Music composer Ismail Darbar and singer KK’s Bollywood journey started almost around the same time. The duo got their big break in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and they later collaborated on Devdas (2002). A day after KK’s demise, Darbar recalls his association with the late singer, who according to him, used to sing from his heart.
Ismail, who celebrates his birthday on June 1, says that he will never be able to cope with KK’s death. He shared with indianexpress.com, “I will never get over KK’s death. Today is a special day for me as it is my birthday, and I heard one of the worst news of all time that KK is no more. Hamesha afsos rahega. I was cutting my birthday cake, and I got a call about KK’s demise. The man had a heart of gold. He would flood me with so much love and I was a total fan of his voice. What he achieved with his hearty voice, very few can manage today.”
Ismail Darbar and KK were quite new to Bollywood when they made “Tadap Tadap” for Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999. And the song became one of the most iconic heartbreak songs of all time. Talking about “Tadap Tadap”, Darbar said, “KK was an iconic singer because for someone to sing a song like ‘Tadap Tadap’, they didn’t have to be a great singer, but someone who sang from the heart, and KK sang from his heart. The song needed someone with a deep and soulful voice, that’s why I wanted only him to sing it. KK was a pop singer, so when I offered this song to him, he clearly told me that he wasn’t sure if he can do it. He said, ‘Ismail bhai, yeh gana toh main gaa hi nahi sakta hoon. This is not my style of singing.’ But, I was convinced that KK would nail it. I composed the song, and I had a vision of what it has to sound like, so I knew how I wanted him to sing.”
“KK believed me, but he felt it was his responsibility to tell me that he thinks he wouldn’t be able to do full justice to the song. At the end of the recording, he didn’t want me to think that he doesn’t know how to sing. I was really touched by his honesty, so I was prepared to put in more effort if needed, because KK’s voice had the soul that ‘Tadap Tadap’ didn’t only need, but deserved,” he added.
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Revealing how “Tadap Tadap” was a tearjerker from the beginning, Darbar shared, “When KK sang ‘Tadap Tadap’ for the very first time, his wife was around. She cried and then said that she can’t believe KK sung this song even though she saw him sing it. This song, from the time it was conceived and recorded, has made everyone cry. I was quite bothered by it, but the song had so much soul and a haunting melancholy that it touched everyone who heard it. When we made Sanjay Leela Bhansali hear the song, he listened to it on loop, and was weeping profusely.”
Even Salman Khan couldn’t stop himself from crying, and would ask Sanjay Leela Bhansali to stop playing “Tadap Tadap” on the sets of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The composer recalled, “On the sets of the film, when Sanjay would play this song, Salman would get furious and ask him to stop playing it. So, one day Sanjay asked him why he does that, to which Salman said, ‘Mereko yaar bohot takleef hoti hai jab yeh gaanaa sunta hoon toh.’ For Salman, this song is still unsettling. Usko aaj bhi takleef hoti hai. When he listens to the song, he can’t stop himself from crying.”
Not just Salman, the song had touched the audience’s hearts too. “When the film was ready, and it was running in theatres, people used to cry so much during intervals. We also saw the same response in private screenings attended by the who’s who of the industry. I was a new composer and I had brought in a newer singer. People used to stare me down and I would see their eyes were swollen because of all the crying. That response has still not changed. People still get emotional listening to the song. KK’s voice will stay forever. It was all God’s plan that we all met and collaborated on such an iconic song. Mehboob wrote such beautiful lyrics, I composed, aisaa KK ne gaa diya and Sanjay Leela Bhansali ne direct kar diya. It was all pre-planned by God. The song changed our lives forever,” Darbar said.
Speaking about the struggles a new singer and music composer faces in Bollywood, Ismail Darbar recalled a disturbing incident in his life that made him question his talent. During the time, KK was a pillar of support for the composer.
Darbar shared, “We had both struggled, and when you lose a person with whom you have shared your struggle period, it is even more difficult to cope with the loss. ‘Tadap Tadap’ was initially not even written or composed for Him Dil De Chuke Sanam. It was for another film backed by a very big banner. But, the producer didn’t want me to make KK sing the song. The makers wanted a group of Qawwali singers to sing it. I tried it, but it wasn’t working for me. I was fixated on KK’s voice and the feeling his voice gave to the song. So the producer was quite annoyed with me. He didn’t take the song and didn’t pay me for it either. But, I had made KK sing the song, so I had to pay him. He never asked for that money though. I didn’t have the money for it, but I promised him that whenever I use ‘Tadap Tadap’, I’ll make only him sing that song. KK didn’t believe me then. He was a little annoyed with me too, so he said to me, ‘Aap badhi filmi baatein karte hai, let it be, it is ok.’ His words pricked me. I was not the quintessential commercial music director. Music is everything for me. This is the first time humne himmat dikhaai because we knew what we were doing. But I had made a promise, and all he kept saying to me was, ‘Ismail bhai aaap kyon itna tension le rahein ho?‘ He was just happy with the fact that a song he thought he can’t sing, he sang it and it turned out to be beautiful. That evening, we both realised how much trust we had in each other. Luckily Sanjay Bhansali asked me to compose music for Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and the rest is history.”
Ismail Darbar concluded that KK’s voice will always remain special as it touched the hearts of the listeners. Darbar shared, “I wanted KK for this song because every singer has their range — low, middle and obtuse. He used to sing very comfortably in this. He was necessarily not the best singer we had, but he sang with his heart. We didn’t look for a classical singer or for someone who sings in proper sur. We needed a voice that comes from the heart and touches the hearts of the listeners, and his voice had this quality. He was so new when he sang this song, and I was a new music director. It was not easy for me to convince anyone that I wanted a new boy to sing, but this conviction that I had in him, gave me guts to stay true to my beliefs. This journey, our struggle helped us to stay true to our convictions and our art. Otherwise the industry can turn you into a sell-out.”