Kishore Kumar married four times in his life.
Kishore Kumar married four times in his life.

Kishore Kumar: The man who was surrounded by sadness

People who are in love with his work and persona—and these are in the millions—know more about him, and so they see this man in his other avatars too, as a composer, filmmaker, editor, scriptwriter and even songwriter, yes! A modern-day Leonardo da Vinci in our cinema, with an embarrassment of skills, many of them high-visibility.
By Manek Premchand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 13, 2016 01:15 PM IST

What are the first thoughts that come to our mind when someone mentions singing-actor Kishore Kumar? Chances are we will say yodeller, comic actor, or the voice of Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna. Perhaps we will think of his eccentricities, and maybe even his multiple marriages. Many of us recall him fondly through his garage-mechanic’s role and song Ek ladki bheegi-bhaagisi from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. Others instantly mention his comic falsetto singing in Aake seedhi lagi dilpe jaise katariya from Half Ticket.

People who are in love with his work and persona—and these are in the millions—know more about him, and so they see this man in his other avatars too, as a composer, filmmaker, editor, scriptwriter and even songwriter, yes! A modern-day Leonardo da Vinci in our cinema, with an embarrassment of skills, many of them high-visibility.

In his last 10 years, he connected beautifully on the stage through his shows too. Surely we are talking about a people person. Now this hardly sits well with what we also know, that till his very end, Kishore Kumar preferred to be a recluse, remaining a mystery to mankind in general. Clearly, there were two Kishores here, a happy connected one, and a sad withdrawn one. And perhaps, essentially more sad than happy.

Yes, not many think of him as essentially a sad person—at least not in their first thoughts, but a certain theory of the case needs to do the rounds. Let’s see why.

Firstly, he was never happy acting in films, he just wanted to be left alone to sing. What got the better of him was peer pressure, principally from his brother Ashok Kumar, a huge box office star when Kishore made his entry, and with a nineteen year age gap, old enough to be the beginner’s father. Compound that with Kishore sometimes not being paid for his work, an occupational imperative in the sleazy world of our cinema. That was turning him paranoid, a gradually intensifying mood that accompanied him faithfully all his life, especially when success arrived.

After his initial struggles were over, he found vocal success and the resources to sometimes reject greasepaint, but now he was getting periodically visited by discord in his personal life. His first wife Ruma left him to find a new career and husband in Calcutta. The second, Madhubala, was sick—and that for nine years, till she passed away. The third wife, Yogeeta chose an auspicious date—4th August, 1978—his 49th birthday, to walk out on him. Then she proceeded to marry a prominent actor. Hope winning over experience, Kishore finally found marital happiness only with his fourth wife, Leena.

Meantime, when Mrs Gandhi’s ‘feelers’ ordered him to sing for her 20-point plan during the Emergency, he shooed them away with a mouthful of choice Bengali expletives. The then information & broadcasting minister VC Shukla was offended enough to announce a ban on Kishore Kumar’s voice on All India Radio. Enter sad tidings again.

Meantime too, he had plenty of issues with the Income Tax guys. Once he showed some tattered files to Pritish Nandy, editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, who had called upon the legend for an interview. “What are these?” the journalist had asked Kishore. “They are my Income Tax records. Rats love to eat them. These are very effective as pesticide”. Nandy loved the sarcasm, but missed the sadness in the story.

For people to take you seriously, you need an air of gravitas. Now Kishore was a singer with a wonderful expression of course, but when he spoke, perhaps he couldn’t effectively convey the seriousness of the situation. When his route was sarcasm, they thought he was cuckoo. And when he used comedy, well, he was being funny!

Madness or sadness?

He didn’t smoke or drink, and had no friends, so he didn’t socialize either. By the late ‘60s, his distaste for people peaked, so he began treating his trees as pets, giving each one a name and talking to them. He once had an architect redesign his home into a moat surrounded by water, so people who wanted access to him would at least be psychologically turned off. Happily that project was dumped. He would relent if people hounded him for interviews, then leave the scene with a regret note. His living room had all these skulls and bones with red lights and sounds backing them up to welcome unwelcome visitors! All these were his way of saying ‘Please leave me alone’. This wasn’t so much madness that surrounded him, it was sadness.

