From Codes to Cannes

posted by Meenakshi Negi, last updated on June 7th, 2012 at 3:38 pm


“Arrey, our Late Night Show writer was at Cannes!” “But why?” I asked. “You don’t know? He has penned lyrics for Anurag Kashyap’s latest movie based on coal mafia in Jharkhand. “Really?” I questioned and exclaimed in the same breath. Next obvious thing was an interview with him.

Quickly after introducing myself, I fired the first question at him (it was not a part of the interview and reeked of regionalism), “Being a Punjabi, how could you write such colloquial Bhojpuri Lyrics?” He chuckled for some time, paused and said, “I was born in Lucknow, studied at Banaras Hindu University and married a girl from Jharkhand. I was not even remotely close to the Punjab and Haryana region, so the culture had zero influence in my language.”

Varun Grover, an engineer by degree and a writer by obsession, has defied rules of the game the day he left his job of  a software engineer and came down to Mumbai. And what happened? He tells us his success story…


How did you get your first break as a writer?

After passing out from IT-BHU in 2003, I worked in Pune for short time with a software company, but I had an urge to work in a different field in a creative way . But with no friends, contacts or even a basic idea about how the TV or film industry worked, it would have been stupid to quit.  But it worked! After a year though. For the first year, I mainly did ghost writing (writing for other people with no credits and very little or no money) It was a thankless job but i kept on networking. Then finally in 2005, the first big break came my way through ‘The Great Indian Comedy Show’- a niche satire-based show, I started writing stand-ups with my co-writer, Rahul Patel.

Tell us something about your show on Colors ‘The Late Night Show’

The Late Night Show was a very big challenge for us, especially for me as a writer. Since we shifted from an open medium as internet where unabashed humour sells, we felt a little restricted. When we were to present the same show on a GEC, we had to watch our language, because it was meant for family viewing. There were legal and S&P issues. We had to be sarcastic, witty but in a more subtle way.

But, we still enjoy the challenge and people appreciate it.

How is your equation with the show host, Sumeet Raghavan?

Sumeet and I share a great rapport as a writer- presenter. His comic timing, his skills complement my scripts completely. I have known him for a very long time, much before we started working on TLNS. We have earlier worked together for one of MTV’s assignment, Ghoom,  a spoof on the movie Dhoom. He is a dream anchor to work with. I can’t think of any other name who can replace him.

What is your take on fiction shows?

I have worked on just one fiction show in my life and it didn’t enjoy at all. Funnily, the show also didn’t do well at all. As a writer, I think fiction dumbs everything down to the lowest common denominator in the society. I just hope not to be forced to write for fiction show ever in my life.

What kind of writing excites you; television or films?

I enjoy writing. Be it television, internet or films. I have never done anything that doesn’t excite me. Abhi uss zone mein nahi aaya ke majboori mein, ya EMI bharne ke liye kuch bhi likh doon.

Three differences between writing scripts for stand-ups on television and lyrics for films?

Stand-up related scripts are keyed into current affairs and existing socio-political issues, one needs to follow what’s happening around. There are deadlines to be followed, since television has rapid consumption. The longevity of the television content is very short-lived as opposed to any movie song. While writing a song we can take creative liberty and afford to let go of what’s happening around you and take your time to come up with your best creation.

Moving on to your latest achievement; how was the Cannes’ experience?

Absolutely brilliant! It was dreams come true! I am a big movie buff and I want to see all the movies across World Cinema, which is not possible unless you are a part of the world’s biggest film festival like Cannes.

How did this happen?

Well, I had written one song for Anurag (Kashyap) in That Girl in Yellow Boots by chance, since it was a low budget film. Since then I was desperately trying to get in touch with him, looking for an opportunity as a scriptwriter or even as a lyricist and bumped into him during one of the film festivals. He was busy talking to people and it was difficult for me to approach him. I somehow managed to say hi and asked for work. While leaving he asked me to get into the auto rickshaw and we started talking. I told him that I wanted to write for him, he got me in touch with Sneha Khanwalkar and asked us to figure it out. And I ended up writing four songs for Gangs Of Wasseypur.

Wow! So what’s next?

Nothing really, just the regular work.  Actually I am taking it easy. Waiting for GOW-I to release and GOW-II album to release. I have written seven songs in part two.

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