‘I only wanted to
sing. Never to act.’ He said once. It was S.D.Burman, who gave him few lines to sing in
Ashok Kumar starrer ‘Shikari’. But his actual debut was ‘Marne
ki duayen kyon mangu/Ziddi’ under the music direction of
Kishore Kumar was a great fan of legendary
actor-singer, Kundan Lal Saigal. But S.D.Burman advised him to stop copying
Saigal and develop his own style. Perhaps the bonding of Kishore Kumar with
S.D.Burman was pre-destined. Because, many songs which immortalize Kishore Kumar
today have been composed by Senior Burman only. Songs like ‘Maana
Janaab Ne Pukara Nahin/Paying Guest’, ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke/Nau Do Gyarah’,
‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil/Guide’,‘Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara/Jewel Thief’, ‘Phoolon Ke
Rang Se/Prem Pujari’ and many more.
Interestingly enough, all the above
musical gems were filmed on Dev Anand. That is why perhaps Dev Anand had
a special liking for Kishore Kumar. ‘I love the songs of Rafi but
Kishore Kumar’s voice suited me best’ he said once.
Kishore Kumar hit a lean patch, in the
closing years of 1960s. Most of his films bombed at the box office.
However, the year 1969 proved memorable for him. Shakti Samanata’s
Aradhana released and Rajesh Khanna emerged as the first ever superstar
of the subcontinent. With his emergence, Kishore Kumar’s sagging career
too revived. He became the singing voice of the superstar. The songs
‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ and ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ from the same film became
runaway hits. Kishore Kumar received the first Filmfare Award of his
career for ‘Roop Tera Mastana’.
In the whole of 1970s, the
R.D.Burman-Kishore Kumar combo rocked the nation. Breaking cultural
barriers, cutting age groups, they charmed the music lovers. If
R.D.Burman’s compositions were youthful, trendy and vibrant, those
became all the more hummable because of Kishore Kumar’s pleasant voice
and playful rendering. After all who
can forget the songs that R.D.Burman composed for Kishore Kumar in films
like Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Jawani Deewani, Hare
Ram Hare Krishna, Buddha Mil Gaya, Namak Haram, Aap Ki Kasam, Ajnabee,
Ghar, Anamika, Mehbooba, Golmaal, Kudrat, Shaukeen and many others?
Laxmikant-Pyarelal too embellished the
career of Kishore Kumar with a slew of sweet and sensitive songs. Be
it ‘Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi/Mr X in Bombay’, ‘Mere Naseeb Men Aie
Dost/Do Raaste’, ‘Yeh Jeevan Hai/Piya Ka Ghar’, ‘Gadi Bula Rahi Hai/Dost’,
‘Ruk Jaana Nahin/Imtihaan’, ‘Aap Ke Anurodh Men/Anurodh’ or ‘Akela Gaya
Tha Main/Rajput’, all proved super hit and enriched the repertoire of
Kalyanji-Anandji’s composition ‘Mera
Jeevan Kora Kagaz/Kora Kagaz’ for Kishore Kumar became Binaca Geetmala
topper of the year and gave the singer a Filmfare nomination. ‘Pal
Bhar Ke Liye’ and ‘Nafrat Karnewalon Ke/Johny Mera Naam’, ‘Pal Pal Dil
Ke Paas/Blackmail’, ‘O Saathi Re/Muqaddar Ka Sikander’ and ‘Neele
Neele Ambar Par/Kalakar’ are few other songs of KA-Kishore Kumar
combination that the listeners appreciated a lot.
There are some compositions of Rajesh
Roshan as well, which Kishore Kumar highlighted with his heart-felt
singing. Can one ever forget the songs like ‘Dil Kya Kare/Julie’, ‘Chu
Kar Mere Mann Ko/Yaarana’ or that way ‘Yaadon Men Wohh/Swami’?
Kishore Kumar received two Filmfare Awards
singing the compositions of Bappi Lahiri. One for ‘Pag Ghunghroo/Namak
Halal’ and the other for ‘Manzilen Apni Jagah Hain/Sharaabi’.
Kishore Kumar won the Best Male Playback
Filmfare Awards eight times. A record till date.
‘Koi Hota Jisko Apna/Mere Apne’, ‘Wohh
Sham Kuch Ajeeb Thi/Khamoshi’, ‘Musafir Hoon Yaaron/Parichay’, ‘O Majhi
Re/Khusboo’ are few lyrics of Gulzar which became marvelous musical
experiences because of Kishore Kumar’s mellifluous rendering. But
out-spoken and unsparing that he was, he ribbed Gulzar, when the
concoction of abstract and absurd in the lyric ‘Hawaon Pe Likh Do,
Hawaon Ke Naam/Do Dooni Chaar’ became too much for him to digest.
Kishore Kumar had a nice rapport with
Satyajit Ray. Not only he loaned some money during the making of Ray’s
‘Pather Panchali’, he also lent his voice to the song ‘Aago Bideshini’ in
Ray’s other classic ‘Charulata’. When Ray wanted to use Kishore Kumar’s
voice in one more film, instead of money, he asked Ray to give him a
signed letter, acknowledging his singing talent. By that time, Kishore
Kumar had already become a living legend. But even then, it seems, words
of appreciation from a genius like Satyajit Ray mattered a lot to
him. Hence he went ahead and published the letter in a film journal.
Kishore Kumar had a malleable voice. It
could acquire all sorts of hues. Be they silly, sensitive or soulful
numbers, with his extra-ordinary singing style, he could sing all with
gusto and Úlan. And yes, his inimitable yodelling needs special mention,
with which he spiced up the songs now and then.
Kishore Kumar not only proved his talent
as a singer and actor but as a music composer, scriptwriter, producer
and director too. Many believed that Kishore Kumar was a sublime genius
with the customary trappings of eccentricity and madness. But Kishore
Kumar didn’t agree. ‘In this crazy world, only the truly sane man
appears to be mad’ he said in defence.
In 1985 Kishore Kumar declared his
retirement. He wanted to leave Mumbai and shift to his native place.
Perhaps he had a premonition of his impending death. He died two years
later in 1987. His last wish was fulfilled and his dead body was taken
to Khandwa for cremation. The maverick minstrel returned to his mother’s
lap to rest in peace. A quarter of a century has elapsed in the
But great souls like Kishore Kumar never
take farewell. Never say goodbye. Instead they keep visiting the memory
lane and enliven it with their melodies. They are ageless. Timeless.
Deathless. Their songs never cease to serenade the weary listeners.
Kishore Kumar’s song from film ‘Chalte
Chalte’ sounds almost like his epitaph--- ‘Chalte Chalte Mere Yeh Geet
Yaad Rakhna, Kabhi Alvida Na Kahana’.
(Author is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in Film and Television
sector for last twenty years. He has shouldered varied relevant
responsibilities in Mumbai and Hyderabad. Presently he is based in