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Maverick Minstrel: A tribute to Kishore Kumar on his 25th death anniversary  

Monday June 09, 2014


"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.”


Tulsidas Mishra


‘PAL PAL DIL KE PAAS TUM RAHATE HO’ (Blackmail) - This is what one feels about Kishore Kumar, when one recollects him, while savoring his songs in solitude.  Kishore Kumar died on 13th October,1987. And the voice that charmed millions of music lovers for whole forty years became silent. Mukesh and Mohammad Rafi had died earlier, in 1976 and 1980 respectively. Kishore Kumar was last of the triumvirate. And with his demise, the reign of the Musical Troika of Hindi films, reached a tragic crescendo and ebbed out.

Kishore Kumar was born Abhas Kumar Ganguly on August 4, 1929 in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. Ashok Kumar wanted Kishore Kumar to be an actor like him. But Kishore Kumar was  more interested in becoming a successful singer.



‘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 Khemchand Prakash.

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 the singer.

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 meanwhile.

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 Bhubaneswar)


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