As Krishnakumar Kunnath, fondly known by his stage name, KK sang his debut hit single, Pal, in a concert at Nazrul Manch in Kolkata on Tuesday, it also became his last performance of the timeless of this 1990s hit song. Hindi pop and Bollywood playback singer wound up his one-hour show for the students of Gurudas College Kolkata, went back to his hotel room and took ill. He was rushed to CMRI Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
KK’s journey into the world of music began with jingles, which is where he began his singing career in Delhi.
After reaching a dead-end – he claimed to have gotten tired of all the jingles he kept churning out - Krishnakumar Kunnath moved to Mumbai from Delhi in 1994. The same year, he presented a demo tape to the trio Louis Banks, Ranjit Barto and Lesle Lewis in order to get into the music industry in Mumbai. Ironically, he continued with jingles even in Mumbai and between 1994 and 1999, sang 3,500 jingles in 11 languages.
It was in 1996 that AR Rahman spotted KK and introduced him into the world of playback singing and that too in Tamil. KK sang Kalluri Saaley and Hello Dr for Rahman in Kadir’s Kadhal Desam. In 1997, he sang Strawberry Kannae in Misara Kanavu.
In 1999, when Sony was set to launch in India, KK got his big break as the music label decided to launch his album Pal, which gave his career a massive boost. The lyrics – Hum, rahen ya an rahen kal; Kal yaad aayenge ke ye pal; Pal, ye hain pyarke pal – became an instant hit.
It was also in 1999, KK was roped in to sing Tadap Tadap in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam ,(starring Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai) and became a sensation overnight. The tragic ballad continues to be one of the most popular songs in Bollywood. But it was not until 2008 that he released Humsafar – his second album. Humsafar has 10 songs, two of which were from his previous album Pal.
The same year, KK sang Khuda Jaane from Bachna Ae Haseeno (starring Ranbir Kapoor), a song that flourished in his voice.
What’s ironic is that KK, who preferred to lie low, gave the music industry songs that people might have recognised in a second even if they didn’t know the singer’s face. But then again, he also claimed to have been born for the stage. In one of his many interviews with Gulf News, he was quoted to have said that he never felt odd or nervous when on stage and that the passion he felt when he sang live was hard to match.
KK went on to straddle television, live gigs, commercials, Bollywood and other film industries, singing in Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu to name a few, and he did it with commitment and passion. In fact, his voice was often called the “voice of love”, given the kind of songs he chose to sing.
His demise has come as a shock to the industry and his fans as messages and condolences flooded social media.
KK’s last post on Instagram: