Bollywood music goes acoustic yet again in the latest season of MTV India’s popular music show MTV Unplugged. The line-up for the seventh season includes Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj, Shankar Mahadevan, Farhan Akhtar, Papon, Monali Thakur and Armaan and Amal Malik.

“There was zero-interference from them [MTV] and they allowed us to do whatever we wanted to do and we have done whatever we wanted to do,” Mahadevan said at a press event in Mumbai on Wednesday. The prolific singer will be seen crooning alongside his sons Siddharth and Shivam for an episode.

Shankar Mahadevan, Siddharth Mahadevan and Shivam Mahadevan. Image credit MTV India.
Shankar Mahadevan, Siddharth Mahadevan and Shivam Mahadevan. Image credit MTV India.

Based on the American show of the same name, MTV Unplugged India features musicians and singers performing in an acoustic setup. While regulars Papon, Farhan Akthar and Rekha Bhardwaj return this season, Vishal Bhardwaj, Mahadevan and Armaan Malik will be performing for the first time.

“It is really special because I have been a composer for the last three years in Bollywood and I have always arranged my songs in a certain way,” Amal Malik said. “But that is usually according to the requirement of the film. If you hear the set that I have done for this season, it is going to be completely different.”

The Sooraj Dooba Hain composer revealed that he would be performing a cello and piano rendition of a track from Azhar (2016). “We really loved and lived each and every song that we sang in MTV Unplugged,” his singer brother Armaan added.

Hariharan in MTV Unplugged.

The singers unanimously agreed that the format is more refreshing than playback singing. “MTV Unplugged is an empty playground and any musician’s paradise,” Monali Thakur said. Thakur rose to fame as the voice of Moh Moh Ke Dhaage from Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). “We got the chance to express some beautiful melodies in our own way, which we always do not get the opportunity to do,” she added.

Folk fusion artiste Angarag Mahanta, better known as Papon, revealed that he was not going to stick to folk music this season.

The year might be dominated by remastered and recycled numbers, but the musicians featured in the show showed no signs of following the trend. “I haven’t done it because I don’t think anybody has approached us with the idea,” Mahadevan said. “We remade the song Pretty Women [from Kal Ho Naa Ho] about 14 years back, but Karan Johar paid a hell of a lot of money to get the rights from Roy Orbison, the original composer of the song. We didn’t just take a song and remix it.”

AR Rahman in MTV Unplugged.