Kishore Kumar The Reluctant Genius
An enigma to many, Kishore Kumar, named Aabhas Kumar Ganguly when born on August 4, 1929, was the kind of genius that rarely surfaces on earth. His sudden, premature death on October 13, 1987, shook the entertainment like a tornado. Curiously, all the three dominent male singers of Hindi cinema, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar quit the world when in their fifties. Kishore outlasting them all, even in this department. An untrained singer, he took playback and stage singing to an unusual height. He rendered his first solo song for Ziddi in 1948, and the last a duet with Asha Bhosle for Waqt ki Aawaz in 1988. A singing career-span of forty years during which he recorded 2,905 songs for films and private albums consisting of 2,661 in Hindi and 221 in Bengali.
A singer who idolised KL Sehgal, and found inspiration in yodeling from Australian singer Jimmy Rogers and Swiss crooner Tex Norton but in the process carving out a totally individual style in that area as well. He was nominated for the Filmfare Awards, 27 times, and won the coveted trophy 8 times, thrice was lending voice to Amitabh Bachchan and twice to Rajesh Khanna. He never won an award as the voice of Dev Anand for whose playback he had got his first break, and was known as the voice of until the 1970s. There are reportedly 500 websites dedicated to him, most importantly yoodleeyoo.com
A reluctant actor who went on to act in an unbelievable 102 films. And in the process giving a new dimension to comedy, though, paradoxically, his favourite actors were Marlon Brando and Danny Kaye. 98 of these were in Hindi and 4 in Bengali. Chasing the footprints of the highly successful Ashok Kumar, 19 years his senior, he came to Bombay without appearing for the Intermediate examination though he neither wanted to emulate his brother, nor to seek his help in any manner. And to begin with he did whatever came his way, before applying the greasepaint for Sati Vijay in 1949, shortly before his twentieth birthday. His last appearance as an actor was in a home production, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin in 1982.
Always a disaster where money is concerned, though labeled a sucker and a miser, Kishore Kumar wrote and produced 14 (of which 6 were never completed), is credited with the screenplays of 5 (two incomplete, and Mamta ki Chhaon Mein censored two years after his death but unreleased till date) and directed 12 films of which four were abandoned at various stages of completion. All box-office disasters, though some received wide appreciation for both content and treatment, and musical scores. The immortal Chalti ka Naam Gadi was made under the banner of Ganguly Bros and Satyen Bose was credited with direction though the film bore the inmitable Kishore Kumar stamp all over.
Interestingly, Kishore Kumar composed the music of all his home productions, and one outside film, Zameen Aasman, though he did not understand the intricacies of playing various instruments, and their coordination for which he depended on others. He also wrote 24 songs for his own productions, with the exception of a solo co-authored by Anand Datta for a Shankar-Jaikishen flick, Love in Bombay in 1975. Also dubbed troublesome and eccentric and notorious for absences and disappearances from shootings and recordings ostensibly for non-payment of dues which is not wholly incorrect, he actually did, to quote Dev Anand, “when he was not ready to sing a song…and a difficult song made him nervous.”
Money-mindedness notwithstanding, he reportedly not only quietly performed in numerous concerts, recordings and did stage shows to raise funds for meaningful causes but also himself donated profusely. And despite his notoriety for no money no work he is known to have recorded for fee even when the producers could and were willing to pay. Rajesh Khanna and Danny Denzongpa are two notable examples. It is also said that behind the mask of a mimic, and a comedian Kishore Kumar hide a very serious persona, some of which got reflected through the kind of films he made, and the characters he portrayed in them. He was a romantic whose personal life, for most part, remained tragic and unhappy. And he had begun to find some happiness in his fourth marriage, with actress Leena Chandavarkar when destiny cut short the bliss, and that too soon after the birth of a second son. His other marriages had been to actresses Ruma Devi (mother to Amit Kumar), Madhubala and Yogeeta Bali.
Kishore Kumar continued to be an enigma. He died young. Born on August 4, 1929, in Khandwa where his funeral also took place a few days after his death from a massive cardiac arrest on October 13, 1987. He had just celebrated his 58th birthday. There have been some books, notably Vishwas Nerurkars’ Kishore Kumar: The Many Faces of a Genius and Derek Bose’s Method in Madness, which relies heavily on the other one. They contain some rare photographs, comments and observations about Kishore Kumar by Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Asha Bhosle, RD Burman, Gulzar, Sandeep Ray, Khayyam, Ashok Kumar, son Amit Kumar, first wife Ruma Guhathakurta, and last Leena Ganguly many of which originally appeared as obituaries or parts thereof. And unaccountable facts and figures: a complete list of solo and chorus songs, male duets, female duets, mix songs, renderings in various languages, private albums as a singer, as a composer, film index, song index, the poet, the actor, the producer, the director. You name it, and it is there.
He would have been 81. There are rumours that an enterprising director is planning a biopic on the wayward genius, and Aamir Khan has agreed to star in the film.
By Suresh Kohli