On Kishore Kumar’s 90th birth anniversary, 10 lesser known facts about the maverick genius
The moment one thinks of legendary singer Kishore Kumar, what comes to mind are spells of youthful euphoria, boundless energy and depths of pathos. It is hard imagine that an unschooled singer could produce such gems and could do so with such consistency.
Born into a family of comfortable means, Kishore’s father Kunjalal Ganguly was employed as a personal lawyer with a wealthy family of Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. Born Abhas Kumar Ganguly in 1929, Kishore was the youngest of his four siblings including Ashok, Sati Devi and Anoop. When Kishore was still a child, his older brother Ashok ventured into films and became a big star in the Bombay film industry.
Young Kishore would often accompany Ashok and made his acting debut in his brother’s film Shikari (1946) and his singing debut in 1948’s Ziddi. It is said that while Ashok Kumar wanted Kishore to be an actor like him, the latter was never serious about a film career. Despite the fact that he acted in 22 films between 1946 and 1955, of which 16 were flops, it is said he would device ways to anger his directors and producers so as to be thrown out of their films. However, the success of his later films like Ladki and Baap Re Baap (1955 and 1966), made him take acting seriously.
However, his heart was in singing. In his initial years, he styled himself after the iconic KL Saigal but in later years was reportedly influenced by Pakistani great Ahmed Rushdi. However, it was veteran SD Burman, who hearing Kishore sing at Ashok’s home in 1950, advised him to develop his own style. Kishore took the advice, picked yodeling skills from American singer Jimmie Rodgers and Tex Morton, the New Zealand and Australian country music great, and developed his unique effervescent style.
Thanks to SD Burman’s training and mentoring, Kishore would become the voice of Dev Anand from 1950s till the 1970s, dishing out music that would sparkle in the Hindi film arena. What began with the senior Burman would continue with his son, RD Burman. Kishore would go on to singing some of best-remembered songs for Rajesh Khanna, under RD Burman’s guidance.
On Kishore Kumar’s 90th birthday anniversary, here are some lesser own facts about the singer-actor:
1) Kishore Kumar sang most number of songs for Rajesh Khanna (245), followed by those of Jeetendra, Dev Anand and Amitabh Bachchan respectively.
2) For the film Half Ticket, Kishore sang both in male and female voices in the song, Aake Seedhi Lagi Dil Pe.
3) During Emergency, he was asked to sing for an Indian National Congress rally in Mumbai, which he refused. As a result, there was ban on playing his songs by national broadcasters, All India Radio and Doordarshan from 1976 till the end of Emergency.
4) Kishore Kumar married four times – his first wife was Ruma Guha Thakurta (1950-1958). His second wife was Madhubala (1960-1969). He later married actor Yogeeta Bali in 1976, only to get divorced in 1978. He married actor Leena Chandravarkar in 1980 and they were together till his death 1987. Reports suggest that he converted to Islam to married Madhubala. He reportedly stopped singing for Mithun Chakraborty when Yogeeta married him, after leaving Kishore.
5) Kishore’s eccentricities were legendary – he had put a sign board outside his flat which read ‘Beware of Kishore’. When director Rahul Rawail’s father HS Rawail, also a well-known producer-director, visited his home to pay Kishore the money he owed the singer, Kishore took the money and when the latter wanted to shake hands, the singer promptly put Rawail’s hand in his mouth. On being asked by surprised Rawail what he was doing, he replied: “Didn’t you see the sign?”
6) Talking of his eccentricities, Kishore was known to be a loner; he had no friends and often spoke to trees. Once when a reporter remarked how lovely he must be, Kishore took the reporter to his garden and introduced her to his trees!
7) Hrishikesh Mukherjee had planned Anand with Kishore and Mehmood initially. Once, when veteran director went to Kishore’s home to discuss the story with the actor-singer, he was driven away by the guard due to a misunderstanding. Why? Kishore had not been paid for a stage show, organized by a Bengali. Consequently, he had instructed his guard to drive away “this Bengali” if he ever showed up at the singer’s place. Hrishikesh later made the film with Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan.
8) Kishore was paranoid about payment and strictly followed the policy of ‘no pay, no work’. Once while working on a film, he reported turned up at the sets with make-up done on half of his face. He had learnt that the producer hadn’t paid fully. When asked by the director, he replied: “Aadha paisa to aadha make-up.”
9) The famous song Paanch Rupaiyya Barah Ana was inspired by his debt to an Indore college canteen. He owed Rs 5.75 to the canteen.
10) Kishore is composer Bappi Lahiri’s maternal uncle.
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