Amazingly, all this was happening as he was producing unimaginable blueprints for some of the nicest fun songs and comic scenes that we have seen. His appearances in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Jhumroo (1961), Half Ticket (1962), Manmauji (1962), Padosan (1968) and a dozen more furnish us with plenty of examples of the fun and laughter that we associate with him. For other actors too, his songs of comedy and romance, of so many vignettes of emotions, were rendered so beautifully over the decades.

Jaate-jaate, since we are looking at his sadness, let’s quickly fly over just a few soul-stirring sad songs that were rendered by the legend. Marne ki duaen kyoon maangoon (his first film song, from Ziddi, 1948), Jagmag jagmag karta nika chaand poonam ka pyaara (Rim Jhim, 1949), and Husn bhi udaas udaas (Fareb, 1953) were his early sad songs. Over the years he chased these with many more heart-rending ones. Here are some:

Kishore Kumar passed away on 13th October, 1987. It was Ashok Kumar’s birthday. The father-like brother couldn’t have imagined a worse gift. Gone was the man who gave us so many wonderful compositions like Raahi tu mat ruk jaana (for Hemant in Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964). This was the hero who gave us our money’s worth onscreen in Nakhrewaali (New Delhi, 1956). This was the romantic through whom Shashi Kapoor wooed Raakhi in O meri Sharmilee (Sharmilee, 1971). His was the voice that graced Neeraj’s nazm on a Pahadi tune by Dada Burman in Phoolon ke rang se (Prem Pujari, 1970). This was the golden hearted man who loved Mohd. Rafi, and had the latter playback for him the wonderful Ajab hai dastaan teri aye zindagi (Shararat, 1959).

They don’t make his kind anymore. For, who can breathe expression into words like he did when he sang this one?

Humse mat poochho kaise mandir toota sapnonka
Logon ki baat naheen hai, ye qissa hai apnonka
Koi dushman tthes lagaaye to meet jiya behlaaye
Man-meet jo ghaav lagaaye use kaun mitaaye?
Chingaari...

(Editor’s Note: This article was first published on August 4, 2014. It has been repurposed to celebrate Kishore Kumar’s 86th birth anniversary.)

Follow @htshowbiz for more

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Ajay Devgn joined the cast of Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Ajay Devgn joined the cast of Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Ajay Devgn joins Alia in Gangubai Kathiawadi, to begin shooting from tomorrow

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 09:53 PM IST
Ajay Devgn has joined the cast of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt in the titular role. He will begin shooting from Saturday.
Close
Janhvi Kapoor will be seen next in Roohi.
Janhvi Kapoor will be seen next in Roohi.

Janhvi says audience is not 'obligated' to love her, she needs to win them over

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 09:09 PM IST
  • Janhvi Kapoor, who will be seen next in Roohi, said that viewers are not 'obligated' to love her and the onus is on her to give them a reason to. She added that she is working hard to win everyone over.
Close
Priyanka Chopra soaking up the sun with her pet pooch Diana.
Priyanka Chopra soaking up the sun with her pet pooch Diana.

Priyanka Chopra enjoys sunkissed morning with pet dog Diana in London, see photo

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:27 PM IST
  • Priyanka Chopra and her pet dog Diana are soaking up the sun in London, where the actor is shooting for the Amazon series Citadel, in which she plays a spy.
Close
Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt snapped at an ad shoot.
Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt snapped at an ad shoot.

Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt are lost in love and laughter at ad shoot. See photos

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:24 PM IST
  • Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt were clicked at an ad shoot with director Gauri Shinde. Check out some behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot here.
Close
Other than movies, the actor has also been making music and has a busy year ahead. (Photo by Sarang Gupta/Hindustan Times)
Other than movies, the actor has also been making music and has a busy year ahead. (Photo by Sarang Gupta/Hindustan Times)

Shruti Haasan: OTT gives films a second lease of life

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 05:59 PM IST
The actor-singer says the debate about theatres VS OTT is a larger one. While some films are made for theatre, she is a big fan of streaming platforms as it gives her access to all kinds of content from across the world
Close
Salman Khan is also a gifted painter, along with being an actor.
Salman Khan is also a gifted painter, along with being an actor.

