Kishore Kumar was one of the most versatile artists of the Indian film industry. He was a singer, a lyricist, a composer, an actor, a producer, a director, a screenwriter and also a scriptwriter. However, the man is mainly known for his brilliance in the field of music. He is regarded as one of the finest Indian male playback singers of all time and is fondly remembered by his fans till date. A versatile singer, he has sung in many Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam and Oriya. Explore the biography cum life history of Kishore Kumar.
He was born Abhas Kumar Ganguly in Khandwa. At the age of 18, he came to Bombay where elder brother Ashok Kumar was a major star. He got his first opportunity as a singer in Bombay Talkies Ziddi (1948) where he sang the song Marne ki Duayen Kyon Mangu for Dev Anand. Being an ardent admirer of KL Saigal, the song was sung in the style of the legend.
Initially, Kishore Kumar used to copy K L Saigal while singing. It was Sachin Dev Burman who advised him not to copy Saigal but develop his own style. With this advice in mind, Kishore eventually developed a distinct style, which is remembered by people till date. Slowly, he entered the field of, first, acting and then, singing, composing music and writing lyrics. He also tried his hand at producing and directing several movies. Though Kishore Kumar is mainly known for his singing, his acting skills have also been widely appreciated, especially in comedy films like Half Ticket, Padosan, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, etc.
As a singer, he was unparalleled: his songs coming as naturally as laughter. His ability to yodel perfectly, freak off into nonsense rhyme and still return to the original tune was exhilarating. For those used to straightforward singing, this was heady wine. And Sachin Deb Burman, that talented music director, made him a constant playback for Dev Anand. Who does not hum those tunes even today? From Paying Guest (Mana janab ne pukara nahin) to Nau Do Gyarah (Hum hain raahi pyar ke) to Funtoosh (Ai meri topi palat ke aa), he weaved his spell. And in the films in which he starred, from Bandi, Bhai Bhai, Looko Chhori (Bengali), Shararat, New Delhi, he yodelled his way through; Eena meena deeka, Mera naam Abdul Rahman, CAT Cat, Hum to muhabbat karega and the list is too long to recollect. He is, of course, best remembered for his own production Chalti ka Naam Gadi, where he starred with his brothers Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar and his wife then, the fabulous Madhubala.
Kishore was initially taken quite lightly as a singer and was given mainly lighter songs by Burmanda and other music directors. But with the soulful Dukhi Man Mere from Funtoosh, 1956, Kishore was now taken seriously as a singer. Though a very popular comedian of his time it was Kishore`s singing trait that made him a legend. Kishore`s long and fruitful association with S D Burman began with Pyar, starring Raj Kapoor. It had two of Kishore`s rare sentimental numbers- O bewafa, yeh to bata loota chaman kyon pyar ka and Mohabbat ka chotasa ek ashiyana. He sang 112 songs for Burman and would have sung more but for the rift that developed between them in 1958. They settled their differences in 1965 with Kishore singing Khwab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat from Teen Deviyaan and Gaata rahe mera dil from Guide.
With hit films like Baap re Baap (1955), New Delhi (1956), Miss Mary (1957) and Asha (1957), Kishore reached his peak as an actor with the zany comedy Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958), directed by Satyen Bose, which starred all the three Ganguly brothers along with Madhubala. Kishore and Madhubala matched each other step for step brilliantly in this comic caper with SD Burman composing such wonderful lighthearted ditties as Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka, Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi si and Paanch Rupaiya Barah Anna.
After Kishore's marriage to Ruma Devi disintegrated, he married Madhubala. The two starred in Jhumroo (1961), which Kishore produced and directed. He also composed the music of the film. The film had some lovely songs like Main Hoon Jhum Jhum Jhum Jhum Jhumroo, Thandi Hawa Yeh Chandni Suhani, Koi Hamdam Na Raha among others. The riotous Half Ticket (1962) with the two of them saw Kishore at his madcap best impersonating a 12 year old! The duets Chand Raat Tum ho Saath and Aankhon Mein Tum became extremely popular from the film.
Door Gagan ki Chaon Main (1964) further confirmed Kishore's acting talent as he scored heavily in a rather serious film. But the 60s also saw Kishore fall from grace as beset by tax problems he was reduced to doing B-films with the likes of Kum Kum though films with the pair like Mr. X in Bombay (1964) still did well at the box office. He scored heavily in Pyar Kiye Ja (1966) and Padosan (1968) but they were supporting roles rather then the lead. He had the odd singing assignment for Dev Anand in Guide (1965) and Jewel Thief (1967) but that was all. He did work with the great Satyajit Ray in this period in perhaps the maestro's greatest film, Charulata (1964). In thre film Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee) serenades Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) with the famous Tagore song Aami Chini-Go-Chini, sung brilliantly by Kishore.
Singing for S D Burman and his son R D Burman, Kishore`s career spanned two generations of listeners. But Kishore was more popular among the younger listeners, mainly due to the success of R D Burman`s music in films like Kati Patang for the song Yeh jo mohabbat hai and from Amar Prem it was Chingari koi bhadke. The runaway success of the songs of Aradhana, 1969 pushed Kishore into prominence, eclipsing all others with the popularity of Meri sapnon ki rani and Roop tera mastana and he soon came to be recognised as the voice of the then superstar Rajesh Khanna.
