Versatility and youthful charm are the qualities that come to mind the moment you think of Shaan the singer-performer who is today one of India's leading playback singers. Infact as a stage artist, he has a very high recall and repeat value with people thronging to his shows time and again. Having learnt music from the legendary Ghulam Mustafa Khan, his voice quality is rich and the sincerity with which he does his job, endears him to his fans.
Shaan has sung playback vocals for numerous Bollywood films, including Jhankaar Beats, Lakshya, Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Hum Tum, Dhoom, Dus, Salaam Namaste, Jab We Met, 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par and many more. He has sung for Bengali,Telugu and Tamil films. From soulful songs to foot tapping numbers, he is a music director's delight. Excerpts from an interview with Aamit Khanna.
Q: Which is the last holiday you took and what were the highlights of the trip?
My last holiday was with my wife Radhika to Istambul, in October, 2011. The trip started off on a sour note. Istanbul (Turkey) offers visa on arrival if you have a valid visa for USA, but we had to wait for two hours to get the visa at the airport. Once we were in the country it was amazing, it is a vibrant place that offers the best of Asia and Europe. Our visit to Blue Mosque remains the highlight of the trip, it is simply majestic and picture perfect.
Q: Any memorable moments from a recent trip?
No holiday is complete without my sons Soham and Shubh and one that comes to mind in particular is our holiday to Thailand, in October when I had a show in Bangkok and we extended our stay. We ate, played, fooled around, shopped, slept and laughed like there was no tomorrow.
Q: How do you plan your holiday? When on vacation what do you like to do?
Mostly, we have a wish list that is based on review from our friends and information from other sources. When we are planning our holidays with kids we prefer to be at a place where the kids do not need to be stuck in a car drive for long and is usually the sort of place where they can have fun, participating in a number of different things. Sometimes when our parents accompany us, we try and visit a theme restaurant or a lounge with good music. I am not a casino or clubbing person but we do spend a lot of time shopping and at live shows. During a visit to Hong Kong we spent eight hours just shopping and it required some balancing since it was four people with four different set of tastes, needs and choices.
Q: What has been the most bizarre thing that you have eaten when experimenting with your food in a foreign location?
I am not a stickler for Indian food, but by the third day or so I start looking for something familiar to eat. I have travelled a lot and I always try out local food. During my visit to Nairobi I had game meat. Zebra meat was like chewing on leather but crocodile meat was better. The only time when I regretted what I had ordered was in Legos, Nigeria, where some food items had an acquired taste and didn't seem right.
Q: Which destination for you has the highest repeat value?
I was in Los Angeles for a month and drove from LA to Vegas, which was amazing. While on a holiday in Spain, we travelled to the Andalusian region. We drove from Barcelona to Madrid and then Cordoba Seville, Ronda and the Costa del Sol, Granada and back to Madrid via Toledo. I have a Portuguese brother-in-law who was travelling with us, so we had the added benefit of being able to communicate better with the locals, adding to our overall experience. I think one can do this entire circuit again and I am sure it will turn out to be quite different too.
Q: Any places in India that you look forward to visiting?
I have been to the Taj six times and i continue to be fascinated by it. I am going to Lucknow soon and I am looking forward to visiting Bhool Bhuliya, Jal Mahal and the 1857 Memorial Museum at Residency.
Jal Mahal, Jaipur, holds a special place for me and it is especially beautiful by night. I enjoy our stay at the old havelis in the region. In much the same way, am sure there are undiscovered jewels in India which I am hoping to discover soon.
Q: Have you ever felt disappointed or let down when you have visited a particular place?
Usually, I end up finding something that is pleasant - people, culture, music, food, beaches, markets, even the architecture and layout out of the streets. But yes, sometimes, things can go a bit awry like when you get to a place in the wrong season, there could be precious little to make up for the goof up. For me such moments were at Mahabaleshwar, and Langkawi in Malaysia - both great places but because of being at the right place at the wrong time, we had to make do with a sub optimal experience and a commitment to revisit when the weather was better.
Q: Being a celebrity, there must be awkward moments for especially when on vacation. Any that you can recall?
I have no embarrassing travel moment to share but I have had my share of scary moments. Once we were traveling to Agra by road and there was a religion procession. Shubh was very young then and it was scary when the crowd got agitated and attacked the commuters. Our car was also whacked and they broke the windshield and window glass.
Another scary moment was recently in Pataya, Thailand, were I and my son went for an under water walk. The water was muddy and the visibility was poor. We kept moving further ahead to see if the visibility would get any better and offer us a better view of the under sea life. Soon we realised that the guide had left us on our own. One can't communicate through words under the sea and is totally dependent on sign language. We were stranded and my son, Soham, panicked. Moments like these make you feel thankful to God, for the air that we breathe and the fact that we are safe and protected.
Q: Which is your favourite weekend getaway in India?
There was a time when we would visit Goa even if we had two days to get away from Mumbai. Now, we have a farm house on the outskirts of Mumbai and we prefer to spend time there, heading out at the first available opportunity.
Q: Any travel plans for New Years' and any other places on your to do list?
Cairo is one such place and I would love to see the Pyramids. I have never been to Kashmir and would love to be able to spend some time at Gulmarg. Pondicherry is another destination on my list, that I look forward to visiting. We are leaving for Bali, after New Years, with six other couples and I am looking forward to the holiday. We are also planning to go backpacking later in the year, to Tuscany, Italy.
Q: Any tips on how a young couple can make a vacation truly memorable?
Young couples need to look at their common interests and assess their energy levels before they set out to a destination. Jaipur, Pondicherry, Kerala are amazing holiday destinations for all age groups, including young couples.
Q: A monument that you have seen and which has stayed most vividly in your memory
The Taj, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Cracao Basilica and Polish church are some monuments that hold a special place in my memory. During my trip to Poland, i visited Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter at Krakow, which is the oldest Polish cathedral and churches in Poland. Closer home, I went to school at St. Stanislaus School, Bandra, and St. Peter's Church holds a special place for me too.