With his iconic baritone, by Agnee Kannan Mohan is on the cusp of a 15-year anniversary with his teammate, Kaustabh ‘Koco’ Dhavale. Besides the group’s long-standing success with indie music, they have also cautiously ridden Bollywood musical trends over the past two decades, occasionally producing classics such as Sham Tanha, Kabiraand Ahateinto only cite a few.
More recently, Mohan lent his voice to Kahani — a hit song written for Aamir Khan-featuring, Laal Singh Chaddha.
We sat down to chat with the singer, learning about much of his experience working on Kahani with lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and composer Pritam, as well as his reflections on 15 years of agnes past.
Tell us how Kahani first took shape for Laal Singh Chaddha.
“I was first called to do dubbing Kahani in 2019, when it had just been composed. Everyone at Pritam was delighted with the lyrics that Amitabh had written and what struck me right away was the simplicity of Pritam’s composition and the depth of Amitabh’s lyrics. It was a beautiful mix of understandable, hummable melodies and words, but each part of the song somehow conveyed a deeper meaning with each listen. The song then had only one Antara (verse) but, just a few months ago, another Antara added to it.
It was a difficult song to sing, as I had to be careful to convey the emotion as best I could without relying on histrionic vocals…and I always feel like the simplest songs are the hardest to do, be it composition, lyrics or singing. I’m glad I had the help of Akash and Aniruddh from the Pritam team, who helped me deliver the song as it should. It’s a great feeling to be part of a song as beautiful as this!
There’s something very pure and simple about this song – it sounds pretty fresh compared to many recent film score releases. What does mean Kahani mean to you?
“I totally agree that there is something very pure and direct about the song… I think Pritam and Amitabh managed to do that by design rather than by chance. They knew they had to be true to the character of Laal Singh Chaddha because this song pretty much sums up the philosophy of the character and the film.
What Kahani means to me is much more personal. I have always believed in the saying “God helps those who help themselves” and therefore the lines “Yeh Hatheli Ki Lakeeron Mein Likhi Saari Hai, Ya Zindagi Humaare Iraadon Ki Maari Hai” rings very true to me. Moreover, my connection with the song also has to do with my love of melody and enjoying the whole process of dubbing throughout my various sessions.
Congratulations on completing 15 years together as Agnee. How do you feel looking back on the past decade and a half? How have you both changed during this time?
“Honestly, Koco and I don’t feel like it’s been a long time, to be honest. We’ve had a great time on this journey and look forward to many more years of doing what we love. plus: making and playing music.
We’ve both changed over the years…I think Koco has ventured into production a lot more than it has in the past, and expanded its skill set to include a lot of programming, which expands the spectrum of sounds we choose to incorporate into The Band. We both took pieces from each other and included each other’s thought subconsciously in how we approach the songs, I guess. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with many composers for playback, and there’s always something that stays with me as a learning experience, whether it’s working with legends like SEL, Pritam, Amit Trivedi or to work with new composers.
Each voiceover is a mix of some contributions from me and some lessons for me from them, so it’s always fun! Agnee plans to release around 25 songs this year, and I think each of these songs will show some aspect of how we’ve grown as musicians…we’re very excited and looking forward to the releases.
Working on an Aamir Khan film must be exciting – what was it like working with him?
“This is my second time working on an Aamir Khan project. The first was for an advertisement many years ago for Samsung, where Aamir was the brand ambassador. Amit Trivedi had composed the music and Gulzar Saa’b wrote the lyrics. It was the first commercial I had sung.
I also talked a bit with him during Kati Battiwhen he heard the song Ove Janiya, composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy and written by Kumar, and contacted me to sing it again because he felt some lyrics might be simpler than the original draft. Even then he struck me as someone who knew exactly what he was talking about and was able to communicate the same without any ambiguity and never made an artist feel like he was telling them how to do their work.
With Kahaniwhen I met him with Advait, the director, it was more because of my interpretation of the second Antara and how he felt certain words could be spoken a bit more while still keeping the feel of the song intact. He also took the time to explain to me how he planned to market the songs and that he was very keen to release them purely in audio first, and that also made me realize why he was so particular about every syllable of the song.
When Amitabh or Pritam had suggestions that were contrary to his opinion, he would be happy to defer to their opinion on musicality and that seemed very cool to me. All in all, it was fun to sing this song, and I’m glad the song is doing well and people seem to be really enjoying listening to it!
Can you share with us your favorite Aamir films?
“My favorite Aamir Khan movie is DangalI think.. Although it would be difficult to choose one, as I like Dil Chahta Hai, Sarfaroch, 3 idiots and Andaaz Apna Apna too.”
What future projects can we expect from you?
“Agnea is releases are coming and will be fairly regular over the next 12 months. Personally, I’m also working on my solo releases, and I plan to release my first 6 solo singles this year. I am also working on a few movies and an OTT series as Music Director and these projects are due out in early/mid 2023.
I’m also looking forward to directing a few shorts this year and hopefully this will make me realize whether or not I have what it takes to be a director…it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I also work with my sister and my mother on some of their compositions in the Carnatic Classical space and I really enjoy that too! »
(Featured image credits: Agnee)