By Tulsidas Mishra*

(A tribute to Kishore Kumar on his birth anniversary/4th August)


This is what one feels about Kishore Kumar, when one recollects him, while savouring his songs in solitude.  Kishore Kumar died on the 13th of October, 1987. The voice that had charmed millions of music lovers for forty long years fell silent. Mukesh and Mohammad Rafi had died earlier, in 1976 and 1980 respectively. Kishore Kumar was the last of the terrific triumvirate. And with his demise, the reign of the Musical Troika of Hindi films, came to a painful end.

Kishore KumarKishore 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 had said once. It was SD Burman, who gave him a few lines to sing in the Ashok Kumar starrer ‘Shikari’.  But his real debut as a singer 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 SD Burman advised him to stop copying Saigal and develop his own style. Perhaps the bonding of Kishore Kumar with SD Burman was pre-destined. Many of the songs which have immortalized Kishore Kumar have been composed by the senior Burman: 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 perhaps the reason Dev Anand had a special liking for Kishore Kumar. ‘I love the songs of Rafi, but Kishore Kumar’s voice suited me the best,’ he had said once.

Kishore Kumar hit a lean patch in the closing years of 1960s. Most of his films during this period bombed at the box office. But all that changed in the year 1969. Shakti Samanata’s ‘Aradhana’ released that year and Rajesh Khanna emerged as the first ever superstar of the subcontinent. With his emergence, Kishore Kumar’s sagging singing 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, the latter fetching Kishore his first Filmfare Award.

Kishore KumarIn the whole of the 1970s, the RD Burman-Kishore Kumar combination rocked the nation. Breaking cultural barriers and transcending age groups, they regaled music lovers of every hue. RD Burman’s compositions were youthful, trendy and vibrant, but they became all the more hummable because of Kishore Kumar’s pleasant voice and playful rendering. Who can forget the songs that RD 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. ‘Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi/Mr X in Bombay’, ‘Mere Naseeb Men Aie Dost/Do Raaste’, ‘Jaani O Jaani/Raja Jani’, ‘Yeh Jeevan Hai/Piya Ka Ghar’, ‘Gadi Bula Rahi Hai/Dost’, ‘Ruk Jaana Nahin/Imtihaan’, ‘Aap Ke Anurodh Men/Anurodh’, ‘Jaan-e-man, Jaan-e-man/Jaane-e-man’ or ‘Akela Gaya Tha Main/Rajput’, all proved super hits and enriched the repertoire of the singer.

Kalyanji-Anandji’s composition ‘Mera Jeevan Kora Kagaz/Kora Kagaz’ for Kishore Kumar became Binaca Geet Mala 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 a few other songs of the Kalyanji Anandji-Kishore Kumar combination that the listeners could never have enough of.

There are some compositions of Rajesh Roshan as well, which Kishore Kumar enriched with his soulful rendering. Can one ever forget songs like ‘Dil Kya Kare/Julie’, ‘Chhu Kar Mere Mann Ko/Yaarana’ or, for that matter, ‘Yaadon Men Woh/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’.

He won the  best Male Playback Filmfare Awards eight times, a record till date.

Kishore Kumar‘Koi Hota Jisko Apna/Mere Apne’, ‘Woh Sham Kuch Ajeeb Thi/Khamoshi’, ‘Musafir Hoon Yaaron/Parichay’, ‘O Majhi Re/Khusboo’ are some of the lyrics of Gulzar which became marvellous musical experiences because of Kishore Kumar’s mellifluous rendering. But outspoken and unsparing that he was, he ribbed Gulzar, when the concoction of the abstract and the 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 did he loan 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, the latter reportedly refused to take any money and asked him to give him a signed letter acknowledging his singing talent instead.  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. Ray stuck to his part of the bargain and published the letter in a film journal.

Kishore Kumar had a malleable voice. It could acquire all sorts of hues; silly, sensitive or soulful. With his extraordinary singing style, he could sing all kinds of songs with gusto and élan. And yes, his inimitable yodelling needs special mention, with which he spiced up the songs every 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 his 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 and 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 Kahna, Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna’.


The author is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in the film and television sector in Mumbai and Hyderabad for the last twenty years. Presently he is based in Bhubaneswar. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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