"our music fits perfectly into the film"
Shankar Ehsaan and Loy (SEL) are music maestros who have made a sparkling name for themselves in the Bollywood music industry as very sought after music composers.
With a track record of huge blockbuster films, the trio have produced some of the most loved and memorable Bollywood songs from the late 1990’s to present. With most music directors either working alone or as a duo, Shankar Ehsaan and Loy are probably the first trio act as composers in Bollywood.
The trio were involved with other types of music before they came together for their illustrious career as Bollywood composers. They performed rock, blues, jazz and pop music. Each of them had their own backgrounds in music styles which contribute significantly to the popular sound they produce today.
Shankar Mahadevan, the main vocalist of the trio was born and brought up in Chembur, a suburb of Mumbai. He was born to a Tamil Iyer family from Kerala. At the young age of five, he learned Hindustani classical music and Carnatic music. His first instrument was the Veena and he became a student of Srinivas Khale, a well-known Marathi music composer.
Shankar made his singing debut in the 1985 Marathi film Vahinichi Maya and went on to lead playback singing in the Bollywood films Pukar, Sapnay and Biwi No.1.
As well as his music, Mahadevan completed a degree in Computer Science Engineering at Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology in Navi Mumbai. He worked as a software engineer in Oracle database software before becoming a full time singer and composer.
Born in October, 1963, Ehsaan Noorani is the lead guitarist in SEL. He studied music at the Musicians’ Institute in Los Angeles and was a student of Mr. Bismarck Rodrigues, an experienced guitar teacher from Mumbai.
Noorani’s worked with the likes of Ronnie Desai, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji and Louis Banks. Ehsaan was part of a blues-and-acid jazz band, wrote jingles in Delhi and composed Alien Desire before becoming part of the trio.
Ehsaan is the first Indian musician to have endorsed a signature line of Fender guitars, one of the largest and most reputed guitar manufacturers in the world.
Loy Mendonsa is the keyboard player in the collective. He is classically trained in Western music and has learnt Indian classical music. Prior to becoming part of SEL, Loy wrote music for television and produced jingle too like Ehsaan.
The show Quiz Time was Loy’s first work and Siddharth Basu gave him his first break. He then did Prannoy Roy’s The World This Week and more subsequently. He also did theatre including Godspell and West Side Story. Loy also produced music for Shahrukh Khan’s Fauji.
Loy had also worked as keyboardist with A. R. Rahman and Shankar had sung many famous tracks for him. His daughter, Alyssa Mendonsa, recently made her singing debut with the hit track “Uff Teri Adaa” from the movie Karthik Calling Karthik.
The trio teamed up during their jingle and advert producing days. In 1989, Ehsaan met Loy, who was working for Ranjit Barot, an ad film composer. They teamed up and composed several ad jingles together.
Later, Ehsaan and Loy met Shankar when he joined them to sing for the Pepsi advert directed by Mukul Anand. Since then, they started to compose for ads as a threesome.
We caught up with the trio and asked them some interesting and unusual questions!
The first project for Shankar Ehsaan and Loy as Bollywood composers was for Mukul Anand’s film Dus released in 1997, starring Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty. The original offer was to Ehsaan to compose the music for the movie but he convinced Anand that Shankar and Loy should work with him too.
After Dus, they composed music for films like Rockford and Bhopal Express which went unnoticed. Their first real musical hit was Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir starring Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta. The film industry earned them IIFA nominations.
The film Dil Chahta Hai was the turning point of their career which was the debut film of Farhan Akhtar as a director. The film starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna, won tremendous critical acclaim and went on to attain cult status among audiences. This marked the beginning of the SEL’s friendship with Farhan Akhtar.
Two subsequent Bollywood blockbusters, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, established the trio as major names in the industry. Kal Ho Na Ho, starring Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta, directed by Nikhil Advani, broke all the previous records as a best-selling film album. The music won many awards including the National Film Award for Best Music Direction. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna went on to break the audio sales record of Kal Ho Na Ho. The success cemented their relationship with Dharma Productions and its owner and director Karan Johar for future projects.
Many of their Bollywood films coincidentally include Shahrukh Khan as a lead actor in them. In 2006, Farhan Akhtar’s Don: The Chase Begins Again; in 2010, My Name Is Khan and in 2011, Don: The King is Back, are three hit examples.
SEL’s career has given them the prime opportunity to compose music and songs for many smash hit Bollywood films. These include, Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Bunty Aur Babli (2005), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006), Salaam-e-Ishq (2007), Heyy Babyy (2007), Johnny Gaddaar (2007), Taare Zameen Par (2007), Rock On!! (2008), Luck By Chance (2008), Wake Up Sid (2009), My Name Is Khan (2010), Housefull (2010), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Don 2: The King is Back (2011).
Their style is unique and asked how do they go about meeting the expectations of a director, Ehsaan said: “Most important is an understanding of the script to see what style of songs go with the script. That’s where we really score, our music fits perfectly into the film.” Asked if they argue when making their music, Shankar told us:
“All three of us, we argue a lot, we fight a lot, we discuss a lot! otherwise there’s no fun!”
Their music has earned them many industry awards including two Filmfare awards (Bunty Aur Babli, Kal Ho Naa Ho), three International Indian Film Academy Awards (Kal Ho Naa Ho, Bunty Aur Babli, My Name is Khan), three Star Screen awards (Dil Chahta Hai, Bunty Aur Babli, My Name Is Khan), one Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent and two MTV Immies Awards. In 2004, they received the National Film Award for Best Music Direction for the film Kal Ho Naa Ho.
Apart from Bollywood, the trio have been involved with many other projects including composing the official anthem for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, called ‘De Ghuma Ke’ and Ehasaan and Loy were part of Instant Karma, a band who produced Hindi remix projects with the talented voices such as Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Mahalaxmi Iyer. The first two albums in the Dance Masti collection sold over 700,000 copies.
Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy are composers and musicians who have established themselves through tremendous hard work and dedication to their craft. They have produced impeccable tunes for some of the biggest hit Bollywood films to date. Their energy not only comes across in their recorded work but their live shows and tours too. They are a live band not to be missed if they are in your area.
As individuals and as a collective SEL continue create music which is of a synergetic, high quality and affectionate nature, which we are sure everyone will enjoy in years to come.