The expedition of excellence begins at the harbour of passion. This holds true for playback singer Mohan Kannan, who left his full time job of an Assistant Vice President at Deutsche Bank AG to form 'Agnee', a Pune-based rock band with Kaustubh Dhavale (better known by his stage name of Koco).
Together, the two have crafted numerous singles and theme songs including 'Aahatein' for the dating reality show 'MTV Splitsvilla'.
The singer is back this time with a fresh song 'Kahani' from the Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan-starrer 'Laal Singh Chaddha'. The song composed by hit machine Pritam, has its lyrics penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya.
In a recent conversation with IANS, Kannan spoke about the song, his association with Aamir, Pritam and Amitabh, and the process of working on this song at length.
Describing Pritam's process of working, the singer says, "Pritam typically never gives me a note for a singing-driven brief rather he gives me character or a lot of visual-driven briefs. One of my favourite briefs that Pritam has ever given me is when he asked me to imagine myself as a guy in the New York Subway with a guitar case in front of him. Although that character was a little older than me, he is singing words of wisdom and explaining the philosophies of life through his music."
Reminiscing the time when he went in to record the song's 'antra' (verse), Mohan mentions that their single point focus was on the lyrics that were penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya, who has a knack for brilliant poetry be it songs from 'Lootera', 'Delhi Belly' or 'Go Goa Gone'.
The singer says, "When we went to record the 'antra' for 'Kahani' song, Pritam told me just to emote the lyrics because the lyrics are the king of the song and we knew this from day one because Amitabh Bhattacharya had written it so brilliantly. Such songs are the toughest to record because you cannot fall back on the vocal histrionics to make it sound like you are a good singer. You have to be just as bare as you can and express the song in the simplest way possible."
Ask him how he feels about crooning the song for a film which is a remake of the iconic 'Forrest Gump' starring Tom Hanks, and he lets out a little secret, "I actually haven't seen 'Forrest Gump', I have purposely decided to watch 'Laal Singh Chaddha' first and then move onto the original one, I know it's a legendary film to begin with."
"For me, having sung the song in the remake of that film is a very strange feeling. First, there is a little embarrassment that I haven't seen 'Forrest Gump' and the second is the excitement of working in an Aamir Khan film for the very first time as I am a huge Aamir Khan fan", he adds.
Gushing on his love for Aamir Khan, he continues, "I have seen 'Dangal' at least 25 times so you know where that love for Aamir comes from. For me, this association is very special, I had worked with him long back for my first ad that I lent my voice to, Amit Trivedi had composed that jingle, Anurag Kashyap had directed the ad and Gulzar Sahab had written lyrics on that one."
Aamir Khan is known for being religiously involved at every stage of filmmaking even the music and the fact assumes a more immutable form with what Mohan says next, "Aamir's inputs came much closer during the second take of the song, a couple of months ago when we were redoing the song."
Explaining Aamir's hard taskmaster skills, he says, "He was very particular about certain words and how they should sound. When I went to meet him on day one, he told me that they were planning to release the song in just the audio format so that the listeners could focus on the lyrics rather than being distracted by the visuals of the song."
"So, for the song to drive every listener, it was imperative that the pronunciation of certain words was right and correct. And it was not just confined to just the pronunciation, it had a lot to do with the feel of the song and I realised over time that Aamir has a creative bone for music as well. He is very meticulous and I love that about him", he explains further.
Finally, he gets down to speak about his working equation with Amitabh Bhattacharya, whom he considers the second best lyricist after the legendary Sampooran Singh Kalra, better known as Gulzar.
Kannan shares, "My association with Amitabh Bhattacharya dates long back. I had sung a song that was penned by him for the film 'Udaan', which was directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. And, he has written a couple of songs for my band 'Agnee' as well."
"Every time I work with Amitabh, I feel again that this guy has written something that exceeds the level of genius that he had established earlier. At times, it gets a little irritating to be honest (laughs). After Gulzar saab, for me it's Amitabh Bhattacharya, it's hard to believe that he and I are contemporaries," he concludes.