Kishore Kumar, the singer, composer, poet, actor, director, August, 4th; is the birthday of this versatile musical genius. Son of Shri Kunjlal Ganguli, a renowned lawyer of Khandwa, and Gauri. Was named Abhas Kumar, which was later changed to Kishore Kumar, as the name sounded like Abbas. His elder brother actor Ashoke Kumar mentioned in an interview that, when Kishore Kumar was young his voice was hoarse and he used to cough a lot while speaking. Once he met with an accident and his little finger was severed and cut off, those days there were no pain killers so he cried continuously for days together, which probably cleared his voice.
Ashoke Kumar was already an established, successful actor in Bombay, Kishore followed him to Mumbai and joined Saraswati Devi (a pseudonym for the Parsi lady composer of Bombay Talkies) as a chorus singer, making his debut in a small cameo in “Shikari” (1946), incidentally produced by his elder brother and the debut of composer S.D.Burman. Noted film composer Khemchand Prakash gave him the first song of his life, Marne ki duwayen kyon mangu, which was picturized on Dev Anand for the film Ziddi (1949), and since then Kishore Kumar became Dev Anand’s voice, later on with Aradhana Kishore Kumar gave playback to Rajesh Khanna. Roop Tera mastana, Mere Sapne ki Rani kab aayegi became the love anthem of nation and nation also got a super star in Rajesh Khanna, and revival of Kishore Kumar, a revival which turned into unending ever increasing melodious crescendo still resonating in the hearts of all the music lovers.
Kishore Kumar had unique ability of molding his voice according to the actor whom he gave playback to. Rajesh Khanna mentioned in an interview that when he was signed for Aradhana, Kishore Kumar sent him a message that he wants to meet him, Rajesh Khanna reached his house and started waiting in his drawing room, Kishore Kumar came and sat and just asked few questions and then Rajesh Khanna left after a while, wondering what was it about; next day in the recording studio, when he saw Kishore Kumar singing, he was amazed how Kishore Kumar picked up the nuances of his voice and when Aradhana was released, on screen it appeared that it is Rajesh Khanna singing. Kishore Kumar was a great mimic, and had great observation.
You must have heard and seen the interesting song from the film Half Ticket – Aa ke seedhi lagi dil pe aise nazaria. The song was planned as a duet to be sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, composer was Salil Chaudhuruy, but on the recording schedule Lata Mangeshkar was not available due to some overseas tour, Salil Chaudhury decided to use a dummy in place of Lata, whose voice was to be replaced later by her, but Kishore Kumar suggested what if he sings in both the voices, Kalidas the director of the film liked the idea and Kishore Kumar sang in both the voice, another great thing about the song is, the song was picturized on Kishore Kumar and Pran, and in the scene, Kishore Kumar was disguised as a lady so the female sounding voice he sang for himself and male voice for Pran, but if you listen to the song, it will appear that Pran is singing.
Javed Akhtar made an interesting observation about Kishore Kumar, that whenever there was any song which was recorded by two singers and one of them being Kishore Kumar, the popular version would always be of Kishore Kumar, few examples are Tum Bin Jaun Kahan (Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi), Hamen Tumse Pyar Kitna (Kishore Kumar, Parveen Sultana), Mere Naina Sawan Bhado (Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar). Kishore Kumar was a gifted singer, he could change his voice at will and being an actor, director himself sang perfectly suiting the mood of the scene and character. You will find his voice soft like silk in songs like Yeh Jeevan Hai, Humen Tumse Pyar Kitna, Khizan ke phool pe aati kabhi bahar nahi, and extremely tough and hard in songs like Rafta Rafta Dekho Aankh meri Ladi hai, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. His voice was one of the most expressive voices that Hindi film music ever had, an excellent combination of expression and throw gave his songs a different musical identity. Kishore Kumar was inspired by Hollywood actor Dany Key, in fact one of the songs in Bengali Movie, Luko Churi – Shing nei tabu naam taar singho, is inspired by Dany Key’s song, though the composition is by Hemant Kumar. Kishore Kumar introduced yodeling in Indian music, which he picked up from American country singer Jimmie Rogers, but developed his own style which has immense variation and style. No singer to date in India could reach Kishore Kumar’s yodeling standards.
