The man with the golden voice: Remembering KK



KK will remain a unique talent Photo: Instagram / kk_live_now

Like Mukesh, he died literally with his boots on. He shared his initials with another singing legend, Kishore Kumar. And like both of them and the other legends, KK, in a 26-year career as a singer (two more if you include jingles), had a sizable chunk of evergreens, many of whose words fit his farewell. Like Zindagi do pal ki from Kites, or Kuchh bhi na suna / Kab ka tha gila / Kaise keh diya alvida from Life In A…Metro, or even his breakthrough non-film classic from his debut album Pal that he eerily happened to present as his last song on stage, Hum rahe ya na rahe kal / Kal yaad aayenge yeh pal.

Krishnakumar Kunnath, even otherwise, had major differences in temperament with his colleagues. He would turn down singing assignments because he had to take his kids or wife out—something unknown in the cut-throat world of cinema. Ironically, this endearing trait put off many top composers who considered this off-kilter for a top singer. But that was what KK was—a top-level yet secure singer.

And he made up, like Kishore Kumar again, for his lack of formal music training by infusing oodles of soul in his singing. “I prefer to relax, and love dubbing post-lunch. I slowly start understanding the song, the words, the tune, and enjoy the song. The longer I take, the deeper I go. I am honest when I feel a specific song is not my trip. But when it is, I wait till the song starts talking to me,” he had told me.


KK stayed off cold drinks, alcohol and cigarettes and never believed in networking and needless socializing. Paradoxically, he had a huge following among the young, who had grown up feeling life’s various emotions because of his songs in the last two decades.

And he performed for them till the end, though he personally believed, like the legends again, that singers should be heard and not seen. “I am emotionally moved by my fans, on social media or otherwise. When you perform live, you realize what you have achieved, especially since as in my case, I have been an introvert. The responsibility increases!” he told me once.

Roopkumar Rathod, Arijit Singh and Shreya Ghoshal were among his ardent fans among colleagues, and he was so media-shy that it once took me weeks to schedule an appointment for an interview though I knew him very well!

Says Anurag Basu, for whom he sang in Kucch To Hai (Basu directed part of this film before stepping out), Saaya, Gangster, Life In A…Metro and Kites, “I am shocked and saddened beyond words. KK made a huge contribution to my films. His song from Saaya, Kabhi khushboo kabhi jhonka kabhi hawa sa lage, has a new meaning for me in the line, Juda hokar bhi tu mujhse jooda jooda sa lage (You are one with me even though you are no longer around).”

He goes on, “KK was so humble, but musically, he was always pushing the corner. However difficult or intricate the song, my composers and I would know that KK would do it. He had no limitations, could pull off any song. The impact of his first album, Pal, changed the sound of music in India and I have been his fan since those days. On the other hand, he sang masala songs like Toone maari entriyan in Gunday as beautifully!”

KK lived life on his own terms, says Basu. “He was a private person. He would come to sing, record and go back, secure about his craft. There would be almost no small talk. His family was all important to him—very rare over here, where we all have to make compromises because of our careers. But he never compromised on his work. I remember how badly Pritam and I wanted KK to sing Alvida in my film Life In A…Metro. James had recorded the song, but we got KK to do another version, and though not in the film, it was an immense hit. I sum him up as a true legend.”

Rajesh Roshan, who composed Zindagi do pal ki and Dil kyun yeh mera in Kites, recalls the hard work he put into his song. “I wanted the word Zindagi enunciated in a particular way, like Kishore-da would have sung them. There was no reluctance to work at that, no ‘Wohi to main gaa rahaa hoon’ stance. I remember he worked on it for two whole days, coming back to do another take because I had asked him.”

The composer had given KK a chance to do a live song in the 1990s as a dubbing artiste for Kumar Sanu, and KK, who had also sung two duets with Alka Yagnik in Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage, never forgot that experience. “I was told that my voice would not be kept and the recording was at Mehboob Studios. I did it for that incredible experience—it was akin to singing at a concert!”

Composer Himesh Reshammiya added, “KK was a very warm-hearted human being. He sang some timeless songs for me like Soniye from Aksar, Bardaasht from Humraaz, Tere sang ek simple si coffee, Dilli ki sardi and the title-track of Zameen. Together, we sang No way no way from Anthony Kaun Hai?.  KK had sung around 25 songs for me and I will always miss him and his soulful voice. There was always a beautiful smile on his face whenever we met and I remember the last time was around a year ago at an airport lounge while coming back to Mumbai. We were performing in the same city just a day before we met and had some very happy conversations that day and I just can’t get over the fact that he is not with us anymore. He was a true legend and my heartfelt condolences to his family. Every music lover will truly miss him.”



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