2023 is winding up on a high note for Kapil Kapilan — he won the Kerala State Film Award for best singer, has chartbusters in all the South Indian languages, and is one of the artistes chosen for the new season of Coke Studio Tamil, Idhu Semma Vibe.
“It is a huge thing for a singer to get noticeable songs in multiple languages at the same time. Even if a song is good, we singers know that it will reach the audience only if the film does well. In my case, the films have been appreciated. So it is a blessing,” says Kapil over the phone, from Chennai.
He has sung in over 25 films this year and had trending songs in Malayalam (‘Neela nilave’, RDX), Kannada (title track of Sapta Sagaradaache Ello – Side A), Telugu (‘Nuvvu Navvukuntu’, MAD) and Tamil (‘Yaarum kaanadha’, Fight Club).
When awards came calling
Kapil, who belongs to Kottarakkara in Kollam district, says that the win at the State Film Awards for the track, ‘Kanave’ from Pallotty 90s’ Kids has given him more opportunities in Malayalam. “The composer [Manikandan Ayyappa] and director [Jithin Raj] wanted to associate with me and that’s how this song happened. I sang the track by watching the trailer,” says Kapil. The film has not been released yet.
The humungous hit in his filmography is ‘Neela nilave’ composed by Sam CS. The video of the vibrant number has clocked over 75 million views on YouTube. “RDX had a great run at the box office and that helped the video to get noticed. I had gone to record a song for Sam in his studio a couple of years ago. Since his studio was being renovated, we worked in my home studio and this was one of the many songs we recorded back then,” he says.
Another hit in his kitty has been the title song of the critically-acclaimed romantic drama, Sagaradaache Ello – Side A composed by Charan Raj. Although he has sung in Kannada before, this track has been the most loved of the lot. Besides the original, he has sung its dubbed versions in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi.
Kapil adds that he was confident about the song being loved while recording it. “One reason was that Rakshit Shetty [who played the lead] has fans across the languages, including Malayalam, and therefore the film was expected to get a better reach. Charan has used modern synth wave production, which is popular with the listeners thesedays. It has a beautiful blend of semi-classical and pop flavour,” he points out.
Another notable song for him is ‘Theera swasame’ from the Tamil film Chithha, composed by Dhibu Ninan Thomas. “The film dealt with an intense subject. Many people messaged me saying they could emotionally connect with the song.”
Kapil, who made his debut in 2017, stresses that he has been selective to a great extent, which comes from his experience of having worked with Dhibu in music production and programming for over five years. Once he moved to Chennai from Kerala after his graduation, Kapil took training in music and learnt sound engineering from Muzik Lounge School of Audio Technology before associating with Dhibu who gave him his first song in Tamil.
“Thanks to my sessions with Dhibu, now when I listen to a track I know whether it will work commercially or not. However, one can’t predict the fate of a film at the box office,” he says.
He has also worked on multiple projects by the same composers, including Govind Vasantha, Sam, Dhibu, and Charan. “If I can establish a vibe with a composer in one recording session, that naturally leads to more projects,” he says. For instance, he has sung for Govind in Christy, Kadina Kadorame Andakadaham and Maharani in Malayalam and Sweet Karam Coffee and Fight Club in Tamil. “In the case of Charan, although I didn’t sing in Sagaradaache Ello – Side B[the sequel of Sagaradaache Ello – Side A], he gave me the Malayalam and Tamil versions of the song ‘Usire’, besides a song in his latest Kannada release, Bad Manners.” For Sam, besides RDX, he has sung in the Malayalam films Bandra and Phoenix.
Breaking language barriers
Kapil says that he has become comfortable in singing in different languages. “The lyricist will usually be at the recording, which helps. Sometimes when you concentrate on language, the feel goes for a toss and that is when the recording goes on for hours. However, I have improved a lot in terms of diction, pronunciation etc,” says the singer.
He has sung in over 70 films since his debut in 2017. Devi Sri Prasad gave him his first Telugu song, ‘Champesaave Nannu’ in Nenu Local. The same year, he debuted in Kannada with ‘Baduke Neenentha Nataka’ from Happy New Year and in Tamil with ‘Uyiredukkum’ from Maragatha Naanayam. But the big break happened five years later with the Tamil song, ‘Adiye’ from Bachelor. After that, he sang in Malayalam films such as Bheeshmaparvam and Night Drive.
He is excited about being a part of Coke Studio Tamil, singing a composition by Justin Prabhakaran. Meanwhile, he is set to release his compositions next year. “The deal has been signed and I will release Hindi and Tamil songs. I always wanted to sing in Hindi. Since I am not getting any opportunities in films, I thought of doing something on my own and that’s how it came about,” he signs off.