Kishore Kumar was a very serious and sensitive film maker and director, his films Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, Door Ka Rahi are great films. He produced, directed wrote screenplay composed music, sang and acted in Door Gagan Ki Chhaon mein, he even composed background music for the film, in the climax he did something interesting in background score, which was not heard of or attempted by anyone – he just used some indian drums, which created magic. Vijay Lokapally in his piece about the film, published in Hindu few year ago, writes “This movie is about Kishore Kumar. His ubiquity in the movie is a tribute to his genius and an affirmation of his amazing skills. When he is not acting, he is directing. When he is not singing, he is composing. Not to forget, he is the producer too of this critically-acclaimed effort. In this much-watchable movie, the man, known to be a complete comic hero, is a melancholic character, so strikingly different to his personality of a dancing, prancing actor. He wins your heart with whatever he does — singing, acting, directing or composing.
This was Kishore’s directorial debut and successful by any yardstick. It earned praise from critics. Kishore was reportedly mighty pleased by the response from the connoisseurs of good cinema. He plays a war hero without a scene in the movie from the battlefield. He is forced to pawn his war medal to raise money for his son’s treatment. The story is simple. Shankar (Kishore) returns from war to find his house ravaged and wife perishing in the fire. The traumatised son Ramu (Amit Ganguly) survives but loses his voice from the shock. The father and son bring rare sensitivity to their performances with the beautiful Supriya Choudhury making an impact with a powerful screen presence.
Ramu, impeccably acted by an 11-year-old Amit, can’t speak but conveys so much through his eyes and the pain on his face. Kishore is a class act in the absence of histrionics and the crass humor that marked some of his acting. His face mirrors the anguish as “Koi Lauta De Mere Beete Hue Din” haunts in the background. He also does justice to “Jin Raaton Ki Bhor Nahi Hai”, one of the landmark scores from his illustrious career.
What makes it a Kishore special is his ability to create music that goes so well with the story. Two outstanding numbers by Asha Bhonsle take you on a nostalgic trip. “Khoya Khoya Chanda Khoye Khoye Tare” leaves you in love with her voice and then you are spellbound by “Path Bhoola Ik Aaya Musafir”, a personal favorite of Asha.
Shankar leaves no stone unturned as he prays and pleads for his son’s voice, seeking the best of doctors and divine help. “Bapu” (father) is all he craves to hear. He confronts a scheming village tyrant and wages a lonely battle that he wins after much suffering. It, however, appears odd that the tyrant gets away with all his scheming so conveniently in a village that proudly looks up to a war hero for protection. In the end, good prevails over evil, the son regains his voice and you are left admiring the genius of Kishore Kumar.”
The greatness and beauty of his music and melody is that, even after so many years and almost past a generation his music is popular and shines like Sun in the clouded sky of Indian Film music. Asha Bhosle in an interview said that when she listens to Hindi film music she only listens to two singers – Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar.
Kishore Kumar was not a trained singer, he never learnt classical music but he not only excelled in singing but has also composed some excellent classical music based song both in Hindi and in Bangla, the songs like Nayan Sarasi Keno Bhorechhe Jole, Amar Moner Eei sound like composed by some classical master. Great musician RD Burman once shared that he composed a song for the film Mahbooba and called Kishore Kumar to sing, he said he has composed the song in Shiv Ranjani, which also had a Lata version, Kishore Kumar said, I don’t know Shiv Ranjani but I will not sing first, You record Lata first and give me the recording I will memorize and sing, he did exactly that and sang Mere Naina Sawan Bhado, a song which is still very popular.
Kishore Kumar considered Shri Kundan Lal Sahgal his guru, though he never got a chance to meet him but he respected and adored him and was his true bhakt. An episode would tell you about his dedication and sincerity towards his guru, HMV the famous record company thought of a project where they convinced Kishore Kumar to sing Sahgal sahab’s songs as his tribute to him. Initially Kishore Kumar was reluctant to sing, but after much convincing he agreed. Everything was set and scheduled, but Kishore Kumar did not reach the recording studio, everybody waited and waited, when they went to his house to find out, Kishore Kumar said, no I will not sing Sahgal’s song, because if his Guru is compared with him, by people who may not have heard much of Sahgal, but they like Kishore Kumar and might appreciate his singing, it would be insult to his guru, which he can never allow. So the project was shelved. Probably such sensitivity made him the excellent singer who reached people’s hearts and managed to stay there forever. Happy Birthday Kishore Kumar.