SHANKAR MAHADEVAN | The singer who is back to judging and mentoring the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Season 30 speaks with Shalini Saksena about how the calibre of the contestants has changed, challenges that come while judging and a song that is very close to his heart
What will we see in this season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?
The show has always stood for being an outstanding platform — for youngsters, musicians of the future and supremely talented singers from various genres, various voice textures and various backgrounds. It is going to be a very interesting show.
You have judged the show earlier as well. How has the calibre of candidates changed and evolved?
I am coming back to this show after almost nine years. You can make out that the youth of today realise the magnitude of the show. Probably nine years back, the level, where the show can reach and what can become of you was well understood and they work even harder now. They are well-prepared. They know that they have to make an impression the first time. So, they put in their heart and soul into music. The perfection, the talent and the way they present it is amazing. We have just finished the auditions and looks like a grand gala already.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to judging?
The way we judge, what we look for is individuality. There are times when some voices try to impersonate another even when that original singer is there. I don’t think this excites us as much as a voice that is a new species of flower — a voice that is unique. There is a contestant, whose voice has a texture that takes you back to the black and white era. She is a tiny little girl and she sounds like a Begum Akhtar or a Noor Jahan and that totally shocks you. I get excited by hearing voices that are not generic.
You also mentor. What do you tell them?
Lot of things actually. It is difficult to talk about technicalities in print. There are certain things that they miss out on like breathing technique and pitching a note. There are ways to approach a single note — you can take the help of another note or pitch this note directly. This is difficult to explain in words. This is what we have to guide me in.
How has the music industry changed since you came?
Music industry is like the fashion industry. It is like food choice; how life is. The only constant in life is change. Things and tastes keep changing. Love for a particular genre comes up, some die down some stay longer. All this has got a soul — which is the melody, the arrangement, lyrics and the way you deliver the song. If these elements are strong, it is here to stay for a long time. Some of the artists are doing great job today and people are loving it.
You have done so many films, a project/ song close to your heart?
It has to be Breathless. This is because it has given me the face and made me what I am today. When I look back at my journey of 30 years, there have been several milestones like Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahata Hai and Bunty Aur Bubli. There isn’t a singer or composer who has not had some misses. Some songs survive even when the film tanked. I have seen a gamut of emotions in music. I have done different music over the years and enjoyed each one.
What next can we expect from you — this year?
There is lots of stuff happening. We just released Toofan. Then there is Bunty Aur Bubli 2, there is Prithviraj; these are two huge Yash Raj projects. There is Yudhra directed by Ravi Udyawar that we are working on. Then we are working on Meghna Gulzar’s biopic on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. We are working on Zoya’s project. There are a lot of non-filmi collaborations as well. My academy is teaching classical music to people in 80 countries.