The titan and Indian cinema’s biggest all-rounder (actor, singer, composer, producer, director, writer and also dabbler in film editing and lyrics) Abhas Kumar Ganguly, known to the world simply as Kishore Kumar, left us 30 years ago on October 13. Here are 10 rare aspects we remember of this immortal genius.
1. Saigal for a Rupee
When Abhas arrived in Mumbai, his famous elder brother Ashok Kumar was already a famous star. He would have parties in his house with singing sessions. Aware that his younger brother was a natural singer, he would cajole him to sing at these mehfils. And young Abhas had a ‘rate’ card: 25 paise for an (original) Ashok Kumar song, 50 paise for anyone else’s and an entire rupee for a K.L. Saigal number!
2. Never better than his guru
In the 1960s or 1970s, he turned down an offer to sing an album of cover versions of his self-professed guru Kundan Lal Saigal from HMV, because he could not dream of hearing anyone opining that he had sung any song better than his idol!
3. An exclusive singer for Dev Anand
Kishore struck an immediate rapport and friendship with Dev Anand when he made his singing debut voicing for the actor in Ziddi (1948). For almost 20 years after that, he never sang for anyone other than himself and Dev! In 1966, he had told Kalyanji-Anandji, “I am an actor, not a playback singer” when K-A had wanted him for the famous ‘Kasme Vaade Pyar Wafaa’ in Upkar.
4. When Dev Anand and Kishore Kumar came together on screen
Kishore Kumar actually acted with Dev Anand in the 1952 Phani Majumdar film Tamasha. Interestingly, the song in which he ribs Dev for being lazy (‘Khali Peeli Baith Ke Akkha Din’) was sung by him but composed by Manna Dey! Kishore’s last song for Dev was in the latter’s production Sacche Ka Bol Bala (1989).
5. When the poet in Kishore was praised
Kishore even wrote the title song of his 1961 production Jhumroo (the evergreen ‘Main Hoon Jhum Jhum Jhum Jhum Jhumroo’) himself out of some practical exigencies. He apologized to Majrooh Sultanpuri, who was writing all the other songs and asked for his appraisal. But Majrooh found nothing lacking in the lyrics and praised Kishore for it.
6. A Sadhu records
In 1968, Kalyanji-Anandji called him again for their first solo with him; ‘Dharti Ki Tarah Har Dukh Seh Le’ for the Jeetendra hit Suhaag Raat. This time, he told them that he would now sing as he was a playback singer! But after knowing the song’s situation, he insisted on wearing a mendicant’s apparel during the recording. A roadside ‘sadhu’ was located by the unit, and the waiting Kishore wore his shabby robes and slippers and recorded the song!
7. Kishore acts but does not sing!
In Mehmood’s home production Sadhu Aur Shaitan, Kishore Kumar acted in a major role with leading man Mehmood, with Om Prakash and Pran in the title roles. Interestingly, he had no song in the film, and did not even sing playback for anyone, making this his only lead role minus any song from him.
8. Those rare associations
In a career that lasted from 1948 to 1987 (with his last song released in 1990 in K-A’s C.I.D.), Kishore sang only once for Naushad (‘Hello Hello Kya Haal Hai’ in the 1974 Sunehra Sansar) and in one film each only for Dilip Kumar (Sagina), Raj Kapoor (Pyar) and Rajendra Kumar (Aap Aaye Bahaar Ayee).
9. Lost and Found!
The only major artistes during his ‘singing phase’ for whom Kishore never sang playback were Manoj Kumar and Raaj Kumar. But this lacuna was filled in a rare way: in the 1971 Kalyanji-Anandji hit ‘Guni Jano Bhakt Jano’ (known more by its hook ‘Jai Govindam Jai Gopalam’), Kishore, in a cameo as a fake but comic sadhu sings Qamar Jalalabadi’s funky lyrics that include ‘Purab Pacchim Manoj Kumar-Am’ and ‘Neel-Am Kamal-Am Raaj Kumar-Am’!
10. Singing along with heroines!
Kishore Kumar sang with several heroines-the list includes singer-star Sulakshana Pandit (Uljhan, Apnapan) even before she turned actress in his own hit composition ‘Bekaraar Dil’ in Door Ka Rahi (1970). Others included Hema Malini (Haath Ki Safai, Dream Girl), Raakhee (Taaqat) and Leena Chandavarkar before she became his wife (Manchali), and also after (Lover Boy) when she sang playback for Meenakshi Seshadri in Lover Boy. He was the sole male singer in ‘Saat Saheliyan’ from Vidhaata, where leading lady Padmini Kolhapure (in seven costumes in this stage number) had seven singers for herself-including her own voice and that of sister Shivangi, now better known as Shraddha Kapoor‘s mother!
11. No music for a Kishore film!
He decided to make the third part of his trilogy (after Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein and Door Ka Rahi), Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin, without any songs as it was a Kishore Kumar film and people would expect good songs! He approached Laxmikant-Pyarelal for the background score. But a few days later, he decided that, for the same reason that it was his production, it would not even have background music!!
12. Singing to conquer
When Kishore and Leena Chandvarkar decided to marry, he told her, “None of my marriages have been with the blessings of my elders!” and he wanted this to be the exception! They drove to her house and Leena’s parents refused to come out and meet him. Kishore asked for a mat and a harmonium from Leena’s brother, who was his fan, sat in their drawing room, and started singing, beginning with Saigal songs and including ‘Le Jayenge Le Jayenge Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ from Chor Machaye Shor.
Leena’s mother came out but not her father, and Kishore said, ‘Ab main apne brahmastra ka upyog karoonga (I will use my ultimate weapon)!’ and began to sing ‘Nafrat Karnewalon Ke Seene Mein Pyar Bhar Doon’. Leena’s father came out, and said that he was blessing their marriage because Kishore, apart from having patience, humour and decency, had respect for elders. He then made Kishore sing some more songs, and they became great friends that day itself!