It’s only been 48 hours, and one still can’t help but take a pause before referring to KK in the past tense. One of the finest playback singers of our times, KK was also one of the most universally loved singers, especially if the public outpouring of tributes are to be believed. The only way to honour his memory is to celebrate his splendid body of work spanning 26 years.
Here are 10 of the most underrated songs sung by KK:
1. Main Khuda (Paanch)
Composed by Vishal Bhardwaj, this song from Anurag Kashyap’s Paanch blurred the lines between a recording studio and a rock concert arena. When KK belted this out in 2000, very few singers in the mainstream could do what he managed here. I believe the official Rock terminology for such singing is called ‘face-melting’.
2. Chhal title track (Chhal)
Viju Shah’s synth coupled with KK’s spunk breathed life into the opening credits of Hansal Mehta’s film. Much before KK and Pritam patented the ‘Woah oh oh’ in Tu Hi Meri Shabh Hai, which became a recurring feature in their songs, he did it here for Shah.
3. Deewangee title track (Deewangee)
What if Tadap Tadap’s soul was extrapolated to a mentally disturbed man dealing with a pathological obsessive tendency? KK absolutely nails the mood of the film here, Ismail Darbar’s haunting melody and Mahalaxmi Iyer’s soft hums make this one of KK’s eeriest songs
4. Jeena Kya (Om Jai Jagadish)
This was a fun discovery from my mother’s favourite Hindi movie of all time. Playing during a ‘redemption’ montage towards the end of the film, it’s a pleasure to see a completely unhinged Annu Kapoor lip-syncing to the unparalleled throw of KK’s voice. Kapoor had just about stopped hosting – Antakshari, the reality show. What a sight!
5. Kabhi Khushboo (Saaya)
The album of Saaya is a gift that keeps on giving. Unleashing a whole new range to KK as the wistful lover (something that would soon become an area in his discography with the highest hit rate), especially after MM Kreem’s Awaarapan (in Jism, 2003), composer Anu Malik would help open new doors for the singer. This was KK in a slightly more ghazal space.
6. Chand Ki Roshni (Home Delivery)
A gem from Sujoy Ghosh’s nutty, too-left-of-the-field second film. The song is a stunning throwback to vintage, understated Vishal-Shekhar, with KK’s seemingly effortless and zen-like vocals as a cherry on top.
7. Ashq Bhi Muskuraaye (Bas Ek Pal)
Onir’s film had a tremendously underrated soundtrack. Mithoon’s title track and Atif Aslam’s Tere Bin set the charts on fire, but here was this beautiful song replete with flamenco guitars and an equally fun collaborator, Sunidhi Chauhan.
8. Guzaarish title track (Guzaarish)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s first release as a composer had KK doing something exquisite. Handing him a melody that meanders like one of the hardest F1 tracks one has ever had to navigate, Bhansali trusted KK to ace every turn. And boy, was he right?
9. Jaane Kaise (Raqeeb)
Right around the time when the KK-Pritam partnership had taken off, here was this little known song that somehow got a few eyeballs for the film before completely sinking. And with that, even the song was quickly forgotten.
10. Yeh Kahaan Mil Gaye Hum (Humsafar)
One of the most on-brand KK love ballads out there, sung by KK in his most inimitable style. This song in his second album, Humsafar, is to be treasured for ages to come.