It is the 24th death anniversary of Kishore Kumar. Born as Abhash Kumar Ganguly, the talent of legendary playback singer and actor of Hindi cinema stood out all the more as he did not have a formal training in music. He was the younger brother of another legendary actor Ashok Kumar.
Born on August 4, 1929 in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Kishore was still a child when his brother Ashok Kumar became a star in Bollywood. Later, Anoop Kumar, Ashok's next brother, also ventured into Bollywood. This influenced young Kishore Kumar in a great way. In 1947, Kishore Kumar followed his elder brothers' footsteps and came to Mumbai to pursue a career in films.
Kishore, however, was not interested in acting. His real ambition was to become a successful playback singer. He was too afraid to rebel against Ashok Kumar, who wanted him to be an actor like himself. However, Kishore did make a name for himself as an actor, but his heart lay in playback singing.
Kishore would ask his producers if he could sing on the movie's soundtrack. His wish was not granted as he did not yet have a style of his own and tried to copy the likes of KL Saigal, his idol. SD Burman advised him not to copy Saigal but develop his own style. Kishore kept this advice in mind and would eventually develop a style that was all his own, prominently featuring the 'yodelling' that he had heard on his brother Anoop's Austrian records; in Bollywood music circles. With time, 'Yodelling' became Kishore's trademark.
It was not until 1948 that he got his first opportunity to sing Marne Ki Duayen Kyon Mangu for Dev Anand in Ziddi under the baton of Khemchand Prakash. However, it was SD Burman who made Kishore the superstar singer of the seventies, when he chose him to sing Roop Tera Mastana, Pyar Mera Diwana and Mere Sapnon Ki Raani Kab Aayegi Tu for Rajesh Khanna in the super hit Aradhana. The success of the film made Kishore the voice of Rajesh Khanna.
But before Rajesh Khanna arrived on the scene SD Burman had made him the voice of Dev Anand with super hit music in films like Guide, Jewel Thief and Paying Guest. Songs like Maana Janab Ne Pukara Nahin and Gaata Rahe Mera Dil were evergreen hits. It is said that Kishore Kumar was so mad about singing that he used every trick in his armoury to ruin his acting career. He muffed his lines, pretended to be crazy, shaved his head, played difficult, and began yodelling in the middle of tragic scenes. Yet, his films like New Delhi, Asha, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Jhumroo, and Padosan all turned out to be super hits establishing Kishore Kumar as a comic actor.
In fact, he became so busy as an actor that Mohammad Rafi actually had to provide playback for him in films like Sharaarat and Ragini. His singing career too flourished owing to the faith of directors like RD Burman in Kishore, the singer. RD Burman had seen Kishore imitate artistes like Bhimsen Joshi perfectly.
His ability to imitate coupled with his tremendous voice and range gave him an edge over others. Which is why after the decline of Rajesh Khanna, RD Burman and the other composers were able to successfully exploit Kishore Kumar's voice for the other superstar Amitabh Bachchan. Kishore sung some super hit songs for Amitabh Bachchan in movies like Don, Sharaabi, Mili, Amar Akbar Anthony, the list is endless.
It was his ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of his hero, and the ethos of the situation, that made him a star. He was as much the voice of the dapper Dev, the adorable Rajesh as well as the aggressive, angry young man Amitabh Bachchan.
Speaking of his versatility, during the recording of Aake Seedhi Lagi from Half Ticket with Salil Chowdhury, Lata Mangeshkar was unable to come for the recording. The ever-resourceful Kishore suggested that he would do both the male and female voices. Salil Chowdhury very nearly brushed it off as a prank, but Kishore was serious. And we have the humorous and absolutely astonishing song sung in both octaves by that mad, versatile, committed artiste – Kishore.
Although he was known mainly as playback singer, Kishore Kumar was also a prolific music director who produced very melodious tunes in several films like Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, Door Ka Rahi and Jhumroo. Some of the most famous songs where music was given by him are Koi Ham Dam Na Raha, Aa Chal Ke Tujhe Mai Leke Chalun, Beqarar Dil Tu Gaye Ja, Nayano Sarasi Keno (Bengali).
With Jhumroo (1961) Kishore became an all-rounder- he produced, directed, acted in and composed the music for the film. He then made an uncharacteristically serious film on the relationship between a father and his dumb son – Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964). His real life son Amit Kumar portrayed the role of Kishore's son in the film. The film went on to win many national and international awards. As his fame grew so did stories of his eccentricities. He put up a board outside his house saying 'THIS IS A LUNATIC ASYLUM.' He reportedly spoke to his trees in his backyard addressing each by a special name.
Kishore Kumar has done playback singing for more than 200 movies, directed 8 movies and acted in more than 80 films. As fearless in his creativity, he was fearless in his personal decisions too. During the Indian Emergency in 1975-77, Kishore refused to sing for Indira Gandhi's Emergency Propaganda as a result, his songs were banned by all the national media at that time, but this didn't stop Kishore becoming the legend he turned out to be.
(With Inputs from News Tomorrow)