He’s made his mark – and stayed the course for over 11 years. From the pop groove in albums and movies, SHAAN has moved on to being prime choice for a more in-depth kind of song in the last two years
So where do you see yourself today? Do you foresee a reverse shift towards proper playback singers in music?
I can’t really say one way or the other. There are some good songs happening, like in Sajid-Wajid’s Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai and a film starring Govinda and Tusshar Kapoor. I have sung a nice masti-bharaa song for A.R.Rahman in 1-800-Love. I have not been that busy but am sort of comfortable because we singers are getting good songs too.
A.R,Rahman and you have not really clicked together.
Yes, it’s just that the films in which I sang for him – One Two Ka Four, Tehzeeb and Lakeer- proved non-starters. Then there was a gap of about six years. Nowadays, music is more of a promo material and not really a part of the script, so if the film does not work, good songs can go into oblivion. Like my songs Jaana hai tujhko (Mere Baap Pehle Aap), Yeh pyar hai (Woodstock Villa), Nadi mein yeh chanda (Mohandas) and some others. Aaja lehraate was also a nice song in What’s Your Raashee?.
In the past, which songs do you think also lost out similarly?
I loved Mohabbat mein yeh kya from Ssshhhh!…, Jaane kise pukare from Rok Sako To Rok Lo, Bekhudi from Taxi No. 9-2-1-1, Yeh pyar hai from Marigold…but I was lucky in 2009. My song Tere bin from Jashnn worked, so did Kyon from Kambakkht Ishq, the title-song of Main Aurr Mrs Khanna, Dil leke dard-e-dil from Wantedand of course Behti hawa sa tha woh from 3 Idiots was huge. And one song I really loved singing was Mudi mudi si from Paa.It was wonderful singing under Ilaiyarajaji.
Shreya and you – together or with other co-singers – seem to be somehow getting the few melodious songs.
Yeah, I guess so, which is a change from my earlier lot that were mostly the fast-paced fusion numbers. Sadly, melodious songs are not promoted as much as the fast numbers today, but the happy part is that you cannot keep a good song down, and sooner or later it crops up and lives on.
So what’s your take on how things are going?
Times are changing. Experimentation is in – like long mukhdas with chorus rather than the conventional mukha-antara structure, which is fine once in a way. I am not too busy but have managed to keep afloat despite the erratic trends for 10 years I have enjoyed life, vacationed enough, done my albums and shows and sung so many hits with every established and new composer. So honestly, there are no regrets and no complaints. Yes, I have a few pet peeves. But that’s because I believe in those things. Trouble is, if I speak out, I would sound like a poor loser.
But you are anything but that. So you should speak up.
I have this belief that a playback singer’s voice must match the face and the actor – that’s the essence of film singing and of playback. For example, I suit Abhishek Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan a lot, and also fit Aamir Khan and Salman Khan. Also the song’s composition should have both reference and reverence to the context, the story and the situation. Of late, I have heard so many sad songs that do not sound sad, and the same’s the case with happy numbers! But take Behti hawa from 3 Idiots or the score in its entirety – it is not a conventional score, but it fits the context so perfectly, so it is a proper film soundtrack. And also in most cases, there is no connect between the film and the audio.
What about every composer singing and all the assorted non-singers being used for novelty?
I think that a song deserves good singers. A song does not need superficial singing, and does not deserve indifference. Many times you rue the fact that the song is good but the singer has no commitment to it – he hasn’t really felt the tune or the sentiments in the words. We also need genuine hit songs. We shouldn’t need to market certain songs as ‘hits’, which is what is happening!
Are the interests of music served by television reality shows on music, where as judges or mentors you have to praise off-key or below-par singers, when the music-savvy viewers wonder how people of music can find such singing up to the mark?
I think that we should make allowances for such singers – unnko liberty deni padti hai when even we professional singers sometimes need pitch-correction to make us sound technically perfect. And then, being on television is something akin to a musical game where you are on vacation. Having said that, I do keep a balance and do not do excessive TV. Television has made my face and identity known when I needed it the most. We singers are often anonymous and television shows spotlight us as people rather than voices.
What about albums?
It’s a difficult time for albums – your work can get lost. Films at least do get released and draw some attention. What I also want to do is to highlight some great songs of my late father (composer Manas Mukherjee). My father never got his due. But his songs like Mausam aayega jaayega from Shaayad, which is my caller-tune, live on.
You seem to have two voices over the years – the thin one and the full voice.
(Laughs) The thin kind suits the hip-hop or urban numbers, while the full voice goes better on Behti hawa sa tha woh and other in-depth songs. I have a natural advantage of a voice that is neither too thin nor too heavy, so I can tweak it a bit both ways, also as I said, according to the actor. I am lucky that there is no typical Shaan voice like there is for a Sukhwinder Singh or a Kailash Kher.
In the climax song of Om Shanti Om, you almost took on a Kishore Kumar tenor similar to his climax song in Karz, Ek hasina thi.
That was a banavati voice, a deliberate imitation. Vishal was game for it, Shekhar did not really like it, but Farah Khan decided that I sing that way!
So you do offer inputs in your songs.
That’s an old habit of mine. I am lucky that most composers like my involvement, and when a composer is new, I can kind of insist on the basis of my experience (Laughs).