My wife will not let me do romantic scenes”

Shaan is as Shaan does. For someone who defiantly knocked on the Indipop door and then jumped on the film magic carpet to meet with stupendous success, this singer with the dulcet voice still remains the charming boy-next door. The trappings of stardom have not seeped into him, and never will. “I am an easygoing guy,” he declares, the laughter in his voice intact.

From a quiet, yet steady two-song appearance in Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, to voicing Cub B in Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, Shaan has had a no-frills climb up the ladder. His voice is blessed with the clarity of a trained singer. Yet, he is versatile enough to go from the sombre to the seductive in one minute.

Every singer would love to have a piece of Shaan’s pie. On the one hand, he is perfectly happy negotiating the myriad emotions of Tanha dil, his own baby. On the other, he is happy being a voice to the likes of Ajay Devgan in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke and Saif in Dil Chahta Hai. He is the quintessential pin-up boy who can be taken home to mom. His talking, like his singing, is honest…

From being a two-song wonder in Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi to having almost an entire soundtrack to yourself in Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai…, how has the transition been?
I have had a great time in the industry, and have done lots of playback singing in the past one year. I guess music directors have found me worthy of the genre. Maybe a year ago, my footing in the industry would not have been so firm, but I am grateful for whatever has come my way. I am not into the cutthroat competition league. I have a positive attitude, and do justice to whatever I get.

After singing for Abhishek in BISKH, you also are doing Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. Are you all set to become Abhishek’s voice, as Udit Narayan is Aamir’s?
Abhishek is a classic youth icon, and he is blessed with his father’s deep baritone. After Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, composers felt that I could fit into the mould, though I am not sure of the baritone (chuckles). Anyway, I am glad that it has worked well. I am also singing for him in Om Jai Jagdish and Kuch Na Kaho as well.

From Aadesh Shrivastava to Rahman to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, you seem to have wowed them all…
(Laughs) I guess I have been lucky that way. All the music directors I have worked with have given me a free hand to do my own thing. And once you are happy and convinced about what you are doing, it shows.

Aadesh is an extremely promising music director. He got the best out of me in Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, and it was because of the fact that I had a free rein to treat the songs my way.

Another memorable experience was working with Viju Shah in Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat. It was wonderful. Viju is unconventional, and has great energy for what he does.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy ke to bahut ehsaan hain mujh par. Though Shankar is a good singer himself, he is always open to the idea of another singer voicing his compositions. He also has a fine ear for music, and is very open to experimentation. I am very happy with the way Dil Chahta Hai has turned out. It is young and no-holds-barred, and will work very well.

What do I say about Rahman that has not already been said before? He just lets you do your own thing. Sometimes, the only way to get a singer to do his best is to trust him and give him enough rope. Rahman just gives you the music sheet and asks you to let go. I remember asking him “Are you sure you don’t want to rehearse this?” He said, “No, just go ahead and sing the song your way. I will take care of the rest.” And you are committed to give your best to him!

Ghanan ghanan was virtually a tune party. Did you ever have the fear of getting overshadowed by established singers like Udit and Alka?
Not at all! I was not even supposed to sing Ghanan ghanan. In fact, I was not part of the initial list of singers, so I was not on the floor when the song was recorded. It was just that Rahman felt that the song needed more voices, so he asked about four of us to sing and chose my voice. If you notice, my presence is not really felt in the song. I just wanted to be associated with Lagaan and Rahman.

You entered the industry when there other singers like KK aspiring for a piece of the stardom pie. Did the competition worry you?
I believe in being happy with what I have; so being overshadowed never has bothered me. I have taken all that has come my way, and am grateful for what I have. I do not believe in rigid planning. I am flexible, and thank my stars for it.

As for KK, he is the closest friend that I have in the musical fraternity. He is a great singer, and I am very happy for him. We are both easygoing guys. We don’t grab success by the throat. We take it as it comes.

How different is it to sing songs in an already existing framework and penning your own lyrics, as you did for Tanha dil?
You know, even when I sing others’ songs, I have this knack of inserting words, even though the lyrics stare me in the face! Yeah, your song is your own baby. I still feel very possessive about Tanha dil. I gave it the best I had.

But you can improvise within a framework too. For instance, when I am singing, I add a little bit of alaap or scutting here and there. It helps if the composer in you is awake all the time. Look at Sukhwinder Singh: since he is a composer, he is able to lend a special feel to his songs.

And then there was this acting foray with Daman…
Oh, I had a great time doing it, but the people who watched me had a horrible time! (Laughs) But honestly, it was a good opportunity, to work with a director of the calibre of Kalpana Lajmi and a wonderful person like Raveena. It was good fun while it lasted.

Are you all set to don the greasepaint again?
I don’t mind doing small films, if I can improve on my acting! I would feel lost in a blockbuster, and I don’t think I am quite the pin-up dude! I did get a few offers, but my wife, being the sweet, possessive girl that she is, did not quite approve of me doing those romantic scenes! I don’t want to do anything that makes her unhappy. So I let them go. But no regrets! I am very happy with my singing.

What are your forthcoming films?
I am looking forward to Asoka, which is again an impressive Anu Malik score. The song I am doing is very candid and well done. There are also two films with Vashu Bhagnani, one of which is the Hindi remake of the Tamil film Minnale, with Madhavan in the lead role. The other is Deewanapan, where I am doing vocals for leading man Arjun Rampal. Aadesh Shrivastava is scoring the music. Of course, there is Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon with Anu Malik.

Do your film commitments leave much time for your pop albums?
Sadly, I don’t seem to have the time I used to have. I am working on an album right now in association with Virgin Records, and it should be ready for release in November. Making an album takes at least two months of dedicated time. I just cannot decide “Okay, I have a free day, so I will make an album.”

I am also conscious of not doing hackneyed stuff. People should not hear me in a private album and say, “Oh, he sounds like he did in Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai.” There is a very fine line dividing the two, and I try hard to sound different each time.

Sound different and like Babul Supriyo?
Oh, that’s a new one! People used to say that I followed Kishore Kumar’s style, as I did a lot of his songs as remixes initially. But I never consciously imitate anyone. It just happens!

What about the Shaan-Sagarika jodi?
We are busy with our own individual commitments, but we have now got together for an album in Bengali, revisiting compositions of our father Manas Mukherjee. If it works well, we will do it in Hindi as well. Music companies seem a bit reluctant to buy the brother-sister act. They want soulful ballads, and can you imagine a bhai-behen duo crooning romantic numbers to each other?

The two of us are also attempting do something away from the run-of-the-mill. Sagarika is now on tour with Talvin Singh in Europe, and she is enjoying every moment of it. I am doing a series of shows for Wills Sport, where I am singing numbers of Billy Joel and other stars. Singing in English is a totally different experience.

What is a typical Shaan off day like?
Every day is different! There are some days when you wish you had enough time, while some others are totally relaxed. On a free day, I would just laze around and sleep a lot. I also watch a lot of television. I am not much of a reader, though!

I also use the free time to bond with my family. I talk to mom, take my wife out for a movie or lunch. Simple pleasures!

You shattered a lot of hearts when you got married. So what is a Shaan serenade like?
Well, there is this song from Parinda, Tumse milke, which I love singing to her. I do so even now. There are lots of others. Of course, Gumsum ho kyon holds a special place in my heart, since I wrote it after a very special moment in our courtship.

Are you an incurable romantic?
My wife will be happy to hear that! I think I can put up a good act (Laughs).

Aruna Raman