I might have given it all up if AR Rahman sir had not chosen my voice: Kaappaan-singer, Darshana KT
The singer recounts her musical journey, her experiences working with Harris Jeyaraj for Kaappaan, and with her mentor AR Rahman over the years
It might have been a year and a half since we last heard Darshana KT in Meyaadha Maan (Nee Mattum Podhum) and Mom (Maufi Mushkil), but the Madhuraiku Pogathadi singer is poised to make a comeback with a song in Suriya's Kaappaan, which has music by Harris Jeyaraj.
"It is my first song with Harris sir," begins Darshana, her excitement quite evident in her sweet voice. Quite comfortable singing songs and harmonies for AR Rahman and chorus for Ilaiyaraaja, the singer says the call from Harris Jeyaraj's office was quite a surprise. "I thought maybe he wanted to try out my voice since we hadn't worked together before. But I loved that Harris sir knew everything about my voice and work before he called me," says Darshana, full of praise for the composer. "He was even kind enough to ask Kabilan (Vairamuthu) sir to change a few words when I struggled with it. It is a hip-hop duet with very different lyrics," she shares.
A considerable gap between projects has not been a deterrent for the singer right from the beginning. Darshana who began singing for AR Rahman's chorus in 2007, also got married in the same year and shifted to the United States. "I might have given it all up if Rahman sir had not chosen my voice for the final version for Maduraiku Pogathadi. That was definitely a turning point for me."
Over ten years on, Darshana admits the journey hasn't exactly been easy. Not all composers were comfortable using an artist who wasn't physically available for recordings in the country. "The initial years were extremely difficult. I used to travel every year to India for a couple of months to work." With help, she then set-up a studio in Chicago, where she is based, to ensure that she can record from home. "My husband learnt sound engineering just to help with recordings. I recorded from here for the Malayalam version of OK Kanmani and also for Meyaadha Maan. Rahman sir and Pradeep were both kind enough to let me do that."
Despite not having a whole lot of songs to her credit, Darshana is quite happy with the discography she has. "I travel all the way not knowing if I will actually get the opportunity. When the risk is high, I don't have the liberty to be extremely picky. But I'm blessed that way; all composers have used my voice differently. A Maduraiku Pogathadi is different from a Karuppu Perazhaga, even though they are both folk numbers." Her way of standing out in this era of reality shows is to have unique songs to her credit, ones where she can experiment.
This thirst to experiment led Darshana to form her own musical duo Mndhrm with Kedar, a music producer from Cincinnati. The duo is currently working on an EP, which is slated to come out next year. And she credits AR Rahman entirely for her creativity. "I don't even know how to play a musical instrument properly yet. When I compose, I sing a tune and record it. I have started to now learn the guitar. But whatever creativity I have, it comes only from Rahman sir and is completely due to his training," she says, adding she is blessed to have him as her mentor. "When recording a song, he once asked me to give several variations. And when I erred, he never got upset. Instead, he would just tell me what I can do it differently — he taught me to think." She says he could even turn her mistakes into something beautiful, like the smalling humming in Madurai Pogathadi. "He lets you learn from what you do and that has made me who I am today," she signs off.