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There is a KK number for every mood and moment

The Telegraph remembers the evergreen voice whose songs have defined love and longing, healing and heartbreak for all of us. rest in music, genius...

Priyanka Roy  | Published 02.06.22, 12:19 AM

KKwas the voice of collective nostalgia, his songs representing bookmarks in our lives. An entire generation, and even beyond, grew up listening to that voice, softly lighting up lazy Sunday afternoons spent listening to the radio or functioning as an instant mood lifter in an era when music channels reigned supreme. Before the Internet took over, a KK playlist on a CD was one to treasure. His voice, however, remained timeless, journeying through several decades but never losing its freshness.

KK’s voice accompanied us through every moment in our lives. The nostalgia of college days, teary farewells, the memories of friendships forged and lost, the headiness of first love, crushing heartbreak, personal moments of loneliness and vulnerability, inspirational anthems, nightclub hits....


His songs enabled us to travel, even when we were cramped up in a room. They made us feel and experience, and not just listen. After his passing away on Tuesday night, so many of us tearfully turned to his songs for solace. That’s what his music was... comforting, uplifting, a reflection of countless memories and moments. A song for every ‘pal’ in our lives.


KK’s range was staggering, powering through songs of diverse genres, making each one of them uniquely his own. But it’s the nostalgia-imbued strains of Pal and Yaaron, both of which defined his career but didn’t overshadow it, that instantly spring to mind. For they immediately take us back to a time of yore, a memory etched in our minds specific to a certain period in our lives. Who hasn’t sung ‘Yaaron dosti badi hi haseen hai/ Yeh na ho toh kya phir/ Bolo yeh zindagi hain’ on school bus trips or relived the soulful beats of Pal over a heavy-hearted college farewell and then a laughter-filled reunion many years later? “I played Pal and Yaaron countless times for fans who requested it on MTV Select, through the ’90s and early 2000s,” tweeted music man Nikhil Chinapa on Wednesday morning.

KK’s voice beautifully captured the emotionality of youth just about to make that life-changing leap into adult life. Like the playful and pulsating Dil Chahta Hai number Koi kahe kehta rahe that embodied the irreverence of ‘Hum logon ki thokar mein hain yeh zamaana’. Many years later, his Kal ki hi baat hai from Chhichhore looked back at ‘the best years of our lives’ with wistful longing and a certain bitter-sweetness, both of which were mellifluously captured by his voice.

Yaaron may remain the defining KK friendship anthem for posterity, but few can get past the infectious beats of ‘Yaaron jee bhar ke jee le pal/ Lagta hai aaj kal daur apna aayega/ Yaaron jo khud pe ho yakeen/ Jo zindagi haseen/ Tujhe kal bulayega’ from Hai junoon in New York. Truly, a KK gem among many, many gems.


And then, of course, was the voice that travelled deep into our hearts, partaking in its joy when we fell in love and nursing us through debilitating heartbreak. The legacy of KK’s voice as one which captured heartache like few others could before or after, was established right at the outset, through his breakout number Tadap tadap from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s iconic romance Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Sameer (Salman Khan) and Nandini’s (Aishwarya Rai) traumatic separation may have made us tear up, but the Ismail Darbar-scored number wouldn’t have been half as impactful if KK’s voice hadn’t blazed its way through the lines, ‘Aisa kya gunah kiya/ Toh lut gaye, haan lut gaye/ Toh lut gaye hum teri mohabbat mein’.

The blistering success of Tadap tadap shot KK into the spotlight overnight. Except that this was no overnight success. KK had sung 3,500 ad jingles before he got his big break, highlighting the importance of patience and perseverance. His career and craft, till the last day, was defined by the same.

Tadap tadap isn’t the only heartbreak anthem that KK stamped his signature on. Poignant and filled with pathos, Sach keh raha hai from Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein continues to give solace and succour to many an anguished soul.

“KK was an artiste you’d discover in private. His best works were all about personal moments of loss & vulnerability,” writer-lyricist Varun Grover tweeted. That is perhaps best described by the haunting quality that he brought to Jism’s Awaarapan banjarapan, for many one of the most effective Hindi film songs to illustrate loneliness. How can one not go back to that time when one felt extreme loneliness hearing KK wrench our hearts out with, ‘Iss dharti par jis pal suraj roz savere ugta hain/ Apne liye toh theek usi pal/ Roz dhala hain seene mein’. Powerful words brought alive by a powerful voice, with minimal music.