The songs, of course, were immortal, tuned by S D Burman. Baboo samjho ishare (with Manna Dey), Ek ladki bheegi bhagi si, Paanch rupaiya barah anna, Jaate the Japan pahoonch gaye Cheen (again with Manna Dey) and Haal kaisa hai janab ka (with Asha Bhonsle). This surely was the most enjoyable freewheeling knockabout ever made in India. In other films too, he clowned and sang: In I S Johar's Bewaqoof and of course that great comedy Padosan, with Sunil Dutt, Mehmood and Saira Bano are some of the all time great comedies in which Kishore acted.
S.D. Burman made him the voice of Dev Anand much before Rajesh Khanna came on the scene. In Guide, Jewel Thief, Paying Guest and Munimji under S.D. Burman's expert hands, Kishore's talent was honed and fine tuned. 'Maana janab ne pukar nahin' and 'Gaata rahe mera dil' were some evergreen hits that Kishore sang for debonair Dev.
Another composer who placed implacable faith in Kishore was S.D. Burman's son, Rahul Dev Burman. The lack of basic training in music, never hampered Kishore's intuitive feel and enormous talent for music. After the decline of Rajesh Khanna, R.D. Burman and other composers were able to successfully exploit Kishore Kumar's voice for the superstar of all time Amitabh Bachchan. For Don, Sharabi, Mili, Amar Akbar Anthony, the list is endless. Kishore Kumar's ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of his hero, and the ethos of the situation, was what made him a star. He was as much the voice of the dapper Dev, the adorable Rajesh as well as the aggressive angry young man Amitabh Bachchan.
With time, music directors started recognizing the potential of Kishore Kumar and he became one of the leading singers in the Indian film industry. The period of 1960s was a lean patch in the career graph of Kishore. Most of his films bombed at the box office. Soon, S.D. Burman's son, Rahul Dev Burman made his debut in Bollywood and went on to become one of the most popular music directors of his time. Kishore Kumar worked with him in films like 'Padosan'. Kishore won his first Filmfare award for the song, "Roop Tera Mastana". From then onwards, started the prime years of the career of Kishore Kumar.
The hit duo of Laxmikant-Pyarelal also composed many tunes for Kishore Kumar. Then, there was the 'jodi' of Kalyanji-Anandji, with whom Kishore did films like Dharmatma, Laawaris, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Don, etc. Kishore Kumar sang for the young heroes like Rishi Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt also. No one can forget the hit number 'Kya Yahi Pyar Hai' from Sanjay's first movie 'Rocky'. He also worked with composers like Rajesh Roshan, Sapan Chakravarty, Bappi Lahiri, etc. Kishore Kumar sang for almost all types of actors, right from Amitabh Bachchan to Anil Kapoor to Govinda.
The turning point came with Shakti Samanta's Aradhana (1969).Though Burmanda used Kishore for what he called his second service, his songs for Rajesh Khanna - Mere Sapnon ki Rani and Kora Kagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera proved super duper hits ahead of the Mohd. Rafi songs Baaghon Mein Bahar Hai and Gun Gunarahein Hain Bhawrein for the same film. It was a second coming and there was no turning back now.
He got recognition as a comedian with his hilarious films Half Ticket, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Funtoosh and Padosan. He made Door Gagan Ke Chaon Mein in 1964, which won him an international award. His film Door Ka Rahi in 1971 was also widely appreciated. The movies directed by him stressed on serious themes and a sentimental kind of music, which he had aspired for, especially after being portrayed a comical hero all through the series of movies he had done.
Kishore formed a solid hit pairing with Rajesh Khanna post Aradhana and in the early 70s the duo churned out hit after hit - Kati Patang (1970), Safar (1970), Amar Prem (1971), Andaaz (1971), Namak Haram (1973) and Aap ki Kasam (1974) to name some. Even the Rajesh Khanna films that flopped in the period had some extremely popular songs like Chala Jaata Hoon (Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972)), Ek Ajnabee Haseena se (Ajnabee (1974)) and Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon (Mehbooba (1976)). In the 1970s, Kishore overtook all competition and was the undisputed number one male playback singer of Hindi films, his voice pulsing with verve and exuberance. He was now the undisputed voice for all the top heroes of the day - Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Shashi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor.
Lata Mangeshkar called him the Sampoorna Kalakar (complete artist). For her he was Danny Kaye of India. For millions of listeners worldwide Kishore Kumar`s voice is sheer magic and his presence on screen, a laugh riot. The most versatile personality of all times, Kishore Kumar was one of the few artistes who could act, sing, direct, edit, compose and write scripts. There are many facets of the genius, which added up to what Kishore Kumar as a person was- eccentric, crazy but one of the biggest entertainers.
When struggling to become a singer he was often told by people, `Aapki awaaz mein woh baat nahin hai` (your voice has something amiss) and even his elder brother, the legendary actor, Ashok Kumar wanted him to be an actor instead of a singer as he thought that actors are better paid. But all that Kishore Kumar wanted to do in life was to sing.
His greatest contribution to filmdom was his style of yodeling in songs like Mein hoon jhumroo and Haal kaisa hai janaab ka. But the true versatile singer that he was, he also sang all-time sentimental hits like Jeevan se bhari teri aankhen, Kuch to log kehenge, Mera jeevan kora kagaz, Zindagi ka safar and Ye jeevan hai. His romantic numbers still remain unparalleled with songs like Mere naina saawan bhaadon, Yeh shaam mastani, Kehna hai kehna hai, and Mere mehbbob qayamat hogi. When it came to singing fun songs, he sang Aake teekhi lagi, Khaike paan banaraswala, Ina meena deeka, Ik chatur naar and Zarurat hai.
Kishore remained at the top till the very end succumbing to a major heart attack on 13th October 1987. He was still full of life. He was just 58. His sudden death created a void that hasn`t been filled ever since.