Kishore Kumar: The Maverick Singer-Comedian Lives amongst his Fans

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Ruchira pays a tribute to the maverick singer-comedian, Kishore Kumar, on his 30th death anniversary (Oct 13). This Friday, the 13th, need not be scary, as we remember the talented singer, who continues to live amongst us. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

On 13th October 1987, the golden voice that had regaled generations of India’s film-music lovers was hushed forever. Kishore Kumar, B-town’s legendary playback singer passed away leaving behind a void which can never be filled.

He was eccentric, but he was a genius. Music was his life’s breath, his fondest passion. It was the music created by him which helped him to overcome the tragedies that dogged him lifelong. Born to a lawyer father domiciled in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, he was initially named Abhash Kumar Ganguly. He was the youngest of four siblings. There was music in his genes as his oldest sibling, the thespian Ashok Kumar was an established singer.

At 18, Kishore followed his Big brother to Mumbai in search of a career. Initially, life was a hard struggle for him. In the late 40s, he embarked on his showbiz career, singing mainly for slapstick comedies. Isn’t it unbelievable that the master singer who gladdened millions of hearts had no formal grounding in music? With films like Chalti ka naam gadi (in which his brothers were his co-actors)Half Ticket, Jhumroo, and Padosan, Kishore added offbeat humor, witty repartee in his work, besides pumping in a good deal of yodeling and crooning. He began to garner success when he became actor Dev Anand’s singing voice for films like Gambler, Johnny Mera Naam, Prem Pujari, Hare Krishan Hare Rama, among others.

Gradually, Kishore ushered in a new dimension to playback singing by interpolating jazz-scat-lyric note patterns. These comprised nonsense words and syllables creating novel harmonious product as illustrated in comedy songs like Ina Mina Dika, Hum toh mohabbat karega, Naach meri jaaan, Main to jhum jhum jhumroo, et al.

During the late 60’s and early 70’s, when actor Rajesh Khanna reached the pinnacle of his success, Kishore became his onscreen voice. The period witnessed several evergreen hits like Safar, Aradhana, Aaap Ki Kasam, Amar Prem, Andaz, Roti to name a few.

After Rajesh Khanna, it was Amitabh Bachchan’s turn to ride the crest of popularity, when his films got their songs play backed by Kishore, who had already begun to bask in global fame. The Amitabh-Kishore tie-up churned out some scintillating numbers like Dekha ek khwaab (Silsilay), Tere mere milan ki  yeh raina (Abhimaan), Rotay hue attey hai sab (Muqaddar ka SikanderRimjhim gire sawan (ManzilJanabe Ali (Laawaris) and many more.  During that phase Kishoreda created several other hits viz., Mera jeevan kora kagaz (Kora Kagaz), Musafir hoon yaron (Parichay), Raat kali ek khwaab me ayee (Buddha mil gaya), Pal pal dil ke paas (Blackmail) Rahi naye naye (Ananda Ashram), which remain popular till date.

However, it was in his sad (read serious) songs, that the virtuoso excelled. The trials and tribulations of his personal life left a deep scar in his heart. But he was able to bring about a catharsis through melancholy songs, which mirrored the plight of heroes and heroines onscreen. Each song was a spontaneous outpouring of his heart – his dreams, hopes, aspirations, and ecstasy. As the music reached its crescendo, his voice grew tremulous, the agony of his heart flowed out along with the lyrics, and the ultimate effect was soul-stirring. It successfully touched the innermost chord of the listeners’ hearts.

Kishore produced and directed a film Door Gagan Ki Chhawon Mein, which bombed at the box office. The songs, however, proved to be popular.

He dabbled in his mother tongue, Bengali and successfully acted in a few of them,   Ektuku chhowa laage, Dushtoo Projapoti and Lukochuri – the latter having been directed by himself.  Even the maestro Satyajit Ray was so impressed by his talent that he cajoled Kishoreda to sing the famous Rabindrasangeet Ami chini go chini tomare for his highly acclaimed movie Charulata. Kishore rendered his voice to numerous other Bangla flicks made in Tollywood.

All said and done, Kishore was a master in everything that he undertook. As a comedian, he sent his viewers into splits with some genuine, innocent, rib-tickling laughter. The tomfoolery in his comic songs kept oldsters and youngsters equally amused. It would be no exaggeration to say that actor-singers may come and go, but Kishore will remain in our hearts forever!     

©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh

Photos and video clips from the Internet

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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.