In virtuous company: Loy Mendonsa on Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Chennai gig for The Shakti Foundation
Not many music directors of Bollywood can boast of a better discography than that of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s (SEL). Having been present at the forefront of the Hindi movie industry’s contemporary music revolution during the first decade of the millennium (a period that is undoubtedly the group’s golden period as well) SEL has consistently given us memorable soundtracks for over two decades now, while exploring a range of genres and styles, starting with most notably Dil Chahta Hai.
Over the years, they have forayed into other regional languages as well, like Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, and have also been actively involved on stage with live concerts. This week, the trio will perform in Chennai, as a part of The Shakti Foundation’s annual fundraising concert Gurucarana, to enable medical aid for underprivileged people in rural areas.
Ahead of the performance, we caught up with Loy Mendonsa for a quick chat, which started with him talking about their association with the Foundation, a partnership that goes a long way, we learnt. “It was around ten years ago that we first performed for them after they approached Shankar to put a band together. He gathered a group of musicians including Sivamani, U Srinivas and me, and named the band Shraddha, which performed a unique brand of spiritual fusion music at special occasions with socially-inclined causes,” says Loy. As for SEL themselves, their first performance for the Foundation was around six to seven years ago, he further adds.
Sharing his thoughts on the kind of work done by the Foundation, he says, “It’s fantastic. As much as one side of the country has progressed, there are still some with a mindset that thinks that somebody who is handicapped should not work and should be at home. So the fact that they provide facilities for them, especially in the fields of education and medicine for all age groups, is a very beautiful thing. It’s good to be able to support that.”
Every second counts
Do they plan their live performances based on the themes of such events, we ask. He says, “There will definitely be moments where we will get into that zone. But the truth is that a lot of people know that our music is very diverse. So they will be expecting us to play tunes that are popular among them, including some of our regular classics. We actually have a whole list of songs, but we have to first gauge the audience and its age group before finalising what tracks we will finally play.”
Speaking of songs, SEL has produced some of the most memorable music for Bollywood in the past, that too with incredible consistency. Talking about how they have stuck together for so many years, Loy shares that it goes beyond movies and music. “We have developed a very beautiful working relationship. I guess our personalities and characters come into play. But it’s not easy...what with different points of views, but we always try to look at it objectively, keeping in mind the movie or the song.”
Which is perhaps why, in general, the number of songs has reduced in every movie, he observes, while crediting the rise of technology to the changes in the way people consume music. “Unlike the days of cassettes and CDs, the present-day digital era sees an incredible amount of musical data at our disposal. There’s so much to take into consideration when making music now. With dependence on streaming services higher than ever before, long songs may not appeal to audiences of today, who may be tempted to fast forward it!” he says, adding, “Also, with buffering and network speed being crucial factors, especially in rural areas, long songs might be a hindrance to a smooth viewing experience as well.”
@shankar.mahadevan wishing The Shakti Foundation ahead of yet another promising performance by @shankarehsaanloy in Chennai. Visit indulgexpress.com and read our interview with @loymendonsaofficial , where he speaks about the trio's association with the Foundation, and the changing landscape of Bollywood music. #shankarehsaanloy #bollywood #theshaktifoundation #gurucarana
But regardless of length or the movie that the song belongs to, we know it is hard for talented songwriters to be noticed in the present scheme of things. Loy agrees while sharing his opinion about the kind of music that Bollywood is churning out at present. “This problem stems from the fact that only one or two record companies are promoting content, and they may not give priority to the good ones. It’s like a store that doesn’t put out its entire range of products and forces its customers to consume only what it’s selling, till the time there is an alternative. But I believe a shift will happen soon,” he assures, saying, “Think about it — just like there’s a section of people wanting to listen to film music, there’s an equally massive section of music lovers who do not want to listen to film music. Instead, they are into folk, classical and alternative. But the impending change needs time to come about.”
This way, that way
However, there is another section of the audience that plays a crucial role as well, he points out — those who take the trouble of recommending lesser-known songs of unsuccessful movies, regardless of who composed it. Talking of examples like Yuvvraaj, which was a massive box-office disappointment but featured one of AR Rahman’s best ever soundtracks, Loy says, “Box-office hits strike a chord with only a certain section of people, but it doesn’t always need to mean that they are great.”
That said, the way music is represented is naturally evolving. Loy is quick to come with a stirring comparison of the yesteryear and modern way of video production. “Let’s say that there’s a song that is supposed to be shot in a desert. Earlier, a helicopter would be the way to shoot lengthy shots here. But today, we can shoot the same with a drone as well, giving it a completely different perspective. Also, with the advent of virtual reality and the 360° experience, things are shaping up,” The same logic applies to remakes as well, he says. “Also, the new generation may not like to listen to a song in the way it was originally composed. This is where remakes come into play. So, I think that’s okay since consumption patterns keep changing, as long as they listen to music.”
@ehsaan wishing The Shakti Foundation ahead of yet another promising performance by @shankarehsaanloy in Chennai. Visit indulgexpress.com and read our interview with @loymendonsaofficial , where he speaks about the trio's association with the Foundation, and the changing landscape of Bollywood music. #shankarehsaanloy #bollywood #theshaktifoundation #gurucarana
Future is bright
Looking ahead, Loy shared details about their upcoming projects this year and delighted us with names of some familiar collaborators and throwback projects — namely Farhan Akhtar in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s sports film Toofan, and Bunty Aur Babli, the sequel to which is in the works. But before all these, there is Yash Raj Film’s epic Prithviraj, directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi and starring Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar. “The year started well with Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, and it looks like it’s going to continue in the same vein,” concludes Loy.
February 15, 7 pm. At The Music Academy. Donor passes available at The Shakti Foundation.
@loymendonsaofficial wishing The Shakti Foundation ahead of yet another promising performance by @shankarehsaanloy in Chennai. Visit indulgexpress.com and read our conversation with him where he speaks about the trio's association with the Foundation, and about the changing landscape of Bollywood music. #shankarehsaanloy #bollywood #theshaktifoundation #gurucarana