A hidden talent: Shail Hada

Singer and arranger Shail Had. Photo: Shail Hada

He may not be as well-known as Arijit Singh or Udit Narayan, but for Shail Hada, work is its own reward. His songs, Udi, Guzaarish, Tera Zikra (which won him the Stardust Male Sensation award in 2011) and Saiba (all from Guzaarish), Poore chand, Lahu munh lag gaya and Ang laga de (Goliyon Ki RasLeela—RamLeela) and Khalibali and Holi (Padmaavat) should ring a bell, along with the current hit Dholida (Gangubai Kathiawadi).

Infinitely more significantly, Shail has also arranged most of the songs composed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and has been a classical music teacher, performer, jingles composer, has done a Marathi film (Carry On Marathi) as singer-composer besides some Hindi films (along with Pritesh Mehta as Shail-Pritesh) including some songs in Sarbjit, scored a Gujarati single, and been involved as singer in a few of Harrys Jairaj’s Tamil and Telugu films.

“I consider myself a devotee of Hindustani music,” smiles Shail when we meet up at a coffee-shop. “At various junctures in my lives, both the legendary musicians Rajesh Iyer and Rajat Dholakia told me that there was a music arranger hidden with me after my interactions with them on songs and jingles. So I decided that I should try that area as well, and have even won a Radio Mirchi award for one of my songs!”

The affable and passionate singer hails from Kota, Rajasthan and is the son and student of his renowned vocalist father Jaswant Singh Hada. Among the many stalwarts who illuminated his musical path were Pt. Aaskaran Sharma (“You will never see a guru like him—he would even make breakfast for me!”) and Pt. Ajay Pohankar. Shail himself did his Sangeet Visharad and also M.A. in music. As opposed to his long and extensive musical training, he also wanted, from an early age, to sing playback in movies.

“I was exposed by my father to Mohammed Rafi as well as Mehdi Hasan and by my mother to Lata Mangeshkar,” he recalls. “When I had an accident and was in coma for 12 days, my mother told me that I had got a second birth! She asked me what I wanted to do and I told her I wanted to sing! Before that, I had enrolled in IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)!”

Over the years, also exposed to other playback legends besides other classical vocalists, Shail came to the conclusion that playback singing was a different and unique kettle of fish altogether. “I would like my singing to have the roundedness and sweetness of Rafi-saab, the pain in Mukesh-ji’s expression, the riyaaz of Manna Dey, the chanchalta (resilience) of Asha Bhosle and the soul of Lata Mangeshkar!” he declares.

Shail also believes that the human voice is a tool of communicating music. “My arrangements are only an extension of my singing. The human throat or vocal cords is the biggest instrument and I like to use voices that way. All the legendary composers gave importance to the various singers by studying and harnessing their throw, style, range, singing and their rhythm inhow words are used. A song is to be heard, not seen as it has become so nowadays. I want my voice to communicate.”

Because of this firm conviction, Shail has no qualms about refusing playback assignments that need him to come and record within 30 minutes as a recording studio been rented for a limited period! “The song has to be absorbed and only then can it reach someone’s soul!” he points out, declaring how, among the many songs he has turned down for the same reason, was a composition by a top duo.

A chance meeting with composer Monty Sharma led to his working on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black. “I can only work with someone I feel connected with, and I hit it off with Monty. We began to meet frequently years before the film happened. The movie had only one song, but I sang my first-ever film portion, a long alaap, in the famous fountain scene in the film. Then Monty also made me sing in Saawariya in Daras bina nahin chain and both versions of the title-track.”

Some years later, Shail was busy at riyaaz (a practice he feels should be rigidly done daily) when Sanjay Leela Bhansali asked him to meet up. “I knew Sanjay-sir’s musical acumen already, and he had sensed mine as well. So when he told me that he would begin to compose music if I was ready to arrange his songs, I immediately agreed.”

The first song that Shail arranged was the title-track of the new film, Guzaarish. “Sanjay-sir has an aura. His vision of a song presentation is something very unique to him. He has not learnt music, but as he is God-gifted, I have to bow to the supreme power that resides within him! Of course, he has heard so much and can come out with his own creations based on all that he has heard. Among the legends, he is hugely inspired by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and their earthy style.”

Shail admits that the classical nuances in the tunes and the singing are his own contributions. And as for deciding the singers, he reveals significantly, “Every song calls for a specific singer, but it is Sanjay-sir who takes the final call as I and the other team members suggest voices. Sanjay-sir also watches a lot of Hindi, Marathi and other language music shows on TV, and picks up singing talents from there. He has a sharp ear and a sharper instinct.”

Revealing a secret of the filmmaker’s music, he says, “We are working now on Heeramandi. Sanjay-sir spends weeks on a song. There is lots of homework done on every song, lots of R & D and many versions thought of. A special memory for me is the effort on the Rajasthani track Ghoomar in Padmaavat, for which we spent weeks listening to old folk songs in Udaipur.”





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