City-based singer-music director Ishaan Dev has made a name for himself in Malayalam and Kannada cinema
Starting from zero got nothing to lose/Maybe we'll make something/But me myself I got nothing to prove…
American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman’s lines from her celebrated single ‘Fast Car’ are something that Ishaan Dev (formerly known as Shaan Mon) keeps close to his heart. In fact, the young singer-music director has even got the lines framed on the wall of his studio, S2.inn, in the city, as a “constant reminder” of his “struggle” to reach where he is today. “I get goose bumps whenever I read/hear those lines. It’s as if they define me. Although in my case, it should actually be: Starting from minus zero got nothing to lose!” says Ishaan, a native of Thiruvallam.
After tasting some success as a music director and music programmer in Mollywood, Ishaan is now a singing sensation in the Kannada film industry. He sang the number ‘Shyloo’, from the film Shyloo (music was composed by his buddy Jassie Gift). The song was one of Sandalwood’s biggest hits of 2011; a feat that won Ishaan a couple of industry awards.
“The awards (for best singer and upcoming singer) were unexpected. I never thought that I would win considering that I was up against the likes of Sonu Nigam. The fact that I got to sing ‘Shyloo’ was, in itself, a bit of a fluke. Pakistani singer Atif Aslam was supposed to sing the song. I was doing the programming for the album and Jassie told me to record the song in my voice so that he could play it for director, S. Narayanan, and its star, Ganesh, when they came by the studio the next day. When Narayanan sir heard my version he said he loved it as it is!” says the 31-year-old, who has been learning classical music from the age of three.
Initially, he trained under his father, Soman, a musician, and later under a host of teachers such as Neyyatinkara Chandra Mohan and Ambalapuzha Vijayan.
Ishaan’s journey in music started while he was studying for a bachelor’s degree in Zoology at University College. That was when he teamed up with violinist Balabhaskar and a couple of others to form the music band Confusion; Ishaan was the lead vocalist in the band.
“In those days, in the early 2000s, University College had a thriving music scene. Balu chettan and Jassie chettan, both of whom were my seniors, and a bunch of us would all get together after class and make music till late into the night,” recalls Ishaan. “I’m a self-taught musician and over the years made it a point to analyse and learn the nuances and applications of all instruments, from the violin to the keyboard,” he adds.
Of course, Mollywood was not far behind. Ishaan’s career got a big boost when he assisted Jassie Gift in composing the super hit number ‘Lajjavathiye…’ (from Jairaj’s For the People), for which he also did the humming. “Like most things in my life, I became a music director by default too! I had composed the song ‘Kaliya Visha Dhara’ for an ad, which got noticed by director Shaji Kailas and he used it as the title song of The Tiger,” says Ishaan.
So is he more comfortable as a singer or music director? “I think that both are two sides of the same coin. I am more comfortable being labelled as a musician more than anything else. I always thought that I would end up as a ganamela singer. Now they sing my songs in ganamelas!” says Ishaan.
Sound of music
In Malayalam, Ishaan has composed music for Chintamani Kola Case, Sound of Boot, Don and Thriller.
Via Jassie he got a foothold in Kannada, where he has worked on Shyloo, Munjane and Samkranti.
He also makes his debut in Tamil with Kai, for which K.J. Yesudas has sung a song.