Salman feels 'embarrassed' to display painting alongside 'legends' at art show

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 05:50 PM IST
  • Salman Khan said he feels 'awkward' and 'embarrassed' but at the same time, 'delighted' and 'honoured', to have his painting displayed alongside legends at an art show.
Close
Dr Shriram Nene feeding Madhuri Dixit a slice of homemade pizza.
Dr Shriram Nene feeding Madhuri Dixit a slice of homemade pizza.

Madhuri Dixit’s husband Shriram Nene whips up pizza for her, see photo

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 04:46 PM IST
  • Dr. Shriram Nene prepared a homemade pizza for Madhuri Dixit. As he shared a picture of it on Instagram, many of their fans showered compliments.
Close
Tiger 3 will also be an action spy thriller.
Tiger 3 will also be an action spy thriller.

Tiger 3: Salman Khan, Katrina, Emraan attend puja, shoot to begin on March 8

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 04:44 PM IST
Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Emraan Hashmi, who are all set to start shooting for their upcoming outing Tiger 3, attended a puja before the film is scheduled to go on floors.
Close
Sara Ali Khan and Amrita Singh visit Ajmer Shareef Dargah.
Sara Ali Khan and Amrita Singh visit Ajmer Shareef Dargah.

Sara Ali Khan visits Ajmer Sharif Dargah; Vicky, Katrina's sister all heart

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 04:33 PM IST
  • Sara Ali Khan took to Instagram and revealed that she and her mother Amrita Singh visited Ajmer Sharif Dargah on Friday.
Close
Parineeti Chopra in The Girl On The Train.
Parineeti Chopra in The Girl On The Train.

The Girl On The Train: Parineeti turns a singer, shares new song Matlabi Yariyan

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 03:57 PM IST
  • Parineeti Chopra shared a new song - Matlabi Yariyan - from her upcoming film, The Girl On The Train. The actor has sung the soulful ballad. Watch here.
Close
Sara Ali Khan and Amrita Singh at the airport.(Varinder Chawla)
Sara Ali Khan and Amrita Singh at the airport.(Varinder Chawla)

Sara Ali Khan, mom Amrita ace airport look, twin in green ethnic wear

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 03:48 PM IST
  • Sara Ali Khan and her mother Amrita Singh were seen twinning in green at Mumbai airport on Thursday. See their pictures here.
Close
Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh and Rajkummar Rao in Kai Po Che!
Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh and Rajkummar Rao in Kai Po Che!

Sushant, Rajkummar, Amit are 'brothers for life' in unseen video from Kai Po Che

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 03:17 PM IST
On the eight-year anniversary of Kai Po Che!, director Abhishek Kapoor shared a behind-the-scenes video showing the camaraderie between Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkummar Rao and Amit Sadh.
Close
Kareena Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore are very close to each other.
Kareena Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore are very close to each other.

When Sharmila said Kareena was ‘just like my children’ when Mansoor was unwell

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 02:54 PM IST
  • Sharmila Tagore had once talked about how Kareena Kapoor had her birthday when Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was hospitalised but chose not to draw attention towards herself.
Close
John Abraham as Amartya Rao in Mumbai Saga.
John Abraham as Amartya Rao in Mumbai Saga.

Mumbai Saga trailer: Watch John, Emraan battle it out on Mumbai streets

PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 02:28 PM IST
  • Mumbai Saga trailer has John Abraham and Emraan Hashmi locking horns with Mumbai streets as the arena. Watch the trailer here.
Close
Aaliyah Kashyap was subjected to hateful comments on her recent post.
Aaliyah Kashyap was subjected to hateful comments on her recent post.

Aaliyah says she got rape threats for lingerie shoot: Never felt more frightened

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 09:18 PM IST
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap's daughter Aaliyah Kashyap has revealed how she was subjected to the 'most vile, degrading and disgusting comments' on social media after her lingerie photoshoot.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP