An ENIGMA to many, Kishore Kumar, (aka Aabhas Kumar Ganguly) born on August 4, 1929, was the kind of genius that rarely surfaces on the earth. His sudden, premature death on October 13, 1987, devastated the entertainment industry. Curiously, all the three predominant male singers of Hindi cinema - Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, and Kishore Kumar — died when they were in their fifties. This untrained singer took playback singing to unusual heights. He sang his first solo song for