When he participated in Channel V’s Super Singer, little did Naresh Iyer know that his voice would impress maestro A R Rahman, who later on signed the young man to sing for the blockbuster Rang De Basanti. Not only were Naresh’s beautiful renditions of Paathshala, Roobaroo and Tu Bin Bataye loved by all, but he also went on to win a National Award for Roobaroo, when he was barely 25.

“But I feel old you know,” he laughs and tells Metrolife. “These days, soon as kids are born, they enter reality shows, and they sing so brilliantly,” he says referring to the participants of shows like Star Vijay’s Super Singer and Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma.

Post Rang De…, he sang beautiful songs like Nazrein Milaana Nazrein Churaana in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and Kaala Bandar in Delhi 6. “I will always be grateful to my audience, A R Rahman and Adnan Sami (judge of Super Singer),” he says. “By using my voice in four songs for Rang De Basanti, A R sir instilled faith in me.” Recently, Naresh sang yet another song for A R Rahman for the Tamil film Vinnaithandi Varuvaya starring Trisha and Simbu. “It’s called Kannukul and it’s a fun song.”

He has also sung a song for friend and singer Devan. “He is launching himself as a solo music director with the film Bale Pandiya. I have sung three songs in that film, and I am really excited about this song called Sirikren as I feel I have not sung a song like that before.”

Who are his inspirations? “Since I grew up in Mumbai, I was exposed to a lot of Hindi songs. Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Manna Dey are my favourite singers.” Naresh also likes KK, Chitra, S P Balasubramaniam and Swarnalatha, not to mention A R Rahman of course. “Leave alone the composer, A R sir is amazing as a singer too. Whatever he touches, turns to gold.”

Does Naresh also plan to turn composer in future? “Right now, I am pretty thrilled to be a singer.” How about acting in movies? “I don’t know as acting may change my focus. I guess it will be an instant feeling,” he answers.

The singer has also sung many Kannada songs in films like Hudugata, Circus and Chaitrada Chandamama. He even sang Rahman’s Chandramukhiye for the film Sajni. “I had heard the Hindi (Bol Sajni) and Tamil (Velli Malare) versions of the song, but had never thought I will be singing the Kannada version. It was a great honour to sing the song, which was rendered so beautifully by S P Balasubramaniam in Tamil and Sonu Nigam in Hindi,” he signs off.