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Striking the right note... for his supper

"Actually music is much like cooking. When you cook there are raw ingredients just as there are untapped notes. All you need to do is to put them in the correct proportion and there you are."



Shankar Mahadevan reveals his food secrets at New Delhi's Tivoli Garden Resort.

IT IS eleven at night and he has to leave Delhi at four in the morning. Of course, a thousand other things need to be done in the small time span. Still he has all the time in the world to entertain the few who have gathered at the Tivoli Garden Resort to catch him serenading.

He starts to the music of applause which gets bigger and bigger as he leaves everyone "Breathless" with the eponymous number. His indefatigability notwithstanding, it is a little difficult to make Shankar Mahadevan part with his time if not for singing. A bribe, that of some good food helps as he eyes the menu at The Marbella's, Tivoli's coffee shop.

"Mexican, Chinese, Lebanese," he identifies the various dishes by their names which though seemingly delectable, actually don't convey anything to a person until he claims to be the greatest of connoisseurs around. What for instance would a Spanish Ricotta Lasagna mean? "I can identify that it is an oven baked pasta because I know how to cook most of these dishes," he reveals as he settles for some Murgh Malai Kabab. "I can cook Thai, Italian and Chinese food apart from North and South Indian food. And yes that includes both vegetarian and non vegetarian," he elaborates.

"In fact, I have been passionate about food right from my schooling days. I always made my own omelettes and fried eggs. I even watch cooking shows and read a lot of books on cooking," he adds as he sips some Scampi in pickled mayo, a prawn cocktail. "Actually music is much like cooking. When you cook there are raw ingredients just as there are untapped notes. All you need to do is to put them in the correct proportion and there you are," he gives a rare insight and he means this as much from his heart as from his tummy.

He pauses for a moment to taste the red curry and Murgh Tikka Patiala Wala. Satisfied, he springs another surprise. "I learnt cooking only because of interest. Professionally I was a computer engineer and worked at Oracle. But I was always fond of music as well. So one day I decided I needed to give more time to music and I quit my job. I didn't have any offers then and it was much later that I got advertisements such as Pepsi but I knew that eventually I would earn. I knew that years of classical training won't go waste," recalls the singer who stole everyone's heart with `Kuchh Khaas Hai advertisement for Cadbury.

"I started by performing in fusion groups and performed with Ustaad Zakir Husain also. And then one fine day I got this offer from HMV to sing for an album which had the lyrics of Javed Akhtar. We developed a special kind of relationship from there on and I had my second album with him being released some time back." The album in question which had songs like "O Saahiba" didn't quite make an impact on the music charts but mutual admiration between Shankar and Javed Akhtar continues. "We both like food and we had Luckhnowi Tunde Kabaab together," he reminisces.

Music direction came somewhere down the line and the group of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy gained fame with "Dil Chahta Hai" though recognition had come earlier with "Mission Kashmir" and "Shool". A career compromise has brought him here but compromising on Lamb Piccatta and Dijaj Al Quizi which is grilled chicken with stuffed rice won't take him anywhere if he is to be believed, but sometimes you just can't help it. So he moves on. "In the offing are `Rudraksh' and `Lakshya' which will see me scoring the music," he points out. "Actually music helped me in another way. Due to my celebrity status chefs readily help me whenever I ask for help. I sat down with the chef in Vishakapatnam and a chef from Kerala sent his recipes by fax to me," he chuckles.

"Anyway tomorrow is a hectic day. We have to leave for Chandigarh early," he states as he prepares to leave. Yes, but who knows about tomorrow? After all, "Kal Ho Na Ho"? One can't comment about the rest but as music director of the film he certainly does. Besides he still believes in planning before hand. "I have already planned for tomorrow. We will have Bhelpuri, Kababs and Panipuri on the way." Now does anyone want testimony to the fact that the way to a man's heart is through his belly?

S.M. YASIR

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