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Versatile singer and a man of
different moods, Kishore Kumar has became a legend of Hindi film world with
his eccentric, romantic, the depth, emotion and mettle in his voice that
gave us so many songs that are beyond par excellence. In 1949, he came to
Bombay from his native place in Khandwa (M.P), hoping that his elder brother
and film star Ashok Kumar would introduce him to his idol - singer K L
Saigal. He too wanted to be a singer, but the film industry conned him into
becoming an actor.
Though Kishore Kumar hated
being ordered around by directors, (who according to him didn't know their
jobs most of the time) the hits followed. New Delhi (1956), Asha
(1957), Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958), Jhumroo (1961), Half
Ticket (1962), Shreeman Funtoosh (1956) and Padosan
(1968). All time blockbusters, that managed to tie down Kishore to a busy
acting schedule, so much so, that for a song in Sharaarat, Mohd Rafi,
actually had to provide playback for him.
In an industry, where comedy
was seen as a filler or diversion from the main plot, there emerged in the
form of Kishore, a hero who made comic acting an evolved art. Laughing,
singing and dancing, Kishore was the complete comic hero, comparable to the
likes of Bob Hope and Danny Kaye. And his unconventional looks and
personality only added to the fun that audiences had when watching him. Even
while playing second fiddle to the hero, Kishore added an extra zing to the
film. Whether it was the pan chewing ustad of Padosan, who takes on
the carnatic maestro Mahmood in a musical duel or in his usually
funny song and dance routine in movies like Miss Mary.
As a singer, he was
unparalleled: his songs coming as naturally as laughter. His ability to
yodel perfectly, freak off into nonsense rhyme and still return to the
original tune was exhilarating. For those used to straightforward singing,
this was heady wine. And Sachin Deb Burman, that talented music director,
made him a constant playback for Dev Anand. Who does not hum those tunes
even today? From Paying Guest (Mana janab ne pukara nahin) to Nau Do Gyarah
(Hum hain raahi pyar ke) to Funtoosh (Ai meri topi palat ke aa), he weaved
his spell. And in the films in which he starred, from Bandi, Bhai Bhai,
Looko Chhori (Bengali), Shararat, New Delhi, he yodelled his way through;
Eena meena deeka, Mera naam Abdul Rahman, CAT Cat, Hum to muhabbat karega
and the list is too long to recollect. He is, of course, best remembered for
his own production Chalti ka Naam Gadi, where he starred with his brothers
Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar and his wife then, the fabulous Madhubala.
Kishore produced, directed,
acted in and composed the music for Jhumroo, an enormous achievement. He
then made an uncharacteristically serious film on the relationship between a
father and his dumb son - 'Door Gagan ki Chhaon mein'. This 1964 film that
Kishore directed, produced, scripted and scored music for was a sensitive
offbeat drama about a war hero Shankar (Kishore Kumar) who returns home from
battle to find that his family has perished in a fatal fire. Only his young
son (played by his real life son - Amit) has survived. The film proceeds to
sensitively delineate the father's efforts to draw his shell-shocked son out
of his self-imposed exile. This film was a classic in the genre of war
movies, and preceded a spate of Vietnam war inspired films of Hollywood.
Critics and fans were astounded by the film which had the unstoppable
funster in a serious introspective, brilliantly sensitive portrayal. 'Door
Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein' went on to win many national and international awards.
Its critical success was perhaps what motivated the making of 'Door Ka
Rahi', another Kishore creation that throws up touches of stylistic
tranquility of 'Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein'. The heightened expectations of
his fans, of Kishore as a director, were never ever fulfilled by his other
films - 'Badhti Ka Naam Daadhi' (1978) 'Zindagi' (1981) or 'Door
Wadiyon Mein' (1982)
The last was another surprise from the singing, dancing vocal comic - a
The songs, of course, were
immortal, tuned by S D Burman. Baboo samjho ishare (with Manna Dey), Ek
ladki bheegi bhagi si, Paanch rupaiya barah anna, Jaate the Japan pahoonch
gaye Cheen (again with Manna Dey) and Haal kaisa hai janab ka
(with Asha Bhonsle). This surely was the most enjoyable freewheeling
knockabout ever made in India. In other films too, he clowned and sang: In I
S Johar's Bewaqoof and of course that great comedy Padosan,
with Sunil Dutt, Mehmood and Saira Bano are some of the all time great
comedies in which Kishore acted.
There are any number of
Kishore Kumar tales to be heard in Mumbai. The best is how when he was
shooting for a Satyen Bose film in Mahableshwar, he was supposed to come out
of a bungalow, get into a car and go past the gate. After a couple of
retakes, Kishore got into the car and drove past straight to Bombay while
the entire unit waited for him to return. Night fell, but there was no sign
of the man. To make matters worse, the car belonged to the producer.
People say he was a miser,
screamed that the taxmen took away all his earnings. But very few people
know that Kishore Kumar secretly sent money regularly, month after month, to
the widow of Arun Kumar Mukherjee. In fact, the truth is, she depended
entirely on the money Kishore sent her. She herself confessed this to a
friend. If Kishore had not helped, it is likely that the family would
probably have been wiped out. Incidentally, Arun Kumar Mukherjee is the same
person who used to visit the Gangulys at Khandwa and who was one of the
first persons to appreciate Kishore Kumar's singing talent. Kishore Kumar
sent money to a few other people as well. Nobody knows who they are and he
himself kept the matter under wraps. He charged one rupee less than Lata
Mangeshkar to show his respect for her and her seniority. And he talked of
going back to Khandwa to become a farmer.