KK’s voice travelled through a gamut of emotions. If there was longing and loss, there was also the intoxication of intense love. The list, expectedly, is endless. From Tu aashiqui hai in Jhankaar Beats to Life In a... Metro’s O meri jaan. From Khuda jaane in Bachna Ae Haseeno to the Gangster number Tu hi meri shab hai. From Kaise bataaoon in 3G to Dil kyun yeh mera and Zindagi do pal ki, both from Kites. KK’s romantic numbers alone form a playlist that one can play endlessly on loop. “He was much bigger than his music,” was how film-maker Sujoy Ghosh, one of the earliest to use KK’s voice in Jhankaar Beats, remembered him.


Through the decades, KK exemplified pure, unbridled talent. He had the rare ability to pitch his voice high, but he was never loud, never strained. What he did with Tu jo mila from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, shifting between various shades of tempo and tone effortlessly, was simply genius. So was what he brought to the Bhool Bhulaiyaa number Labon ko and Life In a... Metro’s unforgettable Alvida. The title track of Bas Ek Pal, less heard but stamped with KK’s unmistakable talent, is another example.

He was a rare singer who hardly had a bad song. Average films were often rescued by a KK winner. Like the soulful and haunting Abhi abhi in Jism 2.

Chak de! India may be the more popular choice when it comes to egging on our sportspersons, but when it comes to an inspirational anthem in a Hindi film that makes its way to one’s heart and permanently finds a place there, few can come close to Aashayein from Iqbal. KK going, ‘Aashayein khile dil ki/ Ummedein hase dil ki/ Ab mushkil nahi kuch bhi, nahi kuch bhi’ hits differently. Each time, every time.


The versatility of KK’s voice afforded a Midas touch to everything he sang. Still popular party anthems like Kya mujhe pyaar hai (Woh Lamhe), Dus bahane (Dus) and It’s the time to disco (Kal Ho Naa Ho) belong to him. Would Gori gori and Chale jaise hawayein (both from Main Hoon Na), Laapata (Ek Tha Tiger) and Banda yeh bindaas hai (Aks) have as much of a beating heart if KK wasn’t singing them? Or for that matter Aap ki dua from Pal? We know the answer already.


Not many know that before breaking out with Tadap tadap, KK was one among many voices in the Maachis number Chhod aaye hum, with Vishal Bhardwaj, who scored for the Gulzar-directed film, recognising his talent early. A.R. Rahman gave him an opportunity in Sapnay, with KK going on to work extensively with the likes of Vishal-Shekhar, Anu Malik, Himesh Reshammiya.... But it was his jugalbandi with Pritam that gave music lovers many a precious gem, from the early 2000s right down to 83 late last year.

And KK singing for actor Emraan Hashmi is a long and musically rich playlist on its own. Soniye to Aye bekhabar to Tu hi meri shab hai, Zara sa to Dil ibaadat.... “A voice and talent like no other. They don’t make them like him anymore. Working on the songs he sang was always that much more special,” wrote Emraan on Twitter.


KK was a rare celebrity who was mainstream and yet kept himself on the fringes of Bollywood, only letting his work speak for him. “It happens so many times with me that after a concert fans come up to me and ask that are you really KK and have you really sung songs like Tadap tadap or Alvida? I know they are not misinformed, or anything like that, but it’s just that they haven’t seen me much,” KK had once said in an interview. Director Farah Khan summed it up best with, “You stood out for your unfilminess” in a tweet on Wednesday.

Which also explains the fact that KK was a secure artiste who stood out in a song even when he blended in. Humdum suniyo re, Dola re dola, Aaja gufaon mein aa, Maar dala, Dilli ki sardi, Jhoom barabar jhoom, Tu ne maari entriyaan, Party on my mind... all sung by KK, with his colleagues for company, but each distinguished by his voice. When the Arijit Singh blitzkrieg made most eminent Bollywood singers fall by the wayside, KK retained his place because of his unique voice.

Alvida, KK. Chal, soche kya/ Chhoti si, hain zindagi/ Kal, mil jaaye toh hogi khush naseebi....

Last updated on 02.06.22, 12:08 PM

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