Kishore Kumar (August 4, 1929 - October 13, 1987) was an Indian film playback singer (Hindi, Bangla, Marathi) and actor. He also worked as producer, composer and lyricist but is chiefly remembered as one of the three leading male playback singers in Bollywood (the other two being Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh). He sang extensively with the songbirds of Bollywood - Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.
Although he is known primarily for his singing talents, he was also successful in his acting adventures which gave birth to such hilarious comedies as Chalti ka Naam Gaadi and Halfar . 1973 Pyar Diwana . 1971 Hungama .
Kishore Kumar was born in a Bengali family as Abhas Ganguly, in a small town Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. Kishore's elder brother Ashok Kumar. When Kishore was still a child, his brother Ashok Kumar became a star actor in Bollywood. The effect of filmdom was evident on Kishore the kid. He was a great fan of K. L. Saigal and used to ape his singing style. Often his parents would ask him to ape his brother's Ashok Kumar's song Main ban ka panchhi' and reward him for doing that. Anoop Kumar, Kishore's elder and Ashok's younger brother also forayed in Bollywood, after Ashok became a star.
Kishore Kumar followed his elder brothers' footsteps and came to Mumbai to pursue a career in Bollywood. At this juncture, elder brother Anoop's career wasn't shaping up well, because he was a poor singer. (In those days, actors who could double up as singers were in great demand.) Once Anoop went to Austria, from where he brought some records to learn singing. Once, as he was entering the house, he heard a yodelling voice coming out of a room. Annoyed, he thundered Who touched my records?. But, when he entered the room, he found that it was Kishore's voice! Kishore had learnt yodelling from Anoop's Austrian records.
Kishore wanted to became a leading singer in Bollywood and disliked acting. But, in those days, it was difficult to become a singer, with established names like Talat Mehmood, Mukesh and Mohammed Rafi dominating the playback singing arena. Morover, Kishore didn't have any formal training in singing or music. Kishore got to act in few films, due to his brother Ashok's contacts in the industry. His initial films flopped. But he continued acting, as he would get to sing songs that were picturized on him. At this stage of his career, Kishore used to ape K. L. Saigal. Once Sachin Dev Burman came to Ashok Kumar's house. He heard K. L. Saigal's voice coming out of the bathroom. Impressed, S D Burman, asked Ashok, who the singer was. He waited till Kishore had finished bathing. He had a little talk with Kishore and appreciated his singing. At the same time, he advised Kishore "Don't try to ape K. L. Saigal. Apers never make great artists. You should develop your own singing style." After this, Kishore Kumar developed his own trademark singing style, which was completely different from styles of Rafi, Mukesh and Saigal. He used to yodel in many of his songs. Sachin Dev Burman became his mentor and guide. S D Burman, who had never heard yodelling before, used to call it gala tod ke gaana ('break-throat singing'). Yodelling became Kishore's trademark and media described his singing style as yodelling at the moon.
As an Actor
Kishore never wanted to act, but he was too afraid to rebel against his elder brother Ashok Kumar, who was hell-bent on making him a popular Bollywood hero. After his initial films flopped, Kishore decided that he would act so badly in the forthcoming movie that no producer would ever ask him to act in a movie. As a result of this decision, Kishore started acting in a strange, funny way. But instead of rejecting him, movie buffs were delighted to see a hero, who would make them laugh. This was a welcome change from the sober, romantic and tragic traditional heros of the Bollywood. Thus, Kishore became comedy-film producers' first choice. In late 1950s, he used to run from one studio to another, recording songs, acting, composing music and sometimes even writing lyrics! He even produced and directed some movies.
Apart from S D Burman, Khemchand Prakash was another composer who recognized Kishore's singing talent early. He composed Kishore's songs in the movie Ziddi. Ziddi's songs established Kishore as a singer. Incidentally, it was at Khemchand's studio, where Kishore met Lata Mangeshkar, with whom he sang many duets later. Lata was going to Khemchand's studio and Kishore was also bound for the same place. Lata thought that some loafer is following her! It was only after reaching the studio that she realized the 'loafer' is Kishore, Ashok Kumar's younger brother. Soon, many other composers like Ravi realized that Kishore had potential to be a good singer. Many lyricists, including Majrooh Sultanpuri and Shailendra became ardent admirers of Kishore.
