‘KK had the right attitude in class’: Music teacher Loy Mendonsa pens tribute

Mount Saint Mary’s, where I was music teacher, has produced enough musical talent down the years. But I remember KK’s batch in particular because he stood out from the rest. Not because he just had a unique voice but because he had the right attitude to learn. And he could bleed into others once his piece got over. That’s the attitude he carried on till the end. But his piece had to be heard and he was very keen to get it out there. Then I lost touch with him as I got busy with work in theatre, TV and ad jingles.

So, I was among the first people he contacted when he came to Mumbai. I advised him that Mumbai was a place to at least give your talent a shot but if you misfired, you couldn’t get down. KK didn’t, and found his place and footing on the basis of his sheer talent. I remember the Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe track from Dil Chahta Hai, where he easily blended his voice with the others. I think his Jaane Ye Kya Hua was the most beautiful track in Karthik Calling Karthik. KK’s voice was timeless. You could put him into any genre and knew he would deliver in the end. His voice radiated friendly love.

He was easy-going in the studio. He would report on time and stay as long as was needed to get the recording done. He was in no hurry to leave and that was such a relief for composers. He would never overpower you with his understanding and play along with the directors. He would never do more than what was required. And once he had settled down after a couple of takes, he would take off on his own and become everybody’s focal point. After illuminating the space with his bright spark, he would retreat into the shadows and merge with the background. He was a simple guy who never bad-mouthed anybody and wouldn’t allow anybody to do so in his presence. And you can measure a man by the reaction of the musicians around him. He drew them into his sphere and gave them so much respect that they never forgot him in the studio.

Many would say he was underrated. But playback singing in Bollywood is very much like casting, you need a role-playing voice. You have to fit into the specific persona of the character who is lip-syncing on screen. That’s why KK’s legacy is the mellifluence that cuts across generations and his ability to touch your innermost chord.

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As told to Rinku Ghosh.

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