There is a story of Kishore
Kumar that reveals another side to him. Bipin Gupta, known for his many
character roles in the Hindi movies produced the film Dal Mein Kala that was
released in 1964. Satyen Bose was its director. The film starred Nimii and
Kishore Kumar. Bipin Gupta was short of money and was compelled to cancel
the shooting. Kishore Kumar, seeing the plight Gupta was in, ordered his
driver Abdul to go home and bring Rs 20,000 in cash immediately. That was
the amount Gupta needed. As soon as the money arrived, Kishore Kumar gave it
to him personally. The film incidentally flopped, practically ruining Bipin
He had angered former Prime
Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, when he refused to sing for the
"Emergency Propoganda" during the emergency declared by her, and as a result
all songs sung by him were banned by the national media at that time.
He shunned people, never smoke
or drank and had only few friends. Kishore married some of the most
beautiful women in India. Ruma Guha-Thakurta (the mother of his singer son
Amit Kumar) was his first wife, then the beautiful Madhubala, Yogita Bali
and finally Leena Chandavarkar (mother of his yongest son Summet.
Kishore Kumar was unstinting in
crediting his popularity to the Burmans - father and son. It was S.D. Burman
who made Kishore, the superstar singer of the seventies, when he chose him
to sing 'Roop tera mastana, pyar mera diwana' for Rajesh Khanna in the
superhit Aradhana. This together with the song that set the trend of wooing,
'Mere sapnon ki rani, kab ayegi tu' made Kishore the voice of the
'Chinky eyed sensation,' 'the chocolate faced hero' Rajesh Khanna. S.D.
Burman did more than just make Kishore a superstar singer. He helped him out
when his marriage to Ruma Devi caused a split in the family, by making him
sing. 'Qusoor apka' in Bahaar and the song went to become a hit.
S.D. Burman made him the voice
of Dev Anand much before Rajesh Khanna came on the scene. In Guide, Jewel
Thief, Paying Guest and Munimji under S.D. Burman's expert hands, Kishore's
talent was honed and fine tuned. 'Maana janab ne pukar nahin' and 'Gaata
rahe mera dil' were some evergreen hits that Kishore sang for debonair
Another composer who placed
implacable faith in Kishore was S.D. Burman's son, Rahul Dev Burman. The
lack of basic training in music, never hampered Kishore's intuitive feel and
enormous talent for music. After the decline of Rajesh Khanna, R.D. Burman
and other composers were able to successfully exploit Kishore Kumar's voice
for the superstar of all time Amitabh Bachchan. For Don, Sharabi, Mili,
Amar Akbar Anthony, the list is endless. Kishore Kumar's ability to
modulate his voice to suit the personality of his hero, and the ethos of the
situation, was what made him a star. He was as much the voice of the dapper
Dev, the adorable Rajesh as well as the aggressive angry young man Amitabh
Quite a few, who have known
Kishore Kumar, put forward the view that he was not really eccentric but a
very serious person at heart, very earnest about what he wanted to do.
Unfortunately, he was not always understood. As Mehmood characterizes it:
"He was neither eccentric not miserly, as some people seem to think. He was
in fact a genius. He was a louder version of Raj Kapoor, an all-rounder who
could handle every aspect of cinema but and all-rounder who enjoyed making
noise and being notices..."
Kalyanji, who takes a dispassionate view, says, "He had his moods, but that
is an artiste's privilege. He had to be treated like a child if you wanted
to get him to do anything...To get him to do what you wanted you had to tell
him exactly the opposite."
Anandji's version is more matter-of-fact. He says: "Kishore Kumar wasn't the
least eccentric. It's just that he didn't like people cheating him of his
Kishore Kumar's ardent desire in his last days was to return to his native
Khandwa, but that was not to be. His sudden death took even him and many
others by surprise. R.D.Burman was justify bereft when Kishoreda passed away
suddenly. 'When Kishore was alive, it was so easy. Like Rafi and Mukesh he
had a style of his own. In a way he was one up on the others because he
could pick a tune and make it completely his own, to such an extent that
you'd feel no one but he could ever sing it. Kishore Kumar's demise justify
a void that imitators have failed to fill. Composers were justify holding
tunes that they had composed only for Kishore and only Kishore could have
sung. The R.D. Burman follower, composer Bappi Lahiri, who looked upon
Kishore Kumar, as his mentor says, 'I wouldn't be here but for him. From 'Chalte
Chalte' to my last song, he sang ninety percent of my compositions. His
death is a great personal loss to me, but a greater professional loss. Now,
I'll have to work harder to put in the fifty percent which he used to add'.
And Bappi Lahiri must really know, for it was for him that Kishore Kumar
recorded his last song on October 12, 1987, a day before he died.
Profile of Kishore Kumar :
Birth: Khandwa, MP, 4th august 1929
Death: Mumbai, Maharashtra ; 13 October 1987,
Marriage: To Ruma Guha Thakur, Madhu Bala,
Geeta Bali, Leena Chandrawarkar
Brother of Anoop Kumar and Ashok Kumar ; Sons –
Amit Kumar and Sumeet
Actor, Director, Playback Singer, Composer
Play back singer for more than 200 movies.
Directed 8 movies. Acted in more than 50 movies.
First movie acted in ‘Do Ghadi ki Mauj (1935);
First song in movie: Shikari (1946)’.
Last movie acted ‘Koun jeeta Koun hara (1988),
last song in movie: Maalamaal (1988).