Apart from his initials, Krishnakumar Kunnath or KK shared another thing in common with Kishore Kumar. Just like Kishore Kumar, KK never had any formal training in music. His lack of professional training, however, didn’t come in the way of him becoming an accomplished singer in the Indian film industry. He sang across multiple languages and did a lot of good work in the non-film space as well. On 31 May this year, KK breathed his last and left for his heavenly abode.
Throughout his career, KK delivered several chartbusters. However, he also lent his voice to several incredible songs that didn’t become very popular because of multiple reasons. Through this article, we revisit some of his underrated songs that need to be heard by a larger set of audience.
Aise Koi Jaata Hain – Kyon
“Aise koi jaata hai kisi ko chhod ke, jaise tum gaye ho raahon ko mod ke….”- the lines written by Prasoon Joshi, in a way, express the kind of emotions KK’s fans would be going through at the moment. Another poignant line from the film is “dil ko yaqeen yeh aata nahin hai, lautke tum nahin aaoge, yun hi sataane ko tum chhup ho gaye ho, lagta hai pal bhar mein aa jaaoge….”.
Bhupen Hazarika was known for popularizing Assamese folk music. When he was signed to compose for a film that needed to have modern music, most people would have wondered whether the maestro would be able to create the kind of soundscape the film requires. He did and each of the song from this criminally underrated album is worth listening to. ‘Aise Koi Jaata Hai’ was a song steeped in melancholy and was the best track on the album. With his dexterous rendition, KK brought the pathos in the song effectively to the fore.
Bojhal Se – I Am
KK was a master of understanding each and every emotion in a song and bringing them alive through his rendition. In ‘Bojhal Se’, KK emotes the lyrics in a way only he could have. The composition by Vivek Philip is a slow burner and grows on you with repeated hearings. “Bina jaane jabeen pe ye lakeeren ban jaati hain,bina poochhe dher saari yaadein, jab aati hain, khaak sa dhuan sa rehta hai in aankhon mein…”, Amitabh Verma writes verses that give you a good idea about the mind frame of the characters in the film who have suffered from trauma. KK, on his part, ensures that the listener feels the strong sense of melancholy and doom which the characters are experiencing.
Tere Is Jahan Mein – Rog
“Hai udaas tere bina shehar tujhe yaad karte hain raaste, hain who log apne gharon mein band jo nikalte the tere vaaste…..”, this is another song which helps one in describing the kind of void that KK has left in the heart of the listeners of Hindi film music. The tenderness with which KK sings this song is heard to be believed. As you listen to the song, you imagine darkness, gloom, sadness and a lot of other things. If a song can make you feel a lot of things strongly, it means it is a great song. ‘Tere Is Jahan Mein’ is a wonderful example of a musical team comprising of a music composer (M M Kreem), lyricist (Sayeed Quadri) and singer (K K) putting their best foot forward.
Naya Naya – Filhaal
Anu Malik delivered some of his best creative output in the early 2000s. Aided by talented music producers like Ranjit Barot, he experimented with different kinds of sounds and worked on a variety of genres. ‘Naya Naya’ is a dreamy melody from Meghna Gulzar’s debut feature film ‘Filhaal’. KK and Chithra have very different styles but when you listen to this song, you realize how well they complement each other. The song has some gorgeous lyrics by Gulzar. The arrangements are minimal and because of that, you get enough scope to notice the kind of contribution the two vocalists make to the song.
Haule Haule – Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar
‘Haule Haule’ has the kind of dreamy sound/vibe that Vishal was known for creating through his songs in films like ‘Jahan Tum Le Chalo’ in the late 90s and early 2000s. This ‘nocturnal’ song has a philosophical bent to it. In a lot of ways, the feel of the song can be compared to ‘So Gaya Yeh Jahaan’ from ‘Tezaab’. The sense of uncertainty the protagonist is going through is brought to the fore wonderfully by KK. Vishal also manages to incorporate some jazz elements to the song which make it sound further interesting.
Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai – Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai
Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai was one of the highest selling Hindi film albums of 2001. Several songs from the film like ‘Rabba Mere Rabba’ and ‘Maine Koi Jadoo Nahin Kiya’ became immensely popular. However, the title track was not promoted very well and therefore, did not reach out to a large audience. The tune composed by Anu Malik was nice but what made the haunting effect in the song come truly alive were KK’s emotive rendition and the wonderful arrangements put together by Ranjit Barot.
