Karthik : The One who flew over Rahman's nest
He’s hot and he is not an actor. He sings like a dream and singes like ember! Vrinda Prasad catches singer Karthik on a song.
His name might not ring such a loud bell but the songs he’s sung are much hummed very distinguishable numbers that gave him an identity with no need for introductions. Chori pe chori from Saathiya was topping the charts for long, making it a big thing for him. Subsequently came Naaku oka girlfriend kavali ra from Boys which made dancers out of ordinary mortals. Hai khuda hafiz, Arey re arey re, Nijanga nenena, Behka mein behka, Hey kaala bandar…with every song that followed, he kept getting more mellifluous and popular in the industry as maestro AR Rehman’s blue eyed boy. We began talking about his style of singing and Karthik shares, “My style totally depends on the genre, music director’s inputs and what the song demands. It’s good to be versatile and flexible.”
He’s known to be among the most versatile singers and language never was a barrier. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, don’t make a difference to him at all. What he’s untouched by is also any feverish pursuits to get big too fast or the fact that the actor is the face of the song, not the playback singer.
Behka from Ghajini opened doors for him in Hindi and the transition into Bollywood was a smooth one. After Kala bandar from Delhi 6, Karthik seems to be on a new high. So what preparation goes into recording Rehman’s songs? “With Rehman there is no time for preparation, everything happens in a frenzy and the end result is what you guys get to hear,” Karthik smiles.
And Illayaraja? “Rehman Sir and Illayaraja Sir are both legends, but dramatically different. With Illayaraja Sir, voice might be the last on his list but with Rehman Sir, voice comes first.”
We rewind to his struggling days and Karthik gets engulfed in nostalgia. “I took singing seriously when I was in college and I was part of a college band. While I was engaged in the troupe, my friends got me introduced to singer Srinivas, who got me into a chorus group for Rehman.” Thereafter, Karthik got a call from Srinivas a year later since Rehman was looking for a fresh voice. Srinivas tried contacting Karthik and he wasn’t reachable. But it was in the nick of time that Karthik came to know of this and managed to grab the opportunity during the re-recording of One 2 Ka 4. That was his first big break and he shares it with a heavy splatter of emotion that’s as fresh as it was then.
Since then he’s sung more than 3000 songs, about a thousand plus in Telugu alone. Along came much acclaim and a host of awards, including the recent government award for best singer and the ilmfare award. “Awards keep one going and motivate me to do my best each time. Awards are great to win but I can’t be complacent. I need to strive for a lot more.” On plans of getting into composing or music direction, he smiles nonchalantly, “I have to learn a lot and improve my singing. Composers do 80 per cent of the job, we just chip in with our voice.” Question him about live performances and we get to see the rock star come alive. “Live shows give ample audience participation and a singer resonates with the pulse of the audience. I enjoy live shows.”
Karthik is restless to get back to work now but here’s pushing in one last question. What’s currently playing on his ipod? “My ipod is a concoction of different kinds of music. It’s set to Billy Joel at the moment,” he runs along.