer. And a writer has the power to introduce an excellent talent to someone. And I’ve collaborated with some people and their songs are coming in films.
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You write in a simple language, yet it touches chords of heart, how does that happen?
Ans: Earlier, I used to write in Urdu and weighty words. That was my style. But when ‘Hasi’ became hit, people started asking me, please give us something like “Hasi”. Later on, I realised it had become my USP. And people tell me that they require it simply because it is tough to write it.
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Where do these words come from?
Ans: I spent a lot of time with people during my leisure. I love meeting new people, listening to their stories. While speaking, they say something, where I find my song. I’ve done this several times. I have a song in Saina Nehwal’s film, which is due to release. That song came about when someone said something to me during gossiping. And when you listen, you’ll find them we all say this to everyone, but no one thought of writing a song on it.
As you said, you like spending time with people, so how are you coping up with Lockdown due to Corona Virus?
Ans: I have spent more than half of my life alone. Because I’m a writer. So, even when I’m sitting with 20 people, I’m alone. I’ve spent so much time with myself that I never feel bored in my company.
However, I’m unable to enjoy my cravings like relishing tea at a vendor or driving. But the best thing is I’m getting to spend a lot of time with my parents after a long time. I’m having food cooked by my mother, which I missed a lot. I can sleep anytime and at any moment. I’m able to write peacefully for myself, and there is no noise for deadlines anymore.
Take us through the tour of your childhood memory lanes.
Ans: When I was 10 years old, we used to live in a joint family with my uncles. When my grandfather expired, we shifted to his hometown (Sri Madhopur), where I’m right now. He also had a joint family, so we live with them. I studied in Pawta, near Kotputli till grade 6. After that, I got admitted to a private school and studied there till class 10th. And then I took admission into a government school. Then I did my college through distance, started working, and my journey to Jaipur started. I left my village.
Fav Film: Gangster
Fav Web Series: The hundred
Fav Food: Aloo Gobhi and Baingan ka Bharta cooked by mom.
Song: Raakh, written by Vayu
Fav One Liner: Marne k liye paida thode na hue hain