It's not always you find a person who perfectly balances his career as a singer and music composer...well, Shankar Mahadevan does. He chats up with our correspondent about his past, present and future
You are born in South Indian and brought up in Mumbai. Do you miss Kerala? I am an Iyer from Palakkad, but born and brought up in Mumbai. I would love to say that I am from South and I migrated to Mumbai. But if you come to Mumbai and see certain areas, especially areas like Chembur (where I grew up) and Matunga, you are not going to miss South India because, the people over there, the markets, the clothes that people wear, the way they talk...you will feel that you are in Palakkad actually.
From a software engineer at Oracle to a musician, what made you take such a risky plunge? There's something called a livelihood and something called passion. It should always be your aim to make your passion your livelihood...you will be able to work 24 hours if you are doing what you love to. I was singing here and there a little bit. I was from a middle-class South Indian family and education was very important for
"I am a supermarket of music"
us; it still is. Education is important for your confidence. So, as I was saying, I completed my education and started working. But after sometime, you need to introspect.
Did you alone take the decision to change your profession or consulted friends and family? I was hugely motivated by Sangeetha...she was not my wife then, we were still going around and about to get married. She was the one responsible for me turning full-time musician (laughs). Unless you have the correct support from the person you love the most, it's very difficult to take a decision; and she supported me.
So, what is music to you? All that there is to music are the seven notes; everything is created through these, mixed in various proportions and intensity.
What makes you get involved in so many things at the same time-composing songs, jingles, playback singing, cutting your own albums, live concerts? Ya...someone told me that I am a supermarket of music with special deals everywhere (laughs). It's an extension of your passion. If there's a particular thing you want to do, you will do it. I don't believe in excuses like 'I don't have the time', or 'I am too busy doing this', or 'I can only focus on one thing'. I can only focus on music. But within music, there are so many branches for me to explore and I am a very restless student from inside. I always want to learn more about music and till I learn about a particular thing perfectly, I am never at peace. My interest towards ghazals, film music, fusions, western music, jingles...all are part of my interest and my craving to learn beyond.
SHANKAR MAHADEVAN and BOMAN IRANI
Some people say you have slight Tamil flavor when you sing in Malayalam... I completely agree that there are still two languages which I need to work on to perfect...Malayalam and Bengali. These two languages are so deep-rooted that unless you have lived in that area and the language is a part of your system, it is really difficult to get the perfect diction.
You were an overnight success with the album Breathless. Breathless was the album that brought me to public and said: 'See this guy...he is Shankar Mahadevan'. That was the first time my face and voice came together.
You are said to be one person who can sing at low and high pitch with equal smoothness. Do you agree? I don't know...I have a strange voice...it's a distinct one though.
DIL CHAHTA HAI was a major breakthrough for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy as music composers. Do you believe it to be your best work so far? I can't say that. But DIL CHAHTA HAI took us to places and it completely changed the way people listen to Hindi film music. But success didn't come so easy. When we made DIL CHAHTA HAI, the first impression from two-three major music companies was-'It sounds like jingle'. Why? Because, the music was given by people who also make jingles.
Your two sons (Siddharth and Shivam) are also good singers. Yes. They are really dedicated and passionate about music. Give them a shruti and they will sing it. But we (wife Sangeetha and me) as parents never push them with music. We never tell them- 'See, you try to become like your father'. Both of them are very good in music and we are letting them be what they are.
We heard you are a complete foodie. True? Yes...food totally does it for me. I will give you an example. I recently went on Teacher's Origin Highnights trip to Kolkata. Seriously speaking, I agreed on the trip mainly because of the food; Sayantani, a member of our team, used to get us lunch from her home and her mother prepared amazing Bengali delicacies like Golda Chingrir Malaikari and Ilish Bhapa.
It has been long that we had another Breathless... All I can say right now is that we (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) are working on a new album and it's going to be something different.