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14 songs that prove Shankar Mahadevan's versatility — birthday special

As the musician turns 50 today (3 March), we take a look at the songs that prove Mahadevan's mettle as a singer.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

He’s the heart of the trinity Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Shankar Mahadevan is not just an astute musician, but also a brilliant singer. In fact, before he found his collaborators Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, Mahadevan left us and himself breathless, with his maiden music video song ‘Breathless’.  As the singer-composer turns 50 today (3 March), we list some of the finest songs Mahadevan lent his voice to. 

1. Breathless title track (1998 album)

'Breathless' was not just a song, but an entire love story crooned all at one go. 'Breathless' is like a steady that goes on without a break, stanzas, verse or apparently even a pause for breath. The video was 2 minutes and 40 seconds long, but the full version of the song was over six minutes. Mahadevan was honest enough to admit later that he did have his breathers and it was technology that made it possible for the track to sound 'breathless'. Nevertheless, even a minute of singing this song can leave one out of breath. This track made his eponymous album a hit and it breathed new life into Mahadevan's career.

2. Maa – Taare Zameen Par  (2007)

The word ‘Ma' is enough to get one emotional, and Mahadevan put his heart and soul in this track, bringing out the child in him. ‘Maa’ left most people teary-eyed. Prasoon Joshi penned not only some fine lyrics, but also one of the greatest songs ever in Hindi cinema.

3. Taare Zameen Par – Taare Zameen Par (2007)

This is another gem from Mahadevan and Joshi. The title track of Taare Zameen Par was like a jingle, a textbook poetry, but more importantly, it had to be sung with an innocence that only Mahadevan's voice conveyed.

4. Tere Naina – Chandi Chowk to China (2009)

The only thing to appreciate about Chandni Chowk to China was this celestial track, which had Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone flying off to the moon. Shreya Ghosal served as the perfect foil to Mahadevan in this romantic track.

5. Kajra Re – Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

This foot-tapping number was widely accepted and appreciated when it was released. Alisha Chinai returned with a bang, while 'Kajra Re' was yet another feather in the cap of Mahadevan, the singer. And of course, we all loved Aishwarya Rai. 

6. Dil Chahta Hai – Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Dil Chahta Hai came as a breath of fresh air, and so did its music. The film helped the trio (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) achieve new heights in their careers. The film had many chartbusters, and Mahadevan and Clinton Cerejo had the credits to the title track. The beats at the beginning are easily identifiable, reminding millennials of a memorable film.

7. Jeene Ke Hai Ishaare – Phir Milenge (2004)

Phir Milenge was a box office disaster, but a critically acclaimed film with some popular tracks. Mahadevan’s 'Jeene Ke Ishaare' infused much-needed life into an otherwise tragic film.

8. Pretty Woman – Kal Ho Na Ho (2003)

Dharma Productions had reportedly obtained the rights to use the words ‘pretty woman’ from the classic track 'Pretty Woman' by Roy Orbison. Orbison's song was also used in the Julia Roberts and Richard Gere film of the same name. Mahadevan's 'Pretty Woman' in Kal Ho Na Ho had a desi twist with lots of dhol beats.

9. Mourya Re – Don (2006)

Don is arguably Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s best composition. Be it the remixes or the original tracks, the music of Don was truly breathtaking. Each track was a chartbuster, but one track that became part of everyone's morning prayer was 'Mourya Re', sung in the divine voice of Mahadevan.

10.  Ekadantaya Vakratundaya (devotional song) 

This devotional song in Marathi is not from a film. Mahadevan proved himself to be a great devotee of Lord Ganesha with his rendition of the ‘Ekadantaya Vakratundaya’ prayer. This effort earned Mahadevan praise from former Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Many expressed surprise over how a Tamilian could so effectively sing a Marathi song. Though a Tamil by birth, Mahadevan has lived in Mumbai all his life.

11. Mast Kalander – Hey Babyy (2007)

Most of 'Mast Kalander' is sung by Master Saleem and Rehan Khan. However, the song comes alive at 3.18 with the entry of Shah Rukh Khan and of course, Mahadevan’s voice with a tinge of flirtiness. The song made it to song lists at parties, pubs and weddings when the film released.

12. Wake Up Sid title track – Wake Up Sid (2009)

Tired of the boring morning alarm bell? How about beginning your day with the sound of Wake Up Sid? The club mix of the titular track from the Ranbir Kapoor film is a perfect way to beat the early morning laziness. Mahadevan proved yet again why he is an apt voice for soft rock tracks.

13. O Rahi Re – Luck By Chance (2008)

This track took you on an uncertain ride of destiny. Mahadevan scripted his path to glory with this slice-of-life track from Luck By Chance.

14. Aave Re Hitchki – Mirzya (2016)

The film was a visual treat, but it did not light the box office afire. Its music, though, was other-worldly. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy returned to form with Mirzya, doling out tunes that came as a breath of fresh air. 'Hitchki' (meaning hiccup) was the name of the song, but Mahadevan's vocals are like a stream of honey. For a man who gave us 'Breathless', how a could his hitchki not be soothing to the ears.