Dole Re – Agnivarsha
Just like actors, the film industry also typecasts singers. KK was largely known for his western melodies. However, one must remember that his pop album, that had a Bryan Adams-like sound, came out in the same year as ‘Tadap Tadap’ which was steeped in Indian melody. Sandesh Shandilya got KK to sing a semi-classical number along with Chithra who is a master of the genre. What one would term as anti-casting, proved to be a masterstroke by Shandilya. KK sung the song with panache and when you listen to the track, you wish composers had made him sing more such songs.
Tere Liye (Sad) – Tere Liye
Sonu Nigam sung the title track of the film and his voice can be heard in the sad version of the song as well. The sad version, however, starts with KK conveying the sense of pathos in the composition (Jeet-Pritam) and the lyrics (Abbas Tyrewala) through his voice. Though he appears in the song briefly, his voice makes the kind of impact that you want to revisit it multiple times.
Yeh Kahan Mil Gaye – Humsafar
The one aspect of KK’s artistic personality that is seldom discussed is his work as a composer. While Leslie Lewis composed all the songs for KK’s debut album ‘Pal’, the singer decided to compose for his second album himself. ‘Parbato ke raaste raaston pe hum, chaahaton ke waaste chaahaton mein hum, chal mere sanam…’, Mehboob manages to write lines that conveyed a sense of both wanderlust and romance. One of the best songs from the album, KK’s composition was breezy and highly tuneful.
Deewangee – Deewangee
Ismail Darbar had composed ‘Tadap Tadap Ke’ for a film whose producer was against KK singing the song. He wanted Darbar to get the song dubbed by two famous qawwals. The film got shelved and when this song was chosen for ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, Bhansali was perfectly fine with the idea of KK singing it. KK, however, was not sure if he was the right person to sing the song. On Darbar’s insistence, he sang the song and the rest, as they say, is history.
After ‘Tadap Tadap Ke’, fans kept hoping for Ismail Darbar and KK to create magic again. While that didn’t really happen, the title track of the ‘Deewangee’ can be described as a distant cousin of ‘Tadap Tadap Ke’. The song, just like Tadap Tadap Ke, has a haunting feel to it but the structure of the two songs are different. Unlike ‘Tadp Tadap Ke’, this one has a westernized touch to it. When you hear the song, you know it has been composed for a thriller.
Gulon Mein (Upbeat Version) – Sikandar
Neelesh Misra paid a tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz by writing new verses that complemented the lines written by the late Pakistani poet. KK’s voice adds a certain freshness to the song which takes it to great heights. The composition by Sandesh Shandilya is highyl tuneful. When you listen to the song, you can imagine yourself being surrounded by the mountains. It’s a bittersweet song with some lines suggesting joy and some indicating sorrow. KK brings out the emotion behind every verse beautifully to the forefront.
Kabhi Khushboo – Saaya
There are some songs in which the voice of the singer takes center stage. ‘Kabhi Khushboo’ is one such song. “Bas yahi soch kar raaton ko main nahin sochta, neend aayi toh tera khwaab chala jaayega….”, the lines written by Sayeed Quadri make the listener aware of the kind of emotions a man, who has lost the love of his life, is going through. However, it’s KK’s rendition that truly makes you the kind of pain the character is suffering from.
Kaash Ke Tujhse Milta – Jeena Sirf Mere Liye
KK had a heroic voice and this song truly brings the robustness his voice to the fore. The sense of longing is almost palpable thanks to his expressive singing. ‘Kaash Ke Tujhse Milta;’ is one of the very few songs he has sung for Nadeem – Shravan. While the song has the composer duo’s stamp all over it, it has a contemporary sound to it. KK and Alka Yagnik made for a very interesting singing pair. However, the two of them were brought together only for a few more songs together including the Anu Malik composed ‘Meelon Ka’ (‘Love Story 2050’).
Nazar – Nazar
KK has sung some of his best songs for Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt. While many of these songs went on to become popular, there were some that went largely unheard because of the films not doing well or the album receiving zilch promotion. “Har subah aankhein jis pal yeh meri khulein, yeh do aankhein mera chehra takti milein….”, Sayeed Quadri wrote some exquisite lyrics for the title track of Soni Razdan’s directorial debut which were sung with a mix of tenderness and sensuousness by KK.
