Shankar Mahadevan: We're using music as a tool to communicate a message
After participating in gigs to raise funds for various initiatives and keep front-line workers entertained, Shankar Mahadevan discusses Kamal Haasan's latest Tamil song
Caught within the confines of his home-studio, Shankar Mahadevan finds himself busier than usual, during the period of lockdown. Apart from employing music to enable home-bound citizens to tackle with anxiety, he has been using his skills as a musician to subtly aid those braving the pandemic at the front-line. "We have done concerts for singers' associations, and [to raise money for] the PM-CARES fund. We're [working on initiatives] in the Malayalam and Tamil industries as well, apart from performing for doctors to boost morale," says Mahadevan, who also took part in an initiative to support folk singers affected by the pandemic, and aided struggling composers with monetary support.
In his latest endeavour, Mahadevan collaborated with Kamal Haasan for Arivum anbum, a Tamil song that brings together various artistes from across India to spread the message of knowledge and unity. "I had created [songs] in Hindi, Marathi, and Malayalam, but not in Tamil. We're using music as a tool to communicate a message. When music is used for a greater purpose, and you are chosen [to be part of it] from thousands of other singers, you feel humbled."
Actor-politician Haasan's frequent collaborator Ghibran has skilfully created the track that plays against rushes depicting people's struggle with the pandemic. It is punctuated by clips of artistes like Anirudh Ravichander, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Shruti Haasan, Bombay Jayashree, Lydian, Siddharth, Sid Sriram and Mugen, crooning the song. "In situations like this one, while the quality [of the video] is valuable, it is the message that is [the most] important," says Mahadevan, whose portions were shot by his children in his home-studio.
When he isn't playing second fiddle in the fight against the pandemic, Mahadevan hops aboard a video conferencing platform every Wednesday and Saturday, to conduct a master-class for the students of his academy. "I also spend time in the studio with my sons [Siddharth and Shivam]. My elder son is a producer, so I don't need anyone else. We're like a band in the studio. We have been using this time to practice."
Haasan's virtual date with journalists
The assortment of 50 journalists from across India and overseas that has congregated for a video interaction with Kamal Haasan beseeches a response to why he created his latest track, Arivum anbum, in a language only few would understand. "This is the language that I write in, and I couldn't reach out to [many artistes] at once. We did this in a hurry, but it will not be a bad idea to [create] it in another language," says Haasan, well-aware that given his clout, abundant attention would be drawn to a song penned by him.
Haasan's directive to composer Ghibran was simple — create a song that resembled a chant, because "that's something that every person [of every religion] has heard". Along with the composer, he drew up a "wish-list" of artistes he wanted to feature in this track. "It was like, we were window shopping," he tells mid-day, adding, "I asked my secretary to see if they would be [interested], and [each artiste agreed]. In no time, they sent in their shots. I am proud to be part of such a grand family."
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