Saturday, December 15, 2007


Who : Shankar Mahadevan
About : Singer, One third of Music Director trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

How it happened : Interview with Shankar Mahadevan
Interview Date: October, 2000
Place: Bahrain
Pics: None

He is the breathless guy. The guy who sets you thinking, ‘Can somebody be this good ?’ From classical music, to pop music, to film music to bhajans to international music. He has done it all. Music is his first love. He composes music with Ehsaan Noorani, and Loy. He is a part of a Scandinavian band. He has apparently song a song in ONE breath. He was called a child prodigy when he started performing excellently with a Harmonium, though he had never seen one before. He started singing at the age of 11. He has got songs like Hindustani, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Bumbro and Dillagi under his belt. He has also composed music for films like Dus, Dillagi and Mission : Kashmir. And on top of it all, he is a qualified software engineer, who once worked for Oracle. One can’t be surprised more. I caught up with him to chat about all this and much more !

Nikhil Taneja (NT) : How would you define music ?
Shankar Mahadevan (SM) : Music is second to breathing, for me.

NT : You are a qualified software engineer. Then what made you to take up singing and composing music ?
SM : I did my software engineering as part of my academic activity. What happens is that in school, you have a lot of friends and you go on studying and you may be bright in your studies. Then, you take a lot of decisions based on what is happening around you. There is a group of 10 friends, and everybody is going in for engineering, and engineering was the in thing, so I went for engineering. In engineering, computer science was the in thing, so I went for computer science. I then completed it and started working for Oracle. But, there is a time when you realize that you have to take the life’s decision. That’s no longer a college decision, or a decision of what to study or anything. ‘Now, is this what you want to go on doing for your entire life ?’ You ask yourself that question. And I asked myself the question. And the answer I got was that I want to be a singer, and be in music. I just suddenly decided that and I quit working for Oracle.

NT : So, was getting into the field of music your ambition in life ?
SM : I was always in music. Even when I was studying in college, I used to perform a lot, tour a lot. Even when I started working , I used to record a lot, as it is, though I was working. So, my ambition was always music.

NT : What suits you more – singing or composing music ?
SM : Anything to do with music. Whether it is singing for some other music composer, or composing for somebody else or composing for myself, composing for films, ad work, audio-visuals, theatre, plays, ghazals, bhajans, natya sangeet, anything. Music is music.

NT : You shot to fame with breathless. Who or what influenced you to sing such a song ? And did you actually sing it in one breath ?
SM : This must be the 3,000,000th time I am answering this question. But, no it was not in breath. And as far as what influenced me goes, it was just an idea that Javed Akhtar and I got. And we worked on the idea. It was a concept. It takes time to make a concept into a real song. So you have to work n the lyrics, work on the melody, work on the arrangements, work on a lot of stuff, it takes time. It was not a thing that suddenly happened. It had to be worked on a lot.

NT : Tell us something about your latest album
SM : I am doing all kinds of stuff. As far as albums are concerned, the latest ‘film album’ which I have done is Mission : Kashmir. I have done it’s music, I have sung for it also, for Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt, you must be knowing that. And then there is a world music album, with Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi, it’s called Rydhun, which is doing very well. Then, I did a Marathi album, which will be out now, I also did a Gujrati album. I am doing a lot of Tamil Songs – I am singing in Tamil films. I am planning my second album, after my main album, with Javed ji, which will be out in January or February.

NT : Don’t you think that youngsters are getting influenced by film songs and classical music is slowly declining ?
SM : Classical music in our country is so huge, and so deep, that even in any country, classical music can never have the mass appeal as much as Pop Music, or the Mass Music. This is the same in Western Classical Music, North Indian – South Indian Classical Music, wherever we go. It’s always like this. Classical music is for the classes. Always. It’s been like that. But the depth of the music is so much – It’s like an ocean. These things are just small, little things, you know - Pop music, or Rap music, or whatever you call it. They can’t change an ocean. It’s like that. Everything is based on classical music.

NT : When you are assigned to compose music for a film of a particular theme, then what type of music do you compose for that film ?
SM : It’s very important for you to give the colour of the music equal to the theme of the film. It’s very important. For example, if it’s Mission : Kashmir, obviously, as the name suggests, that you are talking about Kashmir. You have to use, probably words and probably instruments, which relate to that region. We’ve used a lot of Middle – eastern and kind of Arabic and hilly area instruments. That obviously gives you a particular colour, a particular feeling of being in that region. It’s very important to do that.

NT : If Dus would have been released today, would it have made any difference to your career as a music director ?
SM : Yes, what is happening to us after Mission Kashmir is going to release, would have happened to us three years back. Because, that was a very very big film. Even though that the film didn’t release, you saw that the song, Sabse Aage Honge Hindustani, has become a major major hit. It’s become second to the National Anthem right now. But, if it would have released, I am sure that the film would have done extremely well. And, it would have taken us somewhere else, but it’s never too late.

NT : You seem to enjoy working in groups. Tell us something about your group, Mynta. And what is the significance of the name of this group ?
SM : Mynta means mint. It is as simple as that. Mint is a very important spice in Sweden. It’s a Scandinavian group. They are a bunch of lovely music to be with. And their music is excellent. We have a lot of influences of Scandinavian folk, Norwegian folk, African, Arabic folk, all mixed with Indian Classical Music. It’s a very open minded group, where we are trying to find similarities, we are trying to find where all these cultures meet, we are trying to find how to explore world music, which is going to be the music of the future.

NT : But how come this group is comparatively unpopular in India ?
SM : Just because of the distance. It’s very popular is Scandinavia, and we travel over there. And, knowing India, it’s very difficult to call sponsorships, and money…it’s a big thing. And if you are calling five people from Scandinavia, it will cause a lot of money to put them up for the travel, to arrange concerts, etc. But, they did two tours in India, and it was a roaring success.

NT : How did the trio Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy come together as a team. And how did you get your first break as music directors ?
SM : Actually, we were working with Mukul Anand for the commercial, Pepsi, which happened before Dus. We were working on the commercial, Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby. And that’s Mukul approached us and asked us if we’d be able to do a feature film for me. We thought that he was joking, in the beginning. But, he actually meant it. And we started composing for Dus. And so, Dus was our first break. And we just decided to work together, as we were great friends, we really vibed well, and the kind of output was really good.

NT : You are trained in classical music. From classical music to film music to pop music. How has the journey been for you ?
SM : It’s all a part of classical music. I consider all of other forms of music just a part of classical music. The grammar, or the language of music is classical music, and all these are really branches coming out of it.

NT : You have seen the enthusiasm of the Bahrain audience, especially the young generation at the concert and at our school. What do you have to say about these youngsters of Bahrain ?
SM : I think the passion and the concentration, with which the young dancers were performing yesterday was excellent. They were really excellent and they really focused on the costumes, really focused on the expressions, the choreography, and everything. I think they really did an excellent job. And as for the singers, I’ll be really happy if they learn classical music. It is very important for them to get that little finish.

NT : What is your aim in life now ?
SM : My aim has already been fulfilled, when I took up music five years ago.

NT : In the end, what message would you like to give to your young fans who would be reading this interview ?
SM : Be good, do good, live for the moment, be happy always, and listen to quality music.

1 comment:

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