KK, the voice behind some of the biggest Telugu film chartbusters

Singer KK

Singer KK | Photo Credit: DEEPAK KR

The passing of singer Krishnakumar Kunnath or KK, 53, soon after his live concert in Kolkata on May 31, has opened up a flood of memories for music lovers and those in the film and music fraternity who have worked with him. The media-shy singer who rarely courted the spotlight has left behind a repertoire of songs, many of which would bring back a memory - of school or college farewell, falling in love, disappointment, heartbreak or even a pulsating dance number. 

Anand Ranga who directed the Telugu film Oy! remembers his brief interaction with KK before recording Prathi janma nee thone..’ song composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja. “I explained the feel of the song to befit the song situation - a crescendo of emotions leading to disappointment towards the end. He was a master. He caught the vibe and all those emotions came through in his singing.” 

KK wrote the Telugu lines in Hindi and practised them with the help of lyricist Vanamali. The recording took place in Chennai. Actor Siddharth, Anand Ranga and Yuvan, who had wanted KK to sing for the film, knew they had something special. “When the Oy! Album was out, Seheri’ and ‘Oy oy’ were instant hits. ‘Prathi janma… I’m waiting for you baby’ caught on with time; it has aged well,” adds Anand.

KK’s entry into Telugu film music was in the mid 1990s when director Kathir’s Tamil film Kadhal Desam was dubbed as Prema Desam and KK sang ‘Hello doctor’ and College style’. A R Rahman had introduced a singer who could skillfully adapt, accentuating any given mood for a song.

Simultaneously, KK debuted in Hindi as one of the singers of Chod aaye hum woh galiyan’ for Gulzar’s Maachis, composed by Vishal Bhardwaj. The breakthrough came in the form of his independent album Pal, which soon became a campus favourite across the nation; many a school and college farewell played the album. Hyderabad filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor used Pal’s popular ‘Yaaron dosti’ for his Hindi film Rockford. The iconic Tadap tadap’ from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam followed; KK’s rendition amplified heartbreak and anguish and the song is considered among his best till date, soulful enough to move a listener to tears.

The Telugu film industry was quick to notice KK’s deep, distinct voice and ability to convey emotional depth. KK was the voice behind some of the biggest Telugu hits in the 2000s. The energetic Ye mere jahan’ from the Pawan Kalyan-starrer Kushi and the foot-tapping ‘Daayi daayi damma’ from Chiranjeevi-starrer Indra, the yearning in Feel my love’ of Arya starring Allu Arjun, ‘Uppenantha ee premaki’ of Arya 2, Avunu nijam’ from the Mahesh Babu starrer Athadu and My heart is beating’ from Jalsa are some of KK’s chartbuster hits.

Composer Kalyani Malik, who worked with KK for the Hindi version of Chandrashekhar Yeleti’s Aithe, which unfortunately did not see the light of the day, recalls the singer as a “grounded and genuinely kind person, which is rare in the entertainment industry.” The composer collaborated with KK again for Andhrudu’s ‘O sari preminchaka’ and Gubulendukey’ from Manasu maata vinadhu. “These were wonderfully sung by KK. Unless a film becomes a blockbuster, the soundtrack rarely catches on. But I cherish these memories of KK. He did not seek attention with his craft; I think he did it for the art,” adds Malik.

Many of KK’s popular numbers also came from Tamil-Telugu bilinguals such as 7G rainbow Colony ( ‘Thalachi thalachi choosa’), remakes such as Gharshana (‘Cheliya cheliya’) and dubbed films such as Aparichitudu (‘Konda kaki’).

KK’s last date with Telugu cinema was eight years ago when he sang for Yevadu and the Aashiqui 2 remake, Nee Jathaga Nenundali

Kalyani Malik echoes the thoughts of many of us when he says, “KK’s passing got me thinking, once again, how we take life for granted. We forget to pause and connect with people. It is also a reminder that we need to keep stress levels in check. But, will we learn?”

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2022 9:03:48 am |