When Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (SEL) made their debut in Bollywood, they brought to movies a fresh, new sound — something that the stagnant music industry desperately needed. In their 14 years in the industry so far, they have given memorable soundtracks in films like Kal Ho Naa Ho (2004), Rock On!! (2008) and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), among others. But they seem to have taken things easy in the last two years. In 2013, their only big releases were Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and D-Day. In a candid chat, Shankar Mahadevan talks about SEL’s innings in the industry, choosing their films, and music copyright issues.
You seem to have mellowed down in terms of the number of projects you take on. What’s the reason?
Some of the projects that we had worked on didn’t release in that year. We had films like Dilli Safari (2012), Chittagong (2012) and Vishwaroopam (2013), which were all award-winning movies, but not mega releases. Also, we have always believed in doing limited work as Bollywood is just a part of our identity. We do a lot of other work as well. So we don’t have that kind of time to take up multiple projects.
How has SEL changed over the past few years?
We have not changed as musicians. We believe in doing different kind of projects. We have composed music as per the kind of films that have come to us. But yes, we have learnt a lot with every project.
How do you see the trend of your contemporaries doing multiple films in a year? Does this affect the quality of work that is produced?
I don’t think so. As long as you can give enough time to each film, it’s fine. You shouldn’t wrap up the film until you are satisfied with the work done. I think it’s great that people are getting more work.
What is your take on the copyright law for singers?
We completely stand by it. If that happens, one hit song can sustain an artiste for a lifetime.
You three were among the few musicians responsible for changing the sound of Bollywood music. What do you feel about the present state?
I don’t think the sound has changed or we have changed, but the kind of films have. There has also been a change in the sensibilities of the film-makers. Earlier, they used to listen only to Laxmikant–Pyarelal or Kalyanji-Anandji. But nowadays they listen to Pink Floyd, Ghulam Ali saab and Hardwell. The music is more diverse and versatile because of the changing tastes.
More and more composers are turning performers and multitasking. Do you think the line between singers and composers is blurring?
Yes, they are turning into performers, and I think they should. There is nothing better than singing your own songs. Vishal (Dadlani), Shekhar (Ravjiani) and I perform on stage. When a singer takes up your song, you have to make him/her sing it. But there’s nothing better than singing a track that belongs to you.
There are a lot of new singers in the industry now. Is that a healthy trend?
I think new voices have been in the industry for a very long time, and the credit goes to AR Rahman. Before he came, there was a fixed sound that our industry had. He came and gave the industry multiple new singers and proved that any voice can work if it clicks with the song. For example, the song ‘Chaiyya chaiyaa’ is picturised on Shah Rukh Khan and is sung by Sukhwinder Singh. They have very different voices. But that song has been one of Shah Rukh’s biggest hits till date. So, Rahman proved that any voice can suit anyone as long as it does justice to the track.
What’s your take on Abhay Deol’s recent protest (against a music company that is not marketing his film’s music)?
We bow down and salute him for doing that. Being a producer, you cannot see your film going down the drain due to lack of music promotion.
Tell us about your upcoming projects?
We have Shaad Ali’s Kill Dil. There’s Mirza Sahiba, which is a musical by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, and Zoya Akhtar’s next.