Nakul Abhyankar — the darling of the masses in Karnataka today — talks about everything from his rise to fame, his struggles and so much more

Nakul Abhyankar always knew he wanted to be a singer and work with music. His journey of how he made this dream come true is a story worth telling…
Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

He’s as beautiful as his voice and we don’t mean to be flirty when we say this. Singer Nakul Abhyankar has been having a great year and ahead of two of his releases in July, we catch up with him to talk about the most important thing in his life — his music — and so much more.

Known for his prolific work in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Tulu, he is best known for his songs Love You Chinna from the Kannada film Love Mocktail (2020) and Thumbi Thumbi from the Tamil film Cobra (2022).

He is more recently known for hits like Saaya Sanjale in the Tamil magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan: I (2022) and his work on the web series Humble Politiciann Nograj (2022). Speaking about everything from his first song to what we can look forward to next, this special interview helps you uncover a new side to the talented artiste. Excerpts from the interview.

Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

Firstly, let’s start with the most obvious question: what does music mean to you?

I am going to keep it super simple: music to me is life! My life to me is music. There’s nothing that matters to me more and I don’t think anything else ever will.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s head back to the very beginning. How did it all start?

Music always ran in our family, right from our grandfathers to their fathers. But they were all agriculturalists and purohits. We are migrants from Maharashtra and we moved to Karavali some 300 years ago or so. We settled down and started doing agriculture, but music, art and craft — it was all in our blood. That just trickled down through the generations.

Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

So, what was the first song you remember performing?

I think it was one of the very first competitions that I was a part of. It think it was a janapada geethe (folk song).

And how did you break into the industry?

It was a mix of hard work and fate. Because, it’s so tough to actually even get access to someone who is already big in the industry. How do you just go to a music composer’s door, knock and say: hey, I’m a singer, give me an opportunity. And for him to actually spare his 5-10 minutes. I just didn’t know what to do but being in an engineering college and singing in so many competitions and then participating and winning in reality shows — I was sure of what I wanted. I knew I wanted to at least try, you know, so that I have no regrets later. Hence, I quit engineering and I started studying music in AR Rahman’s KM Conservatory in Chennai. I made quite a few contacts during those years and eventually got a break. That’s how it all began.

Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

Now even though you are Marathi by ethnicity and you speak Kannada, but your Tamil is also great and your Telugu is pretty authentic. So, as a singer, what are the kind of efforts you take to sound as authentic as a native speaker of that language?

We set the yardstick very high for ourselves when we walk into the vocal booth itself. First of all, we don’t enter the vocal booth without getting the words right. There will always be lyricists and the director to guide us. That said, languages like Telugu or Kannada are very straightforward. But with Tamil it’s very tricky because you have a colloquial way of saying every word. Malayalam however is the final frontier, but I have learned to sing it too.

At one point of time we had people saying that you have to have a classical training to sing, but today, people are okay with a singer as long as they can hold a tune. Personally, do you think an education in music is essential for one to be a singer?

The definition of producing music or composing music has evolved and changed quite a bit now. These days you should be super versatile rather than just stick to classical music. Music is not something that you can actually learn. Music is second nature to human beings. Like language. You don’t have to learn your mother tongue. You just become an expert in it as you grow up. You don’t even remember how you have learned your mother tongue. Music is my mother tongue. It just came naturally to me and now I just journey along with it,  learning and experimenting, every single day.

Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

Now, we wonder, are you the kind of person who has music playing in your head for every situation in life?

Oh yes, always and for me it is either ’60s or ’70s Kannada or Hindi film songs. The songs just come out from my mouth and I’ll happily just alter the lyrics suited to that situation.

Let’s get to the fun questions now: what is one raga that you absolutely love?

I think my personal favourite is yaman. It just makes me cry. It is very pathos. Not just pathos, it just makes you so emotional. You can be happy, sad or feeling anything and you can bend that raga so easily into any of those emotions.

Taking that same thought process forward, if you had to define your life through a raga, which raga do you think it would be?

It has to be bilaval. The raga is very simple, no complications.

Nakul Abhyankar
Nakul Abhyankar

Now, since music is such an important part of your life, if there’s one song from across time, across genres, across language, that you wish you could have lent your voice to — which would it have been?

One of the songs I really liked was Mitwa from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006). I’d agree to sing that song in the blink of an eye.

Okay, we know you have a lot of productions and compositions coming out. Could you tell us what we can look forward to next?

The year has started with a bang for me and two movies with my songs are expected to release in July. There’s Back Benchers and Bisi Bisi Ice Cream. Bisi Bisi Ice Cream releases its trailer today, so expect the music soon.

Finally, as someone who has broken into the music industry on your own — one piece of advice that you could give to young singers aspiring to pursue it as a career?  

Just write songs, make albums, start releasing your work and just remember that if the music is good, you will be noticed. Also, to all musicians, because our work is so public, I think we should carry a sense of social responsibility, as well, concerning the stuff that we release and also the content that we write. Music has a great power to drive the mob in any direction. So, make music responsibly but have fun while doing it too — don’t take it too seriously.

Catch the full interview on our YouTube channel.


X: @elromal

Nakul Abhyankar
Playback singer Nakul Abhyankar shares his experience working with Drums Sivamani for the movie Dehati Disco

Related Stories

No stories found.