S D Burman established Kishore as the voice of popular actor Dev Anand, when he got him to sing for Dev Anand in the movies Taxi Driver and Paying Guest. After S D Burman fell out with Lata Mangeshkar in 1957, he gave patronage to Asha Bhosle. Till this time, duets were not very popular in Bollywood. Once S D Burman told Majrooh Sultanpuri "We invest so much energy in recording duets, and nobody likes them. Majrooh replied The mistake is ours. We lyricists never write any good songs that couples would love to hum." S D Burman and Majrooh went on to work together on the most popular duets in the late 1950s. S D Burman, Majrooh, Asha and Kishore worked together in many movies including Kishore's home production Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), in which Kishore Kumar, Madhubala, Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar acted. The songs Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si, Haal kaisa hai janaab ka, Paanch rupaiya baara aana became very poplar. They were also heard in Dev Anand's Paying Guest (1957) and Teen Deviyan. The song Mana janab ne pukara nahin from Paying Guest was a superhit among the guys. Asha and Kishore became famous for singing 'casual' duets like Chhod do aanchal, zamaana kya kahega, Aye nigah-e-mastana, Aankhon mein kya ji, Arre yaar meri, tum bhi ho gajab, Chhedo na meri zulfein. Majrooh, Asha and Kishore also recorded popular duets with composer Ravi in the movie Dilli Ka Thug (1958) - C...A...T...Cat maane billi, Hum to mohabbat karega.
Majrooh Sultanpuri and Shailendra were favorite lyricists of Kishore. He got them to write songs in his home productions. In those days, musicians would recommend lyricists to producers. The musician duo Shankar-Jaikishan had promised Shailendra that they would recommend him to all the producers, but they didn't keep their promise. Shailendra send them a note - Chhoti si yeh duniya, pehchaane raaste hain; Kahin to miloge, phir poochhenge haal (The world is small, the roads are known; we shall meet somewhere, then I would ask you - How do you do). Shanker-Jaikishan realized their mistake. They made a song out of the above words and got Kishore to sing it!
Majrooh penned most of Kishore's hit songs in his initial days, most of them with S D Burman, for Dev Anand - Hum hain raahi pyaar ke, Maana janaab ne pukaara nahin etc.
Kishore was interested in composing music as well. It is said, along with Kalyanji Shah (of the Kalyanji-Anandji fame), he introduced electronic music in Bollywood. The electronic sounds in some of S D Burman's music are credited to Kishore (he assisted S D Burman sometimes). Sometimes, Kishore would composed music himself and write lyrics too. In 1961 movie, Jhumroo, Kishore wrote, composed and sung Main hoon jhumroo. This song is a very nice example of his yodelling ability. Kishore could sing in female voice too. In Half Ticket (1962), he sang Aake Seedhi Lagi in male as well as female voice. The song was written by Shailendra and composed by Salil Chaudhary.
After Madhubala's death in 1962, there was a lean patch in Kishore's career. Most of his films as an actor flopped. Very few of his songs from this phase are memorable - Zaroorat hai, Zaroorat hai (Manmauji - 1962; penned by Rajendra Krishna; composed by Madan Mohan). Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh were the favorites of most music composers, so Kishore never got to sing very good songs. Few of his songs picturized on Dev Anand and composed by S D Burman, got him recognition - Gaata rahe mera dil (Guide 1965, duet with Lata), Yeh dil na hota bechara (Jewel Thief 1967) etc.
In 1966, S D Burman's son Rahul Dev Burman burst into the music scene with superhit score of the movie Teesri Manzil. He had got Rafi to sing all the songs in the movie. But, later R D Burman (also known by his pet name Pancham) gave great patronage to Kishore Kumar. Their first hit movie together was the laught-riot 'Padosan' (The Neighbour). In this movie, Kishore Kumar played the role of Sunil Dutt's guru. Sunil Dutt's role was of boy who was in love with his next-door neighbour, a girl obessed with singing. To impress the girl, he gets his guru to do 'playback' for him. Kishore Kumar did the 'playback' in the movie, both on-screen and off-screen. Kishore and Pancham created the superhit song Mere saamnewali khidki mein. In one scene, there was a verbal fight between Mehmood (who acted as the girl's guru) and Sunil Dutt/Kishore Kumar. Kishore insisted that it would be boring if the dialogues were spoken in a plain manner. Mehmood fully agreed with him. So, Kishore, Mehmood, lyricist Rajendra Krishna and Pancham sat together and came up with the 'musical fight' - Ek chaturnar, karke singaar. The song, sung by Kishore and Manna De (who sang for Mehmood) became very popular.
