He is not only a Bengali like Kishore Kumar but also shares his birthplace-Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh - with his idol. Shantanu Mukherjee, known to the world as Shaan, is the son of composer Manas Mukherjee, who passed away when Shaan was 13.
As a child, Shaan began by singing ad jingles, remixes and cover versions. He sang the line Taaqat se daregi duniya hamari in the song Kitni hai pyari pyari dosti hamari in the 1989 Parinda. "This was at the dubbing stage, so Panchamda (R.D.Burman) was not present," recalls the singer. "They needed a voice for the children playing Jackie Shroff and Nana Patekar."
It was in 1996 that Shaan and his sister Sagarika made their debuts with the album Naujawan, which did quite well. Subsequent albums included 'Love-ology' and 'Tanha Dil'. He was anchor on Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and recorded his first film song for the 1999 film Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. 'Musu Musu Haasi' and 'Woh Pehli Baar' were both huge hits.
The beginner's luck continued with songs like, 'Toone Mujhe Pehchana Nahin' (Raju Chacha), 'O Re Kanchi' (Asoka), 'Nikamma Kiya Iss Dil Ne' (Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa) and 'Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan' and 'Koi Kahe' (Dil Chahta Hai). Soon Shaan spun assorted chartbusters like 'Mohabbat Hai Mirchi' from the latter film, 'Jadoo Hai Nasha Hai' (Jism), 'It's The Time To Disco' and 'Kuch To Hua Hai' (Kal Ho Naa Ho), 'Subha Ho Gayi Maamu' (Munna Bhai MBBS), 'Shikdum' (Dhoom) and more. Hits in films like Dus, Lakshya, Hum Tum, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Fanaa, Partner, Jab We Met, and Saawariya followed, but after this came a lull as trends changed.
"That was an insecure phase for me," notes Shaan. "My success was so unexpectedly good with back-to-back hits for five years, that I was wondering why and how things seemed to go into a tailspin just when I was getting better as a voice and as a singer. First they wanted the pop kind of voices that affected singers like Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu, and later they wanted novel voices who were not necessarily good playback singers. High-pitched Sufi kind of vocals that are in vogue now are also not my field."
Smiles Shaan, "But now I have come to terms with the fact that the honeymoon is over for not just me but all the proper playback singers. Though I had hits like 'All Is Well' and 'Behti Hawa Sa Tha Who' in 3 Idiots and 'Dil Leke Dard-E-Dil' (Wanted) from 2009 onwards, I realised that music directors did not have as much control as stars and music companies on who sings a song. I also realised that the link between an actor's persona and his voice no longer existed!"
However, Shaan is convinced that it is always good singing that ensures credibility, respectability and an enduring quality in both songs and careers. "In an era where a hit only means whatever is promoted more and you have to create a noise on television and Twitter, I still believe in voice quality and vocal projection, which we playback singers have been having right from the time of Mohammed Rafisaab and Kishoreda. I am now doing the show 'Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar' and everyone's a Sufiana voice-there is no playback material! I think it's the tonality that gives a character to a song or actor. Today, I do not see a voice that carves an image in one's mind. What we get is an impression of an uncouth, uneducated and sometimes characterless individual rather than a man of calibre or a hero!"
Shaan has himself been the first voice of actors like Dino Morea, Arjun Rampal, Zayed Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Harman Baweja and Jackky Bhagnani. He expresses gratitude for the fact that Abhishek Bachchan in his earlier films would often insist on Shaan as his voice. "Anu Malik, Himesh Reshammiya, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Vishal-Shekhar supported me a lot then. Now Sajid-Wajid are giving me some really good songs, like in Teri Meri Kahaani. I am also doing the theme track of Pritam's Ferrari Ki Sawaari. There are other smaller films coming up."
Shaan is also buoyed up about albums. "I am using this time to explore and discover nuances within me," says the singer. "I am going to try ghazal and maybe even Sufiana songs. My two Bengali albums on Rabindra Sangeet, Khola Hawa and Bodo Asha Korey sold over 75,000 units in this era of a slump in physical sales. I am hopeful that any good music will do well even now."
Shaan is indeed comfortable in the space he is now. "I keep doing television. I am planning to revive some of my father's compositions by re-creating them for today's generation. I just want to keep getting better and better," he says.
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