Sandesh Shandilya adores K.S. Chitra and he says that what is special about her voice cannot be explained in mere words. “I cannot find the right words in any dictionary. It is an experience. Chitraji and Lataji [Lata Mangeshkar] are two of my favourite singers.”

Now before you wonder Sandesh Who?, think of the foot-tapping songs of Kabhie Khushie Kabhie Gham (K3G) and that should answer your question about this Bollywood-based music director's work. Sandesh was in the city in connection with a major work for the Santigiri Ashram at Pothencode.

Agra-born Sandesh was so keen on becoming a musician that he gave up his engineering studies to become a student of music. The disciple of Ustad Sultan also went on to learn Western instrumental and vocal music from pianist Celia Lobo and Joe Fernandes.

Although he has worked with the best of directors and lyricists, Sandesh agrees that his career did not take off the way it should have after the rocking success of K3G in 2001. For instance, Sandesh's title song for the film Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai, sung by Sunidhi Chauhan for the film Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai, had renowned pianist and composer Richard Clayderman playing for him. But the film failed to woo the box office and so the song failed to make it to the charts and that should have been the end of the story. However, Clayderman included the number as the first piece in his latest album and released it in Europe where it became a big hit. Sandesh had no idea his song was rocking listeners in Europe till Clayderman him sent a copy of the album. “That is when I knew my tune had been included in his album and that it was a huge success. It came a morale booster,” muses Sandesh.

When the songs did well, the films sank without a trace and even the occasional hits like Bhaage Re Mann… in Chameli and Aaoge Jab… in Jab We Met, and Kal Purush did not win him too many films.

Chance to learn

“Many of the films I worked in did not do well and so my songs were not heard. But that space gave me the opportunity to study and understand what went wrong and what should be corrected,” adds Sandesh.

His forthcoming works include a major one for an animated film on the Taj Mahal, directed by the animator of Toy Story and a couple of Bollywood flicks such as Dus Tola (a remake of Ponmuttaediunna Tharavau) and Hum Phirr Milein Na Milein, Tum Milo Toh Sahi, Road to Sangam and Rang Rasiya.

“It is lyrics and script that inspire me when I work for a film. Half the work is done if both are good. For instance, the minute I heard the story of Ketan Mehta's film on Raja Ravi Varma, the music just flowed into my mind. My music traces the royal artist's journey through India. The film begins with a panchavadyam and then the music gradually absorbs the notes of the places he travels through such as Mumbai, Baroda, Rajastan, Benares and so on,” explains Sandesh.

A trained classical singer and musician, Sandesh says he feels refreshed and rejuvenated when he is composing music for albums and spiritual causes. He mentions his work for French production, Beatification of Mother Theresa as an example. “I had composed the music for Chitraji's and Shreya Ghoshal's first album in Hindi and Shuba Mudgal's as well.”

His work for the Santigiri Ashram will have some of the top singers in India such as Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam and Chitra reciting 190 shlokas of the Guru Gita.

“Life is made of moments and it is works like these that make it special. I am thrilled about this work,” gushes the composer. But he admits that one of his ambitions remains unfulfilled and that is work “with Lataji.” “I am sure that will happen,” says Sandesh.