This Kishore lad is no singer, I tell you: Tracing Kishore Kumar’s journey

  • Suveen Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 13, 2016 13:21 IST
Kishore Kumar began his career back in 1946.

For at least two decades from the late 1940s, Kishore Kumar struggled to win respect as a singer. He got the odd hit from SD Burman, but few others.

Raju Bharatan, in A Journey Down Memory Lane, tells the story of Bimal Roy’s Naukri. As Roy picked Kumar to play the jobless hero, music director Salil Chowdhury sought Hemant Kumar’s vocals.

Kumar, pursuing his case, went to Chowdhury with the records of two of his best songs — Marne Kee Duaaen Kyun Maangoon (Ziddi, 1948) and Jagmag Jagmag Kartaa Niklaa (Rimjhim,1949). Chowdhury dismissed both as “laboured”. It was only after many others put in a word that Chowdhury relented, though under protest, saying: “This Kishore lad is no singer, I tell you.”

Read: Happy birthday Kishore Kumar: His most streamed songs

As his struggle as a singer continued, Kumar did what any resourceful man would. He tried his hand at being a music director, and sang his own songs.

With astounding results.

Jhumroo, Kumar’s first film as music director, had the most remarkable yodeling Bollywood had heard. And many fathers still put their children to bed by humming Aa Chal Ke Tujhe, scored and sung by Kumar for Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein.

Things changed decidedly for Kumar, the singer, only when SD Burman fell ill during the recording the songs of Aradhana (1969). His son RD Burman roped in his friend, Kumar, to sing some of the songs in place of his father’s favourite, Mohammad Rafi. And the movie created two superstars, the other one being Rajesh Khanna.

Poetic justice visited Kumar when Salil Chowdhury got Kumar to sing for Gulzar’s debut movie as director, Mere Apne (1971). This time without anyone having to put in a word for Kishore. The result was the haunting Koi Hota Jisko Apna.

But success as a singer did not put Kumar, the music director, to rest. He scored the music for no less than nine movies: from Jhumroo in 1961 to Mamta Ki Chhaon Mein in 1989 (released after his death).

They were in-house affairs, and mostly had Kumar as producer, or director, or hero, or all three. Mamata Ki Chhaon mein also had Kumar’s son Amit, wife Leena Chandravarkar, and brother Ashok acting in it. Kishore and Amit are credited as directors.

Read: Did you know these fascinating facts about Kishore Kumar? Watch our video

Still, there is no taking away from the songs Kishore Kumar sang for himself as the music director. No one else could have captured the pathos of Jhumroo’s Koi Hum Dum Na Raha, although it is plagiarised from a Saraswati Devi number. The original was sung by Ashok Kumar, Kishore’s older brother, and the difference is stark.

This is one of those songs that make you feel nobody else but the music director could have done justice to them. It is the feeling you get while listening to S D Burman singing his own compositions. Or, R D Burman singing Mehbooba Mehbooba from Sholay. How the throw of his voice matches Helen’s steps!

Read: Half Ticket to Padosan: Kishore Kumar’s top 5 films


Jhumroo (1961)

Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964)

Hum Do Daku (1967)

Door K Rahi (1971)

Zameen Aasman (1972)

Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi (1974)

Shabhash Daddy (1978)

Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi (1982)

Mamta Ki Chhaon Mein (1990)

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