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Cause and effect

Shankar Mahadevan can leave listeners breathless with his singing

A voice so versatile: Shankar Mahadevan - Pic by S. Subramanium

TRY READING the following sentence aloud in one breath. Shankar Mahadevan is a busy singer, music director and performer who enjoys music of different genres even though he has formally learnt Hindustani and Carnatic music. Out of breath? While many of us cannot utter a few words without taking a breath, Shankar Mahadevan can sing and talk really fast. No wonder "Breathless" (with Javed Akhtar) was a big hit. The album announced Shankar Mahadevan's arrival, and since then he has never looked back.

As a three-and-a-half-year-old, Shankar Mahadevan chanced upon a harmonium after a bhajan session at his uncle's house in Coimbatore. "Though I had never seen a harmonium before, I started playing "Chal chal chal mere saathi" and "Jana Gana Mana" to the astonishment of those present. However, his parents did not project him as the next child prodigy and let him have a normal childhood (he is from Mumbai). . He started his formal training in music by learning to play the veena from Lalitha Venkatraman and later Carnatic vocal from T.R. Balamani. He also learnt bhajans, abhangs and bhavgeet from Shrinivas Khale and Tara Devi. Thus, music became a major part of his life through school and engineering college. If he enjoyed listening to Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Mehdi Hassan, he equally enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and Bobby McFerin. Not surprisingly, this software engineer became a well-known singer and musician. Along with Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, Shankar has composed music for films such as Mission Kashmir, Shool, Rockford, Dil Chahta Hai and Kal Ho Na Ho. His album Shakthi Released was even nominated for the Grammys.

Excerpts from an interview:

You're part of several music groups: Silk, Surya, Mynta, Shakthi, Shraddha.....

I am always eager to learn different styles of music. I also enjoy being associated with various kinds of artistes. Each of the above mentioned group has a different feel about it and a different character. Shraddha for instance, has a spiritual lilt to it, the music is simple but evocative and we've played for several causes.

You mean you perform for free?

No, not always. We are professional musicians, and music is our career. But when the cause is good, we do tend to subsidise our fees, or participate in the fundraisers , be it a dinner before a performance or a show of some kind. Recently, we performed for the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai.

After Mumbai and Hollywood, what next?

Ehsaan, Loy and myself have already done the music for a Hollywood film called Marigold. But we're busy with movies here. We've just finished the recording for Bunty aur Bublee, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek and Dil Jo Bhi Hake.

Are you singing anything like the award-winning song from Kandukondein Kandukondein?

Songs like these come rarely. I'm waiting....


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