Can we fail to remember the voice that made us sway along the tune of ‘Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu’? Kishore Kumar, the evergreen legendary singer, actor, producer, director and script writer is still alive among the hearts of millions.
Kishore Kumar, originally known as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, was born on 4th of August 1929 in Khandwa of Madhya Pradesh to Kunjalal Ganguly and Gouri Devi. His father was an advocate by profession. He had three siblings, the eldest of whom was the ‘Dadamoni’ of bollywood, Ashok Kumar. The other siblings were Anoop Kumar (actor) and Sati Devi.
Kishore Kumar followed his brother’s footsteps who eventually helped him to get into the film industry. When he appeared in Bombay/Mumbai, his elder brother, Ashok Kumar was already an established actor at the Bombay Talkies. During his initial days in Mumbai, he started singing in chorus for music director Saraswati Devi for the films made at Bombay Talkies.
The 1940 film ‘Bandhan’ marked the first break of Kishore Kumar as a chorus singer where he sang, ‘Chal chal re nau jawaan’ along with the chorus troupe. The song was originally sung by Arun Kumar (Kishore Kumar’s cousin) and Leela Chitnis. Arun Kumar was one of those first artists to recognize his talent as a singer. He was also an admirer of K. L. Saigal and used to follow his singing style vividly at the very beginning of his career.
In 1948, Kishore Kumar got his first solo break as a singer by Khemchand Prakash in ‘Ziddi’ to sing ‘Marne ki duyaein kyun maangu’. While Ashok Kumar was more interested in his brother’s acting career, Kumar always showed keen interest in singing, although, he never had any formal training in singing.
Kishore Kumar acted in lead roles in several movies including Phani Majumdar’s ‘Andolan’ in 1951, Bimal Roy’s ‘Naukri’ in 1954, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Musafir’ in 1957.
During the recording of ‘Naukri’, music director Salil Chowdhury was skeptical about giving a chance to him as he didn’t have any formal education in music. However, after hearing his voice, he was given the solo track of ‘Chota sa ghar hoga’ scratching out the recording Hemant Kumar, who was originally supposed to playback for the song.
During the 1950s, Kishore Kumar came in touch with music director Sachin Dev Burman, who advised him to adopt his own singing style rather than following Saigal’s touch. Soon after, Burman recorded several tracks with him including Taxi Driver in 1954, Munimji in 1954, House No. 44 in 1955, Funtoosh in 1956, Nau do Gyarah in 1957, Paying Guest in 1957, Guide in 1965, Jewel Thief 1967, Prem Pujari in 1970 and Tere Mere Sapne in 1971.
Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar’s duet on Paying Guest’s ‘Chod do aanchal zamaana kya kahega’ still keeps ringing in our ears and is unforgettable. Kumar is known as the romantic king because of his tremendous success in romantic genre of music. Although, his comedy touch in songs like ‘Eena Meena Dikaa’ (Aasha) or ‘Ek chaturnar karke singaar’ (Padosan) was undeniably brilliant. One cannot help but smile every time they hear these songs.
In 1958, Kishore Kumar started his film production house with its first movie named as ‘Chalti ka naam gaadi’. All the three brothers, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Anoop Kumar starred in this movie along with actress Madhubala. The film turned out to be a super hit at the box office. The tracks ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si’ or ‘Haal kaisa hai janab ka’ are the old unforgettable classics from the film ‘Chalti ka naam gaadi’. Other films that had him on the actor’s seat include New Delhi, Half Ticket, Padosan etc.
In 1961, Kishore Kumar produced another film Jhumroo. He was the director, leading actor and also the music director of the movie. He was also the lyricist of the song ‘Main hun jhumroo’. In 1964, he wrote a script which was turned into a film named ‘Durr gagan ki chaao mein’. The film was produced and directed by Kishore Kumar. The music was also composed by him only. This movie was also the launching pad of his son Amit Kumar, who played the role of his deaf son in the movie.
Towards the end of 1960s, Kishore Kumar became famous on the sets for being notorious and coming late. This period wasn’t smooth for this legendary star and he landed into problems related to income tax. Even during this period, he gave out hit songs like ‘Gaata rahe mera dil’ from Guide and ‘Yeh dil na hota bechaara’ from Jewel Thief.
In 1969, Shakti Samanta’s ‘Aradhana’ bagged him the super hit tracks of, ‘Roop tera mastana’ and ‘Mere sapno ki rani’. Both these enduring tracks are evergreen and they still lure our mind and heart with remarkable feat. ‘Roop tera mastana’ earned Kishore Kumar, his first Filmfare Award.
Kishore Kumar sang for almost all the big bollywood stars during his tenure. However, reportedly he had a little strain with Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty when he stopped singing for the two actors. Later, Kumar again started singing for them resolving the old issues.
R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar, the combination was like ‘fuel and fire’ in the music industry. Their collaboration became a big success and every track by them started to hit the charts. ‘O majhi re’ (Khushboo), ‘Chingari koi bhadke’ (Amar Prem), ‘Kuch to log kahenge’ (Amar Prem), ‘Meri bheegi bheegi si’(Anamika), ‘Raat kali ek khwab mein aayi’(Buddha Mil Gaya), ‘Humein tumse pyar kitna’(Kudrat), ‘Jaaneja dhoondta phir raha’ (Jawani Diwani), ‘Sagar kinare’(Sagar) are the top chart busters even today!
He also worked with Laxmikant-Pyarelal and gave out memorable tunes with, ‘Yeh jeevan hai’ (Piya Ka Ghar), ‘Gaadi bulaa rahi hai’(Dost), ‘Mere dil mein aaj kya hai’ (Daag), ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ (Amar Akbar Anthony), ‘Ruk Jaana nahi’ (Imtihaan) along with many more songs.
After the success of ‘Chalti ka naam gaadi’, Kishore Kumar produced ‘Badhti ka naam daadhi’ in 1978. He also produced and directed ‘Door waadiyon mein kahiin’ in 1980 which was his last movie as an actor.
There are also many interesting facts about this evergreen artist. He had a backyard garden with an ample number of plants whom he considered to be his friends. He gave different names to each plant and even used to chat with them at his leisure hours. Kishore Kumar, a loner in general, found his peace and solace in and around the shed of nature.
Kishore Kumar and his contribution to the film industry is undeniable. He took his last breath on 13th October 1987. But he is still alive among us and his music will reside in our heart in future as well. His voice still lingers in our mind with his song, “Ik raasta hai zindagi jo tham gaye to kuch nahi
Ye qadam kisi muqaam pe jo tham gaye to kuch nahi
Ik raasta hai zindagi …”