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Shannon Kumar Sanu: ‘I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps of being a true artist’

This interview was first published in The Telegraph Online by the same author.


Kumar Sanu’s daughter Shannon K shuttles between India and the US for her singing career. While her music videos have received millions of views, Shannon will soon be seen as an actor in the road trip film Chal Zindagi, co-starring Vivek Dahiya and Sanjay Mishra. Shannon talked to us about her debut film, the challenges she faced in the West, and Kumar Sanu’s influence on her music.


What is your film Chal Zindagi about?


Shannon K: Chal Zindagi is a travel-based movie. It is about a few people who go on a road trip to Leh, Ladakh in search of finding inner peace. During the journey, they come across each other and combine as a team. It’s a beautiful story about friendship, love, self-evaluation and finding inner peace.


And how did you land the role?


Shannon K: I had gone to Rajasthan for one of my music videos. I was looking for an ethnic, historical palace to shoot the music video. That’s when I met Vivek Sharma (the director of Chal Zindagi), who helped me with getting the location of the palace for the shoot. Whilst I was shooting the music video, Vivek saw my work on the set and how I look on camera. Fast forward to when he was writing Chal Zindagi, he asked me to send an audition. So, I sent him one. He liked it and cast me in the movie.


What was the most fascinating thing while shooting for the film in multiple locations?


Shannon K: The overall experience was great. I don’t think I have ever been on such a long road trip in my life. That was a first for me. We shot at some stunning locations in Leh, Ladakh, Manali, Chandigarh and Rajasthan on the road trip. I got to really live in the moment thanks to no internet. I am grateful to have experienced the beauty of nature.


Do you have any favourite road trip movies?


Shannon K: I am a horror movie fan. But Sana, the character that I play in Chal Zindagi, is a biker. To get into character, I watched some travel-based movies. I particularly liked Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. I enjoyed it and it helped me with Chal Zindagi as well.


You shuttle between India and the US for your singing career. How difficult is it to stand out among so many singers/musicians in India and abroad?


Shannon K: It was challenging, especially starting out in the West. We just have got into the whole diversity thing. Different channels have opened up for people from different parts of the world to create music together. But when I started out, it was not like that. I had to fight for my place. Me being a brown girl, I was told that since I was neither black nor Caucasian, I was in the middle.


My career actually started by singing at cafes and family restaurants. I remember not losing myself in this whole game of entertainment business because it is very easy for you to change and try to fit into the community and society. That’s what I tried not to do. There was discrimination and racism along the way. I went into depression. I was about 14-15 years old and I took everything very seriously.


Fortunately, I had my family by my side through those times of darkness, giving me the strength to rebound. Now, my priority is my mental health. I just want to focus on my work and not worry about what the trolls are going to say. Let success speak for itself.


Which songs of yours have been key in shaping your career so far?


Shannon K: Give Me Your Hand and Run, these two songs have given me my identity as an artist. Give Me Your Hand was based on bullying and spreading awareness about depression. It received great feedback from people. It was overwhelming and I found my core. Run was about embracing my roots and breaking through the norms. I am very proud of it.


Talking about roots, tell us about your father Kumar Sanu’s influence on your music and life.


Shannon K: My father is my first guru whom I looked up to. When I was a child, he used to take me to his recording sessions. That whole atmosphere of being in a recording session with him was so fascinating for me. That was my happy place and that’s when I decided that this is what I want to do. Of course, I take his feedback, tips and advice on my music videos. But more than that what has influenced me is how he is despite being a legend. He doesn’t have an attitude or arrogance. He’s so humble and down to earth.


He has given me some of the best advice on patience — your hard work will speak for itself. There’s a thin line between fame and success. Success comes through hard work, patience and with time. It comes through your content and making sure that it leaves an impact on society. Anyone can become famous these days. But you have to work really hard for success. And once you’re on the successful path, it’s about sustaining it. It’s about how well you do when you’re at the peak so that when you come down, you’re respected.


Who are the other singers you look up to?


Shannon K: Alka Yagnik. Alka aunty is like family to us. She is another legend that I look up to. I love her voice. And I really like the way Arijit Singh sings. The one common thing between these artists is that they put their soul into their music.


What are some of your favourite songs of your father?


Shannon K: Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaaye (Jurm) is definitely my favourite. Then there’s Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam (DDLJ) and the songs from Aashiqui. I can’t put my finger on one or two because there are so many that I like.


What are your ambitions at this stage in your career as a singer and an actor?


Shannon K: I want to spread positivity and love. I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps of being a true artist. I want to work for people and make an impact. I want to do good for society. And whether it’s music or acting, I should be happy doing it and enjoy myself. So, my ambition is to be successful and respected.

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