Versatile, whimsical, eccentric and a Bengali too, I’ll always regret never getting to interview Kishore Kumar. But I’ve heard many stories about him.. some fact, most fiction. The ones his family told me were true though.. truth stranger than fiction.
I visited his home, Gauri Kunj, on his fifth death anniversary, and found that KK still lived there. His life-size portraits stared at me from every wall, his padded armchair had its pride of place among all the chintz-covered sofas and his precious 5000-odd collection of VCD cassettes was still intact though the threat of fungus loomed large.
On the day he died, October 13, 1987, the singer-actor-producer-director-composer was watching Marilyn Monroe’s River of No Return
. He played and replayed the title song.. and suddenly knew what his next his next film would be.Surprise surprise
His nephew, Deb Mukherji, was told to contact Danny Denzongpa. “Tell him to come immediately, I have a role for him,” Kishore ordered. Danny was watching an Indo-Pak cricket match, he promised to come as soon as the match ended.
He did, around 5 pm. Along with Kishore’s older brothers, Ashok Kumar and Anup Kumar. It was Dadamoni’s (Ashok Kumar) birthday and Kishore wanted to celebrate it. When Dadamoni who had just lost his wife Shobha six months ago, had demurred, Kishore had urged, “You have to come, I’ll give you a surprise.”
The surprise turned out to be a shock. KK’s guests arrived to find that he was gone. Around 4.30 p m, he had been laughing and joking with wife Leena (Chandravarkar) when suddenly he had toppled over. She’d thought it was another of his pranks but the servant couldn’t find a pulse. KK had suffered a fatal heart attack.Oh brother!
But death didn’t take him away. His elder son, Amit Kumar, insisted that his baba lived on in his chota bhai
When we were talking Sumeet, not yet 10, his feet not quite reaching the accelerator, expertly maneuvered a car down a narrow alley into the garage.
“Look at him, like baba, Sumeet’s growing up to be a car freak,” Amit smiled fondly, recalling how Kishore had hauled him out of bed one morning and asked him to choose from six swanky cars lined up. Amit had sleepily pointed to one and his baba had driven off in his new car.
Leena rediscovered her husband in a bird.. a black crow with a distinguishing mark. It first appeared a day after his death and soon was a regular visitor, perching on her shoulder as she sipped her first cup of tea and nibbling on a
biscuit, then returning to peck at the food they would lay out for it after every meal.
“It flies in and out at odd hours and seems very familiar with the house, Amit and Sumeet,” Leena smiled. “With it around I’m never lonely.”
I never got a chance to meet KK. I didn’t even meet the crow. But that day when I returned home he was no longer just an eccentric genius. He was a family man who had loved and was loved deeply in return.