Soulful and versatile

maestro

Soulful and versatile

voice of gold Playback singer KK

He connects deep into your soul with his skilled, straight vocals. KK, who believes in simple living, is flying high as his songs in Kites are already chartbusters. Kunnath Krishna Kumar, to give his full name, is the archetypal family man, who keeps a low profile, despite having humungous talent. “For me, my work is not my entire life!” chuckles KK when I confront him with this poser over a cup of tea at his suburban apartment. “I can’t be insecure, or be a go-getter at the cost of being with my wife and kids. I guess I have never been over-ambitious, because that also limits your singing in a way!”

Explain, we say, and KK smiles again. “I have been told that I am more soulful than most singers, so I have pondered on this aspect a lot. Without wanting to sound immodest, let me say that this is because I keep my life simple, uncluttered and free from stress. As a singer, when I listen to a new song, I react to the words; the lyrics of a song get easily imprinted onto me. When I am at a recording, there are no deviations or digressions. I keep my focus, whether it takes an hour or three hours.”

He adds further, “I have no problem with endless retakes or changes. I sing a song with the emotions it needs. I don’t build a story or an aura around the song; what story can be bigger than life? Also, I think that maintaining a balance between my professional and personal live keeps me poised. I don’t keep track of how many songs I am getting to sing vis-à-vis the others.”

His solos, we tell him, completely outnumber his duets and songs with multiple singers. Is there a reason? Replies KK, “I am happy about this for a very funny reason because nowadays duets aren’t recorded live. When I sing on a recorded track, expressing emotions is difficult as I am not sure whether they will be in sync with the expressions of the co-singer.”

He is happy about the soft corner which Pritam, Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt have had for him for years now. How does he react to Pritam going on record, saying that he takes KK for a song only when the composition deserves the singer? “That’s really very sweet of him!” he says. “Pritam-da keeps giving me great songs and I am proud of our association. It’s a bond wherein we put in something extra individually. Most of the songs we have worked together on have worked well, right from ‘Shikdum’ in Dhoom to Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Badmaash Company. Pritam infuses strong emotions in his tunes and the lyrics are meaningful too.”

As for KK’s songs for the Bhatts, they have become a brand, irrespective of the composers, since Saaya, which released in 2003 to Tum Mile in 2009. “Yes, they are all fond of me, and I got to sing lovely songs in films like Gangster, Woh Lamhe…, Rog, Zeher, Jannat, Showbiz, among others,” he says. His twin towers in Kites – Dil kyun yeh mera  and Zindagi do pal ki are surprises even from him. “The feedback has been unanimous across ages!” he says.

“The reactions I got include remarks like ‘Dil kyun yeh mera has finally made you immortal’. I was also complimented on doing justice to the old melody yet making these songs very fresh and different!” Terming working with Rajesh Roshan as “fantastic”, KK finds the composer’s style and nuances “different from anyone else”. “I loved the fact that these songs had a very Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi-like vibe to them, add to that, the satisfied smile on Rajesh-ji’s face when I sang them!”

Does he change or modulate his voice according to the actor enacting the song? “I have never done that!” he stresses. “The song is my trip, not the star’s. Singing well is my junoon. I don’t get into what goes behind a song. I am a specific spoke in the wheel called the song, which is my God, which represents a singer’s persona, and if he is not complicated in the head, the song will match any actor,” replies the singer, who began his innings with Maachis and had a breakthrough with Tadap tadap ke iss dil from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

KK is not a classically trained singer. Does he consider it as a handicap? “Kishore Kumar is the ultimate proof that playback singers need not be trained and I am not trained at all!” he declares. “Thankfully, no song has stumped me so far, but that’s probably because I have never been miscast. Classical songs do not come to me and yet, one grows and absorbs at a subconscious level.” He explains further, “Ilayaraja once liked the way I sang a song so much that he gave me a raag-based number made for someone else. So, a lot depends on the confidence a composer has in you — like Anu Malik has given me such a wide variety of work. But generally, I am glad that I am not into excessive technicalities. It may work for others, but I am comfortable being myself!”

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