Kishore Kumar – The Legend of Indian Cinema
As the songs of Farhan Akhtar’s upcoming “Don” turn into listeners’ favourite they bring to mind Kishore Kumar’s zestful singing of the numbers, including the inimitable “Khaike paan Banaraswala”, from the original 1978 film.
The versatile singer-actor, who passed away on this day 19 years ago, sung the “Khaike paan Banaraswala” song complete with his imitation of a man talking with his mouth full of betel juice – without it sounding the least bit offensive.
He may not be among us anymore, but his songs are as much loved today as they were then, maybe more so with a new fan following among the youth.
There is no dearth of singers in Bollywood but there can never be another Kishore Kumar. He has a big fan following, and one of them is Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
“I think I’d like to make a film on the life of Mr. Kishore Kumar. That would be an interesting and a more apt tribute,” Shah Rukh was quoted as saying to Screen Indian magazine recently.
The Kishore Kumar Memorial Club started an award in his name five years ago in Delhi. This year, they are organising the award ceremony in New Delhi and will honour actors Gulshan Grover, Rati Agnihotri, Prem Chopra, Upasana Singh and singer Kunal Ganjawala.
Last year, well-known lyricist Javed Akhtar received the Kishore Kumar Award.
Born Abhas Kumar Ganguly in Khandwa on Aug 4, 1929, Kishore moved to Mumbai when he was 18. His elder brother Ashok Kumar was already a big star in the city. And he didn’t have to work hard to get his first singing assignment for Bombay Talkies “Ziddi” (1948), in which he sang “Marne ki duayen kyon mangu” for Dev Anand.
In those days legendary singer K.L. Saigal was a source of inspiration for newcomers and Kishore was also a big fan of his, hence he tried to imitate Saigal while signing the song.
The song became a hit but it didn’t bring too many offers for Kishore, and he kept struggling for a foothold.
Maverick composer S.D. Burman, a good friend of his elder brother, advised him, “Don’t try to ape K.L. Saigal. Apers never make great artists. You should develop your own singing style.”
After this, Kishore developed his own trademark singing style, and the distinctive yodelling, which he learnt by listening to the Austrian records of his brother Anoop Kumar.
Singing was Kishore’s passion, and he wasn’t remotely interested in acting. Once, while he was running from pillar to post in search of good singing assignments, an acting offer fell in his lap. He was asked to play the main lead in “Andolen” (1951) and Kishore lapped it up because it would allow him to sing for himself.
But the film flopped.
During his initial years in Bollywood he met Ruma Devi and after a whirlwind romance they tied the knot in 1951. The following year they were blessed with a son whom they christened Amit Kumar, who is a well-known singer.
But Kishore’s family opposed the marriage and withdrew their support, and he was left alone to fend for himself.
This marked a turning point in his life because he had to actually struggle for his survival in the industry. After trying his luck at many places, he approached S.D Burman (known to most as Burmanda), who gave him a few songs to sing. Nobody took him seriously as a singer till “Dukhi man mere” from “Funtoosh” (1956) was released.
As luck would have it, Burmanda fell out with Lata Mangeshkar and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Kishore as Burmanda teamed up with Kishore and Asha Bhosle and churned out quite a few hit duets. This was not enough for Kishore, who yearned to be the top signer.
However, his acting career was flourishing and he became one of the most sought after actors, and the audience loved his comic roles. Some of his memorable films are “Ladki”(1953), “New Delhi” (1956), “Asha” (1957), “Chalti ka Naam Gaadi” (1958), “Dilli ka Thug” (1958), “Chacha Zindabad” (1959), “Jhumroo” (1961), “Half Ticket” (1962), “Door Gagan ki Chaon Mein”(1964), “Mr. X in Bombay” (1964) and “Padosan” (1968).
In all these films, he sang his songs. As playback singer he lent his voice to Dev Anand and sang quite a few songs for him including for “Guide”. The veteran actor once described him as “my soul”.
But it was Rajesh Khanna starrer “Aradhana” (1969) that marked a turning point in his singing career. Both his songs “Mere sapnon ki rani” and “Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera” from the film went to become chartbusters and overshadowed Mohammed Rafi’s song in the film.
After this film, Kishore kept climbing the success ladder. His teaming up with Rajesh Khanna translated into the golden era of his career – he gave hits after hits and superseded all the singers of his time and entrenched himself on the number one position. Finally his dream had come true.
He won eight Filmfare Awards, but his success and popularity made him cynical. According to insiders, unless producers made full payment, he would refuse to sing the complete song.
While he proved his mettle both as a singer and actor, his personal life was in a mess.
His marriage with Ruma Devi didn’t last long. They parted ways and he tied the knot with popular co-star Madhubala. After her tragic death, he married actress Yogita Bali, but she couldn’t stay with him for more a few months. He married Leena Chandavarkar, another popular actress, who is two years older to his son Amit Kumar.
He died in 1987 of a heart attack. An untrained singer, Kishore Kumar is a favourite of millions of listeners and a source of inspiration for many aspiring singers.
Among his memorable songs are “Haal kaisa hai janaab ka” from the 1958 hit “Chalti ka Naam Gaadi”, “Yeh raatein, yeh mausam” (“Dilli ka Thug”), “Aa chal ke tujhe” (“Door Gagan ki Chaon Mein”), “Mere mehboob qayamat hogi” (“Mr. X in Bombay”) “Mere saamne wali khidki mein” (Padosan), “Mere sapnon ki Rani” (“Aradhana”), “Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi” (“Khamoshi”), “Zindagi ka safar” (“Safar”), “Chingari koi bhadke” (“Amar Prem”), “Zindagi ek safar hai suhana” (“Andaaz”) “Chala jata hoon” (“Mere Jeevan Saathi”), “Musafir hoon yaron” (“Parichay”), “Main shair badnaam” (“Namak Haram”) and “Zindagi ke safar mein” (“Aap ki Kasam”).