He was once told that his voice was not suited for playback singing. On another occasion, in the one and only reality show he participated, he couldn’t clear the auditions. Then Theevandi happened and the track, ‘Jeevamshamaayi’ changed everything. ‘Pavizhamazhaye’ from Athiran cemented his position. Today, KS Harisankar is one of the most sought-after playback singers in Malayalam cinema, winning hearts with his voice range and versatility.

However, Harisankar tries to play down the phenomenal rise with a laugh. “Well… everything is going well and it is quite a dream run. I think I have sung for all the current leading composers in Malayalam,” he says.

Music background

It has been an unbelievable journey for him, one that he never planned, says Harisankar. For, there was a time when he was not interested in singing film songs. Growing up in an illustrious family of classical musicians, his focus was on Carnatic music. Son of musicians Alleppey KS Sreekumar and Kamalalekshmi, Harisankar was trained by his grandmother, veteran K Omanakutty, and his father. He chose to keep himself away from films in spite of the fact that his two uncles, the late MG Radhakrishnan and MG Sreekumar were big names in filmdom.

“Learning music was an organic process for any member of the family who has the talent to sing. And films were not in the scheme of things for me because my focus was on preparing for kutcheris and to perform at prestigious sabhas across the country and abroad,” says the singer. But the stint at PMS College of Dental Science and Research made him change the track to film music. He formed a band, Pragathi. “I wanted to become a doctor. I practised at a clinic as well. But that lasted only for six months. By then, I was clear about singing in films and had started trying for an entry,” he adds.

Short takes

Harisankar sang for the movie Saphalyam with KJ Yesudas at the age of four. His releases include Kakshi Ammini Pilla, And The Oskar Goes To…, Sathyam Paranja Viswasikkuvo, Pathinettam Padi, Kalki, Love Action Drama, Ittymaani: Made In China, Vikrithi and Ganagandharvan. His duet, ‘Nee himamazhayaayi’ from the upcoming release Edakkad Battalion 06 has gone viral on social media.He is making his debut in Tamil with Kombu Vacha Singamda and Telugu with Evvarikki Cheppodu.

However that wasn’t easy. He refuses to go into the details of the struggle, but stresses that he never used his family’s credentials to get a break. “People assume that I have had an easy entry because of them. But neither have they recommended my name nor have I ever asked them to do that for me. I never wanted it that way. I wanted to prove myself. It was tough. There has been a lot of rejections. Some of them wanted established singers in their project. I didn’t give up and kept sending demos to composers,” he adds.

The first musician who took him on board was veteran Ousepapchan for the film Karanavar and his first song that came was ‘Payye payye’ from Ormayundo Ee Mukham composed by Shaan Rahman. Then came tracks in Ennum Eppozhum and Anarkali (both for Vidyasagar), Kismath and Laila O Laila before Theevandi changed his career. “Until Theevandi happened, I had a low profile in my family. There have been occasions when they have asked who was the singer of my own songs!” he laughs.

However, Harisankar is quick to add that what has kept him in good stead is his family. “I have a strong foundation in music because of them. I got the right kind of training at the right time and the progression also happened the proper way. For nearly 10 years, I was fully focused on classical music and that instilled a lot of confidence in me; it helps me each time I get up on the stage to perform,” he emphasises.

New approach

The 26-year-old admits that he has changed as a musician over the years. “Earlier, I never used to listen to songs by other singers and composers. But now I keep track of what’s happening around and all of them have influenced me. As for my stage shows, I sing for my listeners. I have learnt to read the pulse of the listeners, thanks to musicians such as Stephen Devassy. My play-list changes according to the nature of the crowd. People think I have an attitude and they can’t be blamed, because I was in another mode for long where interaction with the audience never came in the picture. This is a new phase and I am shedding my inhibitions,” he laughs.

Now he wants to try new genres in music. “I am happy that these days I am getting to sing not just melodies. Nevertheless, I am not selective at all because we don’t know which song will click. For instance, none of us expected ‘Jeevamshamaayi’ to become so popular,” he says.

Harisankar adds that he has become choosy about his Carnatic concerts as he is now concentrating on films. “I have been blessed to be able to sing in some of the prestigious venues, as I had wished. However, there are a few venues that are still in my wish list,” he says.

Any dream? “Of course, AR Rahman. I also hope to come up with my own compositions. Above all, I just want to make people happy with my singing,” he says.

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