In 1969, Shakti Samantha produced the movie Aradhana with newcomer Rajesh Khanna. Composer was Sachin Dev Burman and he had divided songs equally among his favorite singers - Kishore, Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. Kishore sang the romantic duet Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera with Lata. S D Burman fell ill, before he could record all the songs. He had already created the tunes for the songs Roop tera mastana and Mere sapnon ki rani. R D Burman took the responsibility of completing the recording. This way, tunes were created by S D Burman and the instrumentation was that of R D Burman. Pancham got Kishore Kumar to sing these two songs. These two songs became overnight hits and launched Kishore's playback singing career. Kishore Kumar got his first Filmfare award for the sensual song Roop tera mastana.
Burmans single-handedly made Kishore the numero uno playback singer in Bollywood. They got Kishore to sing for all the leading heroes - Rajesh Khanna, Randhir Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar among others. S D Burman and Kishore worked together in many of Dev Anand's movies. In 1970, Dev Anand's directoral debut, Prem Pujari, flopped. But the songs penned by Neeraj, Phoolon ke rang se (Lena hoga janam hamein) and Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye (duet with Lata) are still popular. Neeraj, S D Burman, Lata and Kishore came together again for the Shashi Kapoor starrer 1971 hit Sharmilee, for which they recorded Khilte hain gul yahan, Aaj madhosh hua jaaye re, O meri sharmilee. S D Burman also got Kishore to sing for the 1973 Dharmendra-starrer Jugnu, where Kishore sang Pyaar ke is khel mein.
In 1970s, R D Burman got Kishore to sing virtually every remarkable tune he created for the male voice. The single Tum bin jaaoon kahaan (Pyaar Ka Mausam - 1969; lyrics by Majrooh), which was also sung by Rafi, proved that Kishore can sing as well as Rafi, even though he wasn't a classically trained singer. Songs like Yeh shaam mastaani (Kati Patang - 1970; lyricist - Anand Bakshi) made Kishore extremely popular among the youngsters. In 1971, Pancham and Kishore many memorable tunes, ranging from the romantic Raat kali ek khwab mein (Buddha mil gaya; lyricist Majrooh) to the tragic Yeh kya hua, Chingari koi bhadke, Kuchh to loge kahenge (Amar Prem; lyricist Anand Bakshi; picturized on Rajesh Khanna). 1972 saw hits like Meri bheegi bheegi si (Anaamika, picturized on Sanjeev Kumar), O Mere dil ke chain (Mere Jeevan Saathi; lyricist Majrooh; picturized on Rajesh Khanna) and Kanchi Re, Phoolon ka taaron ka (Hare Krishna Hare Rama; picuturized on Dev Anand).
Even after so many hits, only Burmans gave patronage to Kishore Kumar. Other composers like Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan etc. used to give him second-rated songs. In 1972, Pancham got Kishore to sing for a newcomer in the movie Bombay To Goa. The 'newcomer' was none other than Amitabh Bachchan and thus Kishore became the voice of next superstar as well. The song Meet na mila re man ka (Abhimaan 1973) established Kishore as Amitabh's singing voice. Hits after hits followed, and Kishore, Amitabh and Pancham became a rage. Before buying an audio cassette, people would make sure that there is at least one Kishore Kumar song in the album. Producers would insist on using Kishore Kumar as hero's singing voice. This forced other music composers like Laxmikant-Pyarelal (LP) to sideline Rafi and adopt Kishore as their lead singer.
LP and Kishore have many hits to their credits in the 1970s, including Mere dil mein aaj kya hai (Daag 1973; lyricist: Sahir Ludhiyanvi), Mere naseeb mein aye dost, Naach meri bulbul (Roti), Chal chal mere haathi (Haathi Mere Saathi) etc. Most of these songs were picturized on Rajesh Khanna and penned by Anand Bakshi. The team also recorded many songs in Amitabh Bachchan starrers e.g. My name is Anthony Gonsalves (Amar Akbar Anthony). LP also got Kishore and Rafi to sing together in many films like Dostana, Kranti, Ram Balram etc. LP will be chiefly remembered for the duets that they recorded with Lata and Kishore - Achchha to ab hum chalte hain, Kal ki hansi mulaakat ke liye, Gore rang pe na itna gumaan kar, Ti kitne baras ka etc.
