The three of us are like filters through which the music flows, says Music Maestro Shankar-Ehsaan
Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy, musical trio consisting of Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, has been behind many superhit songs. Composers and voice of some of the most beautiful songs like Tere Naina from My Name is Khan, Kitni Baatein from Lakshya, Jaago from Rock On 2, Gallan Goodiyan from Dil Dhadakne Do, Hulla Re from 2 States and many more.
The trio has been working together for 20 years and Shankar along with Ehsaan open up with NaradaNews.com on various subjects ranging from the difference between composing for Hindi and regional music to the importance of educating the girl child.
They also tell us about the music in Rock On 2 and disclose details on an upcoming film project in the pipeline.
Q. Firstly, congratulations on completing 20 years in Bollywood. What is the secret behind keeping the group together?
Shankar: Thank you very much. The three of us respect each other as musicians, don’t take each other for granted and value each other’s suggestions. Even after 20 years, we do not try to put each other down if somebody offers a suggestion. What keeps us together is the fact that we are three different people with different characteristics and different ideologies.
Ehsaan: One has to ignore egos and differences and realize that the most important thing is the music. The music is worth ignoring and neutralizing the negatives that can cause a partnership to fall apart. The journey has been fun and enriched us as people and musicians.
Q. 20 years is a long time… have there been any drastic changes in the music scene in India?
Shankar: The only constant in our industry is change. There have been changes, there will be changes and we have to move with changes. If we do not try to change with times, we will be left behind. Music is like fashion; new things keep coming and old things keep reinventing themselves. The one that lasts long is something that is aesthetically of a good value. Good music with good lyrics and melody is something that’s going to stay.
Ehsaan: Well it feels good to be able to say that we have been part of a change in the music scene in India with landmark albums like Dil Chahta Hai etc. The music has become a lot more international both in style and composition. The production is richer and contemporary. In the meanwhile, the internet has given rise to many more indie artists who are managing to release the music they believe in without the interference of a music company.
Q. How do you’ll approach a composition when a director discloses his project?
Shankar: When a director approaches us, the first thing that we do is hear the narration of the script, the song situations and then we sit with the lyricists, maybe it’s Gulzar saab, Javed saab, Amitabh Bhattacharya or Prasoon Joshi. We sit with them and it’s a very organic process where we compose some tunes. If something triggers, ideas keep coming. Basically, composing music is where one trigger leads to the other and that’s how a melody is created.
Ehsaan: After hearing the script, we get together in a studio and work exactly like a band does. Each one of us comes up with the ideas which collectively become a song. The director is very much a part of it and he is present through every little bit of the creative process.
Q. Known for your music, how do you’ll manage to give out good music every time?
Shankar: I’m very flattered that you say that we give out good music every time. We don’t listen to mediocre music even when we listen to music for our own pleasure. When you listen to only good music, that becomes a benchmark and a reference point for you to compose music, so any music that you do does not go below a certain standard.
Ehsaan: We always pressure ourselves to deliver good work. Our influences and experience in the industry help us turn out good song-writing. The three of us are like filters through which the music flows.
Q. Compared to Rock On, the songs in Rock On 2 failed to connect with the audience. What went wrong?
Shankar: In the history of Indian cinema, there has not been a single actor, director, music composer or a writer who has given only hits. There are various parameters because of which it connects and doesn’t connect.
By the time Rock On 2 came out it was already eight years from the time Rock On had released so probably the audience were not ready to listen to this kind of music now. Maybe the story did not connect with the audience.
I feel proud of the music in Rock On 2 because I loved songs like Udja Re and Manzar Naya. You can’t expect to hit the bullseye every time. As long as we are happy and feel that it is not below the standard, I think, we’re fine.
Ehsaan: Well the music of Rock On 2 was more intense than Rock On, we were very satisfied with the music. The music of Rock On did not connect with the audiences until the film went on to become a hit. Rock On 2, unfortunately, did not do well at the box office and the music sank with the film.
Q. Receiving two awards – best music composer and best singer for Katiyar Kalijat. How do you feel?
Shankar: Katiyar Kalijat is special. It’s overwhelming to receive two awards because the music of a film like this got noticed as in this film, the aesthetics of the music were very deep. It was classical, raga-based and it was Indian. It kind of gets your faith back into the system that people are ready to listen to music that is deep and is of a high standard.
Q. Shankar, your on-screen character of Pandit Bhanu was well appreciated. How did the role come about?
The character of Pandit Bhanu Shankar was very exciting. The character was something that I relate to because it was totally about pure music knowing nothing else but music and feeling good for others. When I took it up, I put my heart and soul into it. I worked hard and I’m happy with the kind of appreciation that I got. It was very touching.
Q. Have you received any Bollywood scripts?
Well, Nagesh Kukunoor and I are deciding on a Hindi script about music. Sunidhi Chauhan, Sivamani, Papon and myself are going to be characters in the film. It will be a musical subject with a hilarious touch. We’re still working on it. It’s at its initial stage, but very soon we’ll start working on it.
Q. Is the approach to music for regional languages different compared to the Bollywood numbers?
Shankar: Yes, the approach to regional music has got to be slightly different because you’ve got to take into consideration the region that you’re composing for and what is the local language, the dialect, the choices people from that region normally prefer listening to, etc.
I personally feel that in regional languages, melodically it can be a little more adventurous than Hindi which is the national mass appeal. Any person who’s from the Hindi film industry but composed in regional languages, their work would be adventurous, path breaking and awarding.
Q. You’ve recreated the song, School Chale Hum for Nestle India’s new campaign to educate the girl child. Why education of a girl child is important?
Ehsaan: Educating the girl child will enrich the community and help the girl be independent which will go towards building a stronger nation. Age old restrictions and taboos regarding female children will be knocked down and discarded forever.
Q. We have seen collaborations with artists to raise funds for charities. Could we see collaborations in India to raise funds and create awareness on pressing issues of our country?
Shankar: During the 20 years of our career, we have been a part of many NGO’s and charitable organizations which raise funds for various causes like cancer awareness, aids awareness, blindness, mentally challenged children, disability, etc. A person lectures the same content for one hour. But 10 times more effect is generated by just singing one song with the same content.