Singer turned music composer Shashi Suman’s repertoire may not boast of big songs and films, but the budding composer has surely found his footing in the industry overtime.
From crooning ‘Mora Piya Mose Bolat Nahi’ in RAAJNEETI to composing music for Priyanka Chopra’s MARY KOM, Shashi, who started his musical journey as a finalist on a reality show, has indeed come a long way! In an exclusive encounter with us, Shashi discloses his journey, shares his experience of assisting maestro Sanjay Leela Bhansali on RAM-LEELA & how MARY KOM happened to him in our special section Music Mania! Read on…
What made you get into music?
I am not from a musical family but my father, is a district education officer in Bihar currently, used to play tabla. It is his hobby. I learnt from him and that is how I got introduced to music and eventually was drawn towards singing. Then I shifted to Lucknow and that is where I learnt classical music under Ustad Gulshan Bharti, my guruji.
You started your career with reality shows. How was the experience?
Many of my friends from Lucknow and classmates learning under my guruji had been part of various reality shows. I had never thought of reality shows but suddenly Ustadji told me that ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa ka audition chal rha hai toh tum jao. Ab tum is layak ho ki ja sakte ko.’ I went for the auditions, got selected and that is how it all started. After I came to Mumbai in 2008 my struggle started from scratch and for two years I did many things here and there. Then in 2010 I auditioned for Indian Idol where again I went on to become a finalist.
Did reality shows help you get the desired work?
Reality shows were of no use for the kind of work that I am doing currently. But it helped me a lot to survive in Mumbai. It is very difficult to survive in Mumbai so agar Idol ya Sa Re Ga Ma Pa nae hota toh pata nae kya karta main. But the reality shows didn’t give me a break in Bollywood. There are 1000s who come every day so it is not easy for people to get through. Bollywood is different. It’s an altogether a different genre.
Your first break was with Aadesh Shrivastav in RAAJNEETI. Tell us about it
I used to assist Aadesh Shrivastavji and he knew that I had the knack of composing music. He had seen it. So he also offered me to sing the song ‘Mora Piya Mose Bolat Nahi’ from RAAJNEETI. I also worked with Shankar Mahadevan. The experience was very new for me. I had never seen a studio. I just knew singing which I learnt from my Ustad. So when I came here, I came to know how it all works.
How did your association with Sanjay Leela Bhansali happen?
This was a turning point in my life. When I was in ‘Indian Idol’, everybody – contestants and production people knew that I used to compose songs and they asked me to compose a song describing my journey. But I could not sing the song as I got eliminated before that. Eventually, that song was sung by the top 5 finalists. Luckily, Sandeep Singh, who is currently Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s CEO, had come down with Sunidhi Chauhan on the sets. So he happened to hear the song during the rehearsals and asked them ‘Who has composed this song?’ So everyone revealed that I had composed the song and that I was eliminated. So Sandeep Singh took my number and called me when all were performing this song live and asked me to listen to it. Mujhe thoda shocking laga and I was wondering yeh kya hai. Then he told me that he liked the song and asked me to meet him.
So when we I met Sandeepji he offered me some small work in the television serials to check my potential. So when he found that I am capable of doing it, he recommended my name to Sanjay Leela Bhansali and told that I would be assisting him on RAM-LEELA. Sir was skeptical initially, but when he heard my work he liked it and that is how it all began with sir. Uske baad jab MARY KOM shuru hui toh Sanjay sir asked me to do it.
RAM-LEELA songs are still ruling the charts. So was there any pressure while composing for MARY KOM?
Of course there was a lot of pressure while composing music for MARY KOM. Firstly because I was working under Sanjay sir and he is very particular about everything. Just because it is his production, doesn’t mean he will not be bothered. We had to get minutest of things approved from him, only then things would move ahead. So pressure definitely was tremendous. Har gaane ke kam se kam 20 options banaye hai humne uske baad yeh saara final hua hai. MARY KOM music took almost 1 year three months to be finalized. Secondly, we had to make sure the music doesn’t draw similarities to BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG!
Now that the songs of MARY KOM are out, how has been the response?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has loved all the songs. He came to this very place and patted my back and said ‘Shashi good job!’ So that is the biggest compliment. Now whether someone likes it or no doesn’t matter because for whom I made the songs, he has loved them. In general too, the response has been amazing. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the music is out. Since it was my debut, I was scared and nervous. Also I have tried to do something which is currently not in the market. There are many things which are happening continuously, so I had to break it and try something new. But the response has been tremendous and I am glad people have appreciated my work.
This is your first full-fledged Bollywood film. How was the experience? Were you nervous?
I wasn’t scared and nervous while composing because I knew my work. But yes I was scared and nervous about the result. Thankfully, now that people have loved it, I am happy!
'Feels amazing that Priyanka Chopra debuted in Bollywood singing with my song'
Priyanka makes her debut in Bollywood singing with ‘Chaoro’. Describe the experience…
It was an incredible experience. It feels amazing to just think that Priyanka Chopra has debuted in Bollywood playback singing with my song! Yeh apne aap main ek history hai. She loved the song and during the recording she time and again came up to me and told, ‘What a song Shashi!’ The best thing is that she didn’t choose a commercial song to mark her singing debut in Bollywood. She chose a simple song that depicts a mom singing a lori for her kids. This is the sign of a true artist. I had made two-three options for Priyanka but she loved ‘Chaoro’.
How was it recording with Priyanka?
Priyanka had rehearsed the mukhda and come to the studio but the antara I made later. So I thought that the mukhda will be easier to record because she knows and antara will take time. But you will not believe the entire song was recorded in maximum one and half hour. She sung so nicely that there was no need to do anything to it. We just applied slight effects to it and the final song was ready. I loved the way she sang the song. The feel is amazing. In fact, I even asked her how she manages to sing with such feel to which she replied that ‘I am an actor.’
What has been Priyanka’s response to the MARY KOM album?
Priyanka is very happy with the songs. She appreciated the final product and complimented me in front of the media during the trailer launch.
How was it working with debutant director Omung Kumar?
My experience with Omung Kumar was good. Though he himself was new to it, but he had lot of ideas. The songs he selected were then presented to Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I wanted to make him happy first because he is the director of the film.
One director you are keen to work with?
I love raw films and I wish to compose music for films like DEV D. Anurag Kashyap films are something I wish to compose music for.
One actor you are keen to compose songs for?
I want to compose music for Shahrukh Khan. I am his biggest fan. I can connect with him because even he made a place in the industry without any Godfather. Though I haven’t met him, but I had got the news recently that Shahrukh sir watched MARY KOM and he liked the music of the film. He cried in the film and loved the song ‘Adhure’ sung by Sunidhi Chauhan.
Who is your all-time favourite singer?
My all-time favourite singer is Sonu Nigam and Nusrat Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab. He has not only been a great singer but also an amazing composer. Many people have learnt from him, followed him and copied him. He is my musical idol! And currently, Arijit is my favourite and even Sanam. In fact, Sanam was to sing a song for MARY KOM but things didn’t work out. So in my next film, I will definitely compose a track and make him sing. I love his voice texture. Also I am a big fan of Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Shilpa Rao and Shalmali Kholgadi. I would want to work with Shalmali in my next project.
Your forthcoming projects…
Two-three things are in pipeline but I cannot reveal anything.