My first association with this extremely talented man was listening to him singing the Aalap at a recording studio for a film which I was a part of. While he was inside the recording room, I was on the other side fixing meetings and schedules etc. I just froze on hearing that soulful Aalap and stopped everything I was doing right there! Then after many many years, I met him again at the launch of a singing reality show for which he is one of the judges. Shankar Mahadevan is a huge name today but I was surprised to see that he hasn’t changed a bit. He is still the humble, sweet man I had the pleasure to work with years ago.
Image Credit: chiloka
In an exclusive interview with HFT, Shankar spoke about everything from his first break to being a judge of a reality show.
How it All Began
“I am from a middle class, South Indian family where getting a good education is something that is very important. So I did my engineering and was all set to go to the US, my passports were ready. Along with all this somewhere inside I had this desire to sing and compose and that is where I used to find ultimate joy! I did small jingles and performances etc. but it was a tough decision to make. My passports were ready and I knew I had a lucrative job, where I could earn a whole lot of money, a comfortable secure life, etc. as opposed to the uncertainties faced as an artist in this industry. But then I said to myself, it’s now or never! I don’t want to turn 50 and say ‘I wish I had done that! I quit the job and got into full-fledged singing and I was blessed because I never had to call anyone or go around looking for work, it just started coming to me.”
His First Bollywood Break
“This industry is strange, it’s a huge industry yet it is small. The minute word spreads about someone’s good work people start approaching you. Dus was my first film where we did ‘Sabse aage honge Hindustani,’ that was followed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir and then came Farhan’s Breathless at that time Farhan was planning to make a film, that was Dil Chahta Hai, the rest is history! Today we are working with the finest of directors and films. The body of work that I have done is something that I am very proud of.”
Image Credit: thebridalbox
On His Support System
“My father had already passed away before I completed my engineering but my mother was more concerned than objecting to it. She was only worried whether I would have a secure life, make enough money. But she stood by me and so did my wife.My wife has been my biggest support. She was like,’At the most we are not going to die hungry or something, just do it! I am with you all the way’ There was no looking back then with support like that.”
The Changing Face Of Music
“Music is like fashion, it’s like cuisines. It has to change because people want change. We have to have different genres but at the end of the day, one thing that remains constant is good lyrics and good melody.”
“Music is an extension of myself, it’s a natural extension of myself.I started playing the harmonium even before I knew what that instrument was. It’s an extension of my breathing!”
Importance Of Learning Classical Music For A Musician
“If you want to become a good musician you need to know classical music. It’s just like you need to know grammar before you learn to write! If you want to be a musician with depth then you need to have knowledge about classical music.”
Image Credit: YT
What Happens To Contestants After Such Shows
“People who come on these shows are making money even after the show with shows, they travel to places for the same. They are living out of a job that they love doing and are passionate about. Agreed that everyone cannot become a winner or a Sonu Nigam or Shreya Ghoshal and just because they are out of the show does not mean they are not busy, they are still successfully following their passion and making money out of it.”
Shankar rightly says that “Talent is like that smoke from an agarbatti(incense stick), it slowly finds its way and it will reach you.” And we’re glad that Shankar found his way and is here to stay and give us some more great music!