He passed away 27 years ago but Kishore Kumar’s voice still enchants millions of his fans worldwide. My love for Hindi film music began in the late ’70s as we did not have a TV set at home and depended on the radio for entertainment. All India Radio’s Urdu Service was one station I would invariably tune into.
I immediately took fancy to Kishore da’s voice as no other singer appealed to me as much as the yodelling sensation. Later, I joined a boarding school, where one of my classmates shared my love for the singer. We would listen to the artiste on a transistor smuggled into our hostel dormitory.
It was much later that I realised that singing was just one aspect of his phenomenal talent as he was an actor, singer, lyricist, composer, producer and director all rolled into one. No wonder Lata Mangeshkar called him the Danny Kaye of the Hindi film industry. It was composer Khem Chand Prakash who spotted his singing prowess and gave him a break in ‘Ziddi’ where he sang his maiden song for Dev Anand. Initially, he gave playback only for Dev Anand and himself. But with
‘Aradhana’ he took up playback singing seriously and became the permanent voice of Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. Singer Nitin Mukesh is on record saying that his father Mukesh had once told him that as if Kishore had given Rafi and him
a lifeline, saying, ‘You sing for 20 years, and then I will come.’ At one time in the ’70s even Rafi was left virtually without work.
For all his eccentricities and being luckless in marriage, the god-gifted talent who had no formal training in music kept fascinating one and all with his versatility. Even the classically sound Manna Dey would be in awe of Kishore when the two sang together.
Our school mess often played his songs and it was during one of the meals that I heard ‘Yeh jeevan hai, is jeevan ka yahi hai rang roop’. It became my favourite number and to this day, I marvel at the way he rendered Anand Bakshi’s poetry under Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s baton.
It was October 14, 1987, and we were having lunch at the school mess when the same friend who shared my love for the great man waved a newspaper at me saying that the singer had died after a heart attack in Mumbai the previous evening. I did not know how to react and tried hard to concentrate on the food as the music in the background played, ‘Hum laut aayenge, tum yun hi bulate rehna, kabhi alvida na kehna’.
The writer is assistant news editor with Hindustan Times, Chandigarh.