He’s a man of few words, but when he’d rather let his singing do the talking, you can put every dime to bet that he’s got everyone’s attention. Shantanu Mukherjee amicably known as Shaan, one of India’s finest singers, was the surprise package of reality dancing show Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa 6, where he went on to easily impress the judges and audiences with his dazzling performances and dedication through the season.On a languid mist morning I meet up with Shaan for a quick chat before he jets off for a couple of days. His lovely home nestled beyond the chaos of suburban Mumbai, exudes warmth as much as the resident does. As I relish my cup of coffee, amidst flashing his trademark dimpled smile and refreshing candour, Shaan indulges with conversations about his new identity as a dancer, his unimaginable tryst with dance and the memorable journey as contestant on Jhalak Dikhlaa Ja Season 6.
How did JDJ 6 happen to you?
Jhalak was not exactly my plan, it was Radhika’s idea. She was the one who was keen on me taking it up and somewhere she felt I should just do it. For me, I figured that maybe if I do take up something totally different like this, the public will eventually forget it if I am too bad. Without thinking much into it as Radhika wanted me to do it, I just decided to give it a shot.
Tell us about working with a conceptually intelligent choreographer like Marischa?
The best part about Marischa is the way she teaches. She will simplify the step so that you are confident to do it, and then she pushes you till you get it right. She is amazingly flexible and never rigid in terms of choreography or concepts, which is another great thing as then there is a comfortable setting that you get into when you work with each other. She eventually understood what I can do and what I cannot, and accordingly she pushed me and brought me out there. Marischa will never try to outshine her celebrity and that is a brilliant quality since I am a non-dancer. If I don’t have my feet right, she will make her feet like mine so I am not standing there and looking awkward. She is a team player!
You have attempted a variety of dance forms throughout the season. Which dance form was the toughest?
I can do acts that involve props. Without props there is a lot of dancing, and that gets a little difficult for me. Tango was a little difficult to learn. Even the All Is Well performance was taxing because if the song is fast, there are too many steps and that increases chances of errors. In fact, the ‘Mere Haath Mein’ performance looked tough but I learned it quickly. Even in the pillow act, the steps were quite complicated but the judges called it ‘sweet and simple’. I don’t know what they made out of me, Lauren’s guru I think (laughs).Jhalak on Wheels was again a prop involving performance and I started working on it immediately after the first episode. Slowly as weeks passed, my confidence made things better for me.
You were a little demotivated during the Malakhamba episode because of the fluctuating scores, but then you were back with a bang. How did you work on that?
I was just disappointed in myself, but not just because of the scores. In the Malakhamba performance, I was quite positive and energetic about it but there was just something that was pulling me down. We had delays in the set-up of the act and a lot of things were going on in my mind as well. Also, I had a few low scores before Malakhamba and I wanted to do this well. But a few glitches here and there happened. After that, I did the small group act without letting the others down so that felt better. I realised that the perfect 10 or the triple 9 scores was getting to me, so I decided to take it easy. One unique thing that we did was a 3 day trip to Koh Samui with my family and Marischa, and we practiced for the next act over there. That was a little change and I think no one has done that so far!
As a singer you have always had a massive fan following, since Jhalak, dancer Shaan is a rage as well. What is your reaction to the audience response?
I have actually been noticing this ‘dance’ rage that you say! My last show in Bengalaru was one such incident, as I made my exit after my performance and the host called me back on stage saying,” You are such a great dancer. You have to dance for us!” So I just came back and did a little Chennai Express. Earlier, I would just do some freestyle dancing but now it is like a pressure to do a step in front of someone!
How does it feel to have accomplished so much in Jhalak and the dance area?
Honestly, I have no idea. I was just taking it a week at a time, and almost every week I just wanted to quit because I kept feeling awkward or there were things I did not want to do and so on. But looking back, I just feel like it was meant to happen. My birthday is here and I had this ‘elderly’ feeling (chuckles). I just felt very renewed with Jhalak, and dancing makes you feel very confident and makes you feel fit too. I couldn’t thank Jhalak enough for this!
You introduced the aspect of doing the playback of the songs you were performing on which we as an audience as well as the judges thought was very cool. Where there any songs you hoped to do but were not able to?
I wanted to do ‘Main Aisa Kyun Hoon’ from Lakshya but I would have never been able to do it! A lot of times we were using strong choreography, so I did not want to push a song into the choreography and vice versa. That is why when I dubbed songs, it was something different for the audience to hear from me. The only song I didn’t dub was the Lakshya song, as we were in Koh Samui. So it is only Shankar Mahadevan who had the honour of singing for me when I danced! (laughs)
You have sung for countless stars in their films. How did it feel when SRK, Hrithik sung for you on the Jhalak stage?
These were really great moments! Hrithik singing for me, SRK singing for me, Ranbir’s comments or even the judges’ encouragement was really good. I enjoyed a lot and I gained much more than what I expected.
For someone who never imagined stage dancing, what was the feeling to be part of the Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 6 final four?
I was definitely thrilled reach the finale as a contestant and not a guest. Somewhere, I was a little surprised at being fourth since I expected at least the third place with the kind of voting support that I had throughout, but I think it was fair that the other three were at the top, they were just brilliant. There were great dancers like Sana, Mukti, Karanveer and the others so being able to get this far was good enough for me.
One word for Marischa: Mother hen!
Favourite Jhalak performance: The Ninja Act
Favourite co-contestant: Mukti Mohan
Toughest contender: Siddharth Shukla! We were the only non-dancers and I cannot really compete with any other contestants!
Favourite dance form: Disco. I can still do it!
One word for your Jhalak journey: Magical
Bollyspice wishes Shaan a very Happy Birthday and a magical year ahead.