Delhi-born Krishnakumar Kunnath, fondly known as KK, had sung approximately 3500 jingles before he sang his breakout song, “Tadap Tadap Ke” from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). While Hindi film songs make up the bulk of his oeuvre, he also deeply influenced Tamil film music with songs like "Appadi Podu" and "Strawberry Kanne". He’d go on to sing in 10 Indian languages and irrespective of the language, KK’s voice resonated with emotions that drew listeners close. He sang about love and loss, friends and foes, and his voice had not just a fantastic range, but also the ability to convey a profound understanding of the human condition. It’s been a year since KK's untimely passing, but his songs remain with us. Here are some of our favourites:
This track from KK’s debut album, Pal (1999) is written by Mehboob with music by Leslie Lewis. KK crooning about how a true friend is everything from a “raazdaar (confidant)” to a “dilbar (beloved)” felt like he was putting to music the jumbled longings in our heads. Pal also featured “Aap Ki Dua”, “Yeh Tanhai” and the hit title track, “Pyaar Ke Pal”, which speaks about how we rely on memories to keep love alive.
In the tearjerker that is Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), this is the one upbeat moment. The uptight Naina (Preity Zinta) takes off her specs and jacket to reveal she is, in fact, the cool girl. Throwing caution to the wind and hands in the air, she gave us, with help from KK, Shaan, Vasundhara Das and Loy Mendonsa, a party anthem that works just as well whether you want to dance alone in your bedroom or you’re out with friends.
From Aksar (2005) and sung by KK and Sunidhi Chauhan, the male-gazey visuals do an injustice to this song, which remains memorable for its catchy lyrics, like “Tere bina meri subah nahi jalti, tere bina meri shaam nahi dhalti (My day doesn't begin or end without you.)” Yes, the verses in English sound odd and contrived, but just focus on KK singing about an all-consuming love.
In this song from Woh Lamhe (2006), KK lends his voice to Shiney Ahuja’s character Aditya who is besotted with Sana (Kangana Ranaut). Unfortunately for Aditya, in the music video, Sana seems more taken by a blue motorcycle. The song oscillates between viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses and deliberating if this really is true love. It’s the ballad you need for when you’re feeling deeply emo.
Penned by Vishal Dadlani and sung by KK and Sunidhi Chauhan, this song from Taxi No. 9211 (2006) gave us some serious visual aids in the form of an extremely chiselled John Abraham at a club. It’s a testimony to KK and Chauhan’s talent that despite the visuals, what ends up staying with you is how the two singers complement one another beautifully. “Ek Nazar Mein Bhi” is groovy without being loud and playful but not lewd, which is becoming an increasingly rare combination in Hindi film soundtracks.
In this ballad from Om Shanti Om (2007), KK gets the mix of playfulness and longing just right as he sings praises of the beloved, recalling the lover’s gaze, how just their breathing makes one’s heart fly like a kite, and generally making romantic clichés sound good. The song is picturised on a besotted fan (Shah Rukh Khan) following his favourite actress (Deepika Padukone) after her dupatta gets caught on his wrist. Is it logical? Of course not. But does KK’s voice match Khan’s mesmerized expression perfectly? Yes.
Composed by Pritam — who you get to see in the song’s music video, standing on a rooftop, playing electric guitar while a camera swoops around him — and from Life in a... Metro (2007), the song transitions from a sorrowful intro to a rage-ridden chorus. The mood is melancholic and KK’s voice makes this lament a breakup song for the ages.
This song from Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008), with soul-stirring lyrics by Anvita Dutt Guptan, is a gem. From “Tu kahe toh khwabon ka banake main bahana sa, mila karun sirhaane pe (If you ask me to, I’ll use sleep as an excuse to lie next to you)” to “Tum se dil ki baatein seekhi, tum se hi yeh raahein seekhi. Tum pe marke main toh jee gaya (You’ve taught me everything I know about love. I began living only after I fell for you)”, the wordplay is dreamy and the singers bring out the wonder and coquettishness in the lyrics beautifully. “Khuda Jaane” is the daydream you want to retreat to when you’re having a bad day.
Need a pick-me-up? New York’s (2009) “Hai Junoon” may be the song you need. With uplifting lyrics, a delightful melody and the unwavering determination in KK’s voice, “Hai Junoon” is just the kind of musical pep talk that you need in the middle of the week. “Dil ki kitab pe kuch toh naya likho (Write something new in the book of your longings)” urges lyricist Sandeep Shrivastava, and KK’s voice makes this message feel all the more persuasive.
KK croons Nasir Faraaz’s lyrics about the futility of life, how quickly it passes, and how much time is spent waiting in this song from Anurag Basu’s Kites (2010), starring Hrithik Roshan and Bárbara Mori. “Dil mein tumhare chupa di hai maine to apni yeh jaan. Ab tumhi isko sambhalo, humein apna hosh kahan (I’ve handed my life over to you. I’m too lovestruck to take care of it),” may hint at shades of Jagjit Singh’s “Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya”, but we’ll take it.