The duo of Kalyanji-Anandji also adopted Kishore as their lead singer in the 1970s. The team produced many hit songs in movies like Dharmatma (1975), Laawaris, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Kabeela, Johnny Mera Naam and Don among others. The Kishore-Asha duet Vaada to nibhaya from Johnny Mera Naam was a superhit. The songs O Saathi Re (Muqaddar ka Sikandar) and Khaike Paan Banaraswaala (Don) became extremely popular as well.
In 1975, S D Burman went into a coma, while Kishore was singing Badi sooni sooni si hai zindagi (Life is lonely) for the movie Mili. He died about a year later. R D Burman completed the score of the movie. R D Burman continuted with his patronage to Kishore. He got Kishore to sing for both Dharmendra and Amitabh in the 1975 bumper-hit Sholay. Manna De was called in, only when a sequence required both the heroes singing together (Yeh dosti hum kabhi na todenge). In 1970s Kishore sang in many of Dev Anand's not-so-successful movies under the baton of R D Burman - Warrant (1975), Heera Panna, Shareef Badmash etc. Although these films did average box office business, the music was always hit. The songs like Ruk Jaana O Jaana (Warrant) and Panna ki tamanna (Heera Panna, duet with Lata) and Neend chura ke raaton mein (Shareef Badmash) were chart-busters. Even while recording intricate songs of Aandhi (1976; lyrics by Gulzar), Pancham used Kishore's voice, instead of using somebody trained in classical music. They recorded many more beautiful songs, including the title song of Agar tum na hote and Humein tum se pyaar kitna. Their comatose songs like Mere naina saawan bhado, Chingari koi bhadke, O maajhi re made them popular among the mature audience as well. Of course, Kishore also sang Pancham's trademark 'peppy' pop numbers picturized on young heroes like Rishi Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt. Kishore and Lata sang trendy numbers in Sanjay's first movie Rocky - Kya yehi pyaar hai, Hum tumse mile (lyricist: Anand Bakshi). R D Burman and Kishore worked together in many movies including Aapki Kasam, The Burning Train, Apna Desh, Dharam Karam, Takkar, Seeta Aur Geeta, Joshila, Kasmein Vaade, Rampur ka Laxman, Kaaliya etc.
New musicians like Rajesh Roshan, Sapan Chakravarthy (Pancham's assistant), Bappi Lahiri and others also preferred Kishore to any other singer. Rajesh Roshan's first hit movie Julie had memorable numbers sung by Kishore and Lata - Bhool gaya sab kuchh, Dil kya kare jab kisi se etc. Rajesh Roshan worked with Kishore in many other movies like Do Aur Do Paanch (1980), Manpasand etc. Sapan Chakravarthy recorded the popular Tum bhi chalo, hum bhi chalien (Zameer) with Kishore and Asha. Bappi da, notorious for lifting western numbers, got Kishore to sing many of his popular songs like Chalte chalte, Aaj rapat jaayein (duet with Lata), Pag ghunghroo(Namak Halaal - 1982; picturized on Amitabh), jahan chaar yaar (Sharaabi - 1984).
Kishore's son Amit Kumar was already a popular singer in 1980s, thanks to patronage by R D Burman and Rajesh Roshan. But Kishore was still around, singing for established and young heroes alike. Kishore Kumar and Amitabh had some misunderstanding in 1980s. Kishore was producing a movie and Amitabh (who was a Bollywood deity by then) was supposed to do a guest-appearance in the movie. Amitabh arrived at the shoot, but left after few minutes, asking his secretary to tell Kishore that he won't act in the movie. Kishore got upset and decided never to sing for Amitabh. Incidentally, Amitabh's films started flopping after this and he faced the worst phase in his Bollywood career. He made a comeback many years later, through the popular television series, Kaun Banega Crorepati (Hindi version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire).
Kishore sang for Anil Kapoor in his first movie, Woh Saat Din. He also sang for him in his first superhit movie Mr. India. LP gave the music for both the movies. In 1987, he sang some really nice songs for R D Burman in the movie Saagar - Saagar jaisi aankhon waali (based on Raga Yaman) and Saagar kinaare dil yeh pukaare (duet with Lata). The songs were penned by Javed Akhtar.
In 1987, Kishore decided to retire from Bollywood and go back to his roots, his village Khandwa, where he breathed his last.