Aye Bekhabar – Zeher
It would not be fair to call ‘Aye Bekhabar’ a song that went unheard. However, it is an underrated song that did not enjoy the kind of popularity that some of the other songs from the album like ‘Agar Tum Mil Jaao’ and ‘Woh Lamhe’ did. ‘Aye Bekhabar’ is one of the best songs composed by Roop Kumar Rathod in his unfortunate, short-lived career as a film composer. The song serves as a great example of how a singer can elevate the emotions in a song and take them to another level. Listen to how differently he has sung the mukhda and antara and you would understand what one is trying to convey here.
Zindagi Hosh Mein – Bas Ek Pal
If you ever faced any turbulence in your life, you will relate to this sombre number sung incredibly well by KK. Though the song is steeped in melancholy, composer Vivek Philip has dressed it as a rock ballad. The high-octane energy created by the backgrounds is in sharp contrast to the verses written by Amitabh Verma and KK’s rendition. This contrast works rather well and in the end, you get a song that you can instantly relate if you have hit a rough patch in life.
Tu Mujhse Jab Se Mila Hai – Showbiz
This rather forgettable film was about a young man who achieves overnight stardom as a singer. While the lead actor might not have had the charisma of a rockstar, KK’s voice definitely made him look like one in this song. The song has a punchy tune by Lalit Pandit. The lyrics written by Sayeed Quadri gave one a glimpse of the kind of attitude a bonafide rockstar has.
Jab Kabhi – Jhankaar Beats
‘Jhankaar Beats’, in a way, was Vishal and Sheykhar’s breakthrough album. While most of the songs went on to become popular, this was one song that didn’t get its due. ‘Jab Kabhi’ was a highly soothing number that one can listen to on a loop at any given time. The ease with which KK hits the high notes gives one a fair idea about the kind of range he had as a vocalist. The penultimate moments of the song, in which Mahalakshmi brings certain variation to her portions, are truly beautiful.
Main Seedhe Saadey Dhang Se – Socha Na Tha
There must have been many men who would have proposed to a woman they loved by playing this song in the background. One of the best ‘proposal songs’ to have been churned out of Bollywood, KK sung this song with a lot of heart. The song had a great tune by Sandesh Shandilya and incredible lyrics written by Irshad Kamil.
Chand Ki Roshni – Home Delivery
KK sung a bunch of songs for Sujoy Ghosh’s debut directorial venture ‘Jhankaar Beats’. In Ghosh’s second film as a director, KK had just one song. This one song, however, was the best track on the album. If one has to describe this Vishal and Sheykhar composed song in one word, then it would be ‘tender’. The softness with which KK sings this song is truly incredibly. There is a certain tehzeeb with which he sings the song and that truly makes it a special track.
Ek Pal Mein – Hattrick
There is a long list of club number that KK has lent his voice to. This is one of the lesser heard ones. The song, in a lot of ways, the kind of sound Pritam was associated with from 2004-07. It also has a hint of the Pakistani pop sound that Hindi film music was so inspired by back then. The beats give you the impression that it is a club song but when you pay close attention to the lyrics, you realize it is a song about a character introspecting about his life and the wrong decisions he has taken.
Halki Halki – U Bomsi N Me
A soft romantic number where Deepak Pandit seemed to be recreating the kind of westernized sound Pritam, Vishal and Sheykhar and Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy had popularized by the mid-2000s. The song is largely driven by the sound of pads. While KK’s singing makes an instant impression, the song takes a while to grow. The lyrics written by Manoj Muntashir also contribute towards making this a pleasant track to listen to.
Ooh Yeh! /Palkon Mein Sapne – Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai
‘Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai’ was the first film Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy signed after ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. The film couldn’t make much of an impression at the box-office and because of that, the youthful and zingy soundtrack composed by the trio went largely unnoticed. As you listen to ‘Ooh Yeh!’, you can almost imagine yourself sitting beside a beach and soaking in the breeze. The presence of KK and Mahalaxmi Iyer, one of the best singing pairs from the 2000s, make the song truly special.
Main Kya Hoon – KK
Writer-director Imtiaz Ali made two films with the title ‘Love Aaj Kal’. Both the films had music by Pritam and lyrics written by Irshad Kamil. And, each of the two films had a great song by KK that went unnoticed. Sonically, ‘Main Kya Hoon’ is not as strong a track as ‘Aur Tanha’. However, what makes this song special is its theme. In the film, the song arrives at a juncture when Jai (Saif Ali Khan) is achieving his big professional goals one after another in a foreign land. He is happy for some time but then, he realizes something is missing in his life. This is a song which most people would have listened to when they are on the verge of making a leap of faith or during a time when they needed to do some introspection.
Teri Yaadein Leke Dil Mein – Runway
There are some songs where the antara takes the song to another level. The mukhda of ‘Teri Yaadein Leke Dil Mein’ is very good but it’s the antara that makes this song truly special. One of the best compositions by Shamir Tandon, ‘Teri Yaadein Leke Dil Mein’ benefits hugely from KK’s beautiful rendition. “Khwaaishaat ka khila hai mausam, karni hai tujhase dil ki baatein, shabnami subah ke jaise aao, ek duje mein hum bitaaye raatein….”, another highlight of the song are the lyrics written by Shabbir Ahmed.
Khuda Mere Khuda – Krantiveer
Good songs go wasted when they are used in badly made, poorly marketed films. ‘Krantiveer The Revolution’ was one of the earliest films which Sachin – Jigar worked on as composers. While ‘Chhote Tera Birthday Aaya’ became popular over the years thanks to being played during birthdays, this romantic ditty by KK and Shreya Ghoshal didn’t find many listeners. The melodious track reminds one of a couple of songs composed by Pritam in his early days but there is a lot of Sachin-Jigar in it too.
Dekhho Raste Mein – Hum Tum Aur Ghost
‘Hum Tum Aur Ghost’ is far from being one of Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy’s best works. However, it had a couple of good songs including ‘Dekho Raste Mein’, sung by KK and Shreya Ghoshal. The free-flowing melody has an understated charm that is best experienced when you listen to its exquisitely crafted antara. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics complement the breezy tune put together by Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy very well.
Poochta Hai Man Yeh Tera – Red Alert
With a runtime that goes beyond eight minutes, ‘Poochta Hai Mann Yeh Mera’ is one of the longest songs sung by KK. KK sung a limited number of songs for Jatin-Lalit like ‘O Mere Rabba’ (‘Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke’ and ‘Dil Dhoonde’ (‘Soch’) but lent his voice to several compositions put together by Lalit Pandit as an independent composer. The Ananth Narayan Mahadevan directed ‘Red Alert: The War Within’ was about the naxal movement in India. The lines written by Javed Akhtar for this song were poignant and did complete justice to the theme of the film.
Bheeni Bheeni Mehki Mehki – Welcome To Sajjanpur
Shyam Benegal’s ‘Welcome To Sajjanpur’ was film set in a fictional village. This mellifluous song, composed by Shantanu Moitra offered one a glimpse into the simplicity of the village and its residents. The lyrics, written by Swanand Kirkire, have an old-world charm to them and beautifully complement the sweet tune composed by Moitra. KK was one singer who always got his pronunciation and diction right. Most singers today even fail to differentiate between the singular and plural form of different words. Here, both KK and Shreya have used the chandribindu at the right places.
Aur Tanha – Love Aaj Kal
Just like the 2009 released ‘Love Aaj Kal’, KK got to sing a song in LK which had a philosophical bent to it. Another common factor between the two songs is that they were not promoted at all. This was my favourite song from ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and one that I revisit often. Even singers who work very hard on their diction sometimes pronounce a few words incorrectly. In this song, KK pronounces “dhoondha” as “dhoondha”. Most singers would have pronounced it as “dhoonda”.
Barham Hain Hum – Lanka
One needs to write a piece on KK and the haunting melodies sung by him. While ‘Tadap Tadap Ke’ would the list of his best sings with a haunting feel to them, lesser-heard but well-crafted numbers like ‘Barham Hain Hum’, too, will find a mention on that list. This Gaurav Dagaonkar composed track is haunting and has a strong sense of melancholy which has been wonderfully accentuated by KK’s voice. KK not just sings but also ‘acts’ through his voice here.
Ek Pal Ke Liye – Ankahee
‘Ek Pal Ke Liye’ was a song that spoke about forbidden love. “Kyon takte hain hum baahar khadi fizayein sard hain, chubhati hai yeh dhadkan dil ki ragon mein phir se sard hain….” the lyrics written by Amitabh Verma made it prominently clear. The song has the kind of sound that one would associate with around that time. Having said that, it was quite different from anything he had composed between 2005 and 2006. A lot of thought had gone into the arrangements of the song as well. The interlude music that plays from 3:04 to 3:15 gives the listener an idea about the conflict playing out in the character’s mind. KK brought out the different emotions in the song beautifully to the fore.
Chadta Suraj – Coke Studio
Composers who have a certain vision and not blinded by commercial forces or what seems to be working in the market at a particular point of time are brave enough to get singers to try out songs belonging to genres they have never tried out before. Leslie Lewis, who had collaborated with KK on ‘Pal’ and several jingles, recreated the iconic qawalli by Aziz Naza and got KK to sing it. KK’s rendition, to put it simply, is goose bump inducing.
Kab Tujhe – Dhokha
M. M. Kreem has given KK some of his best songs. While songs like ‘Awarapan Banjarapan’ (‘Jism’) and ‘Maine Dil Se Kaha’ (‘Rog’) are quite popular today, ‘Kab Tujhe’ from ‘Dhokha’ has been one of the duo’s under-appreciated songs. The songs boasts of a highly evocative Indian melody backed by western arrangements. Violin, an instrument, which Kreem used extensively for his Hindi songs has been used to great effect here.
Jee Lenge – Tere Liye
‘Tere Liye’ was a film about a bunch of young individuals coming together to form a band. Due to the presence of multiple singers, ‘Jee Lenge’ was one track that truly exemplified the spirit of the band in the film and all that they wished to achieve together. Along with KK, Sonu Nigam, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Swastika lent their voice to this energetic track that had a booming drum-and-bass sound. Composer duo Jeet – Pritam added a nice touch to the song by getting hum the tune of the title track of the film towards the end of the song.
Tum Mile – My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves
One of the better songs composed by Himesh Reshammiya in the late 2000s, ‘Tum Mile’ benefits from some brilliant rendition by KK. The song has a dreamy vibe to it that has been well accentuated by the electronically produced arrangements. Sunidhi’s heavily auto-tuned (perhaps to add a certain ‘vibe’ to the song) doesn’t work but KK’s untouched voice does. It’s not a path-breaking song but one that you might want to listen to while going on a long drive.
Kaisa Yeh Raaz Hai – Raaz The Mystery Continues
In India, horror films largely feature romantic tracks. ‘Raaz The Mystery Continues’ has a bunch of them. However, there was also a ‘Kaisa Yeh Raaz Hai’ that served as a good ‘theme track’ for the film. Composed by Pranay M Rijia, the song familiarized the listeners with the genre or theme of the film. The song, which opens with a wonderfully haunting piano piece, has been arranged rather well. For Vishesh Films, KK has largely lent his voice to romantic tracks. This was quite an unconventional track sung by him for them.
Dil Dhoonde – Soch
KK sung a handful of songs for Jatin – Lalit and this underrated track is one of them. ‘Soch’ was a thriller and the brief to the composers was, perhaps, to create a song that would have an element of thrill to it. The song starts with an interesting prelude comprising of violin, flute and guitar pieces. KK arrives at the 0:42 mark and delivers a memorable rendition. The same year, KK had sung another song with Asha Bhosle called ‘Socho Kya Karogi’ (‘Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega’) which also went unnoticed.
Koi Na Jaane – Hijack
‘Aksar’, the one song from the film which became quite popular at that time, was sung by KK. It was a rather generic song where composer duo Justin-Uday tried replicating the kind of sound Pritam used to create for Vishesh Films’ productions back then. The one song, however, in which they utilized KK’s voice better was ‘Koi Na Jaane’. A thoughtfully composed song, ‘Koi Na Jaane’ is a melancholic number that arrives in the film at an important juncture.
Jhoothi Moothi – Betaabi
After getting KK to sing a brief but memorable portion in ‘Chhod Aaye Hum Woh Galiyaan’ (‘Maachis’), Vishal Bhardwaj gave him five songs to sing in a film called ‘Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke’ which, unfortunately, got shelved. Bhardwaj continued to utilise KK’s voice in other films. ‘Betaabi’ was one of the earliest films where one heard KK’s voice. Here, KK, along with Suresh Wadkar and Devaki Pandit, lent his voice to ‘Jhoothi Moothi’. The song had a very unusual structure and its unpredictability made it all the more entertaining.