Cause and effect
He left listeners breathless with his first hit.
Photo: S. Subramanium
Shankar Mahadevan: `When the cause is good, we do tend to subsidise our fees.'
TRY READING the following sentence aloud in one breath. Shankar Mahadevan is a busy singer, music director and performer who lives and breathes music that is of different genres even though he has actually only formally learnt Hindustani and Carnatic classical music. Out of breath? While many of us can't utter a few words without coming up for air, Shankar Mahadevan is one man who can let the words flow really fast, whether he is singing or talking. No wonder he made a hit by singing Javed Akhtar's "Breathless" without a break. Even though it was this album that really announced the arrival of the jolly and talented Shankar, he has been absorbing music and making all sorts of music for several years now.
As a three-and-a-half-year-old, Shankar Mahadevan chanced upon a harmonium after a bhajan at his uncle's house in Coimbatore. We're told that though he had never seen a harmonium before, his fingers flew across the keys and conjured up a "Chal Chal Chal Mere Saathi" and a "Jana Gana Mana" for the astonished audience. Thankfully for him, and the world, his parents did not prop him as the next child wonder, and allowed him a happy childhood with cricket, school, music and all the regular things that other kids of Chembur had. Shankar went on playing, often hijacking his brother's music lessons with his own vocals.
He started his formal training in music by playing the veena and he took lessons, propped up on pillows. He learnt to play the veena under Lalitha Venkatraman, studied Carnatic vocal music under T.R. Balamani.
Later, learnt bhajans, abhangs, and bhavageet from Shrinivas Khale and Tara Devi. Music remained a major part of his life through school and engineering college with Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and Bobby McFerin, Bade Ghulam Ali Sahib and Mehdi Hassan colouring his life in various hues.
The singer's journey from being a regular software engineer to a hit Bollywood musician is well known. Along with Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, Shankar has directed the music for Mission Kashmir, Shool, Rockford, Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho and a host of other movies. The album Shakthi Released was nominated for the Grammys.
Excerpts from an interview:
You're part of several music groups: Silk, Surya, Mynta, Shakthi, Shraddha.....
I have an inquisitiveness about music, and I try to learn as many different genres as possible. God has put me in this situation where I can learn and sing like this! I enjoy being associated with artistes performing in different styles. Each of these groups has a different feel about it, a different character, and I just enjoy this variety.
Shraddha for instance, has a very spiritual lilt to it, a very simple but evocative ring to it... and we've played for good 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 fundraising efforts, be it a dinner before a performance or a show of some kind. Just last week we were performing for the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai.
After Mumbai and Hollywood, what next?
Oh, we've already done the music for a Hollywood film called Marigold. But we're busy with more movies here. We've just finished the recording for Bunty and Bublee, a movie with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek and Dil Jo Bhi Hake.
Are you singing anything like the award-winning song from Kandukondein Kandukondein?
Songs like those come rarely. I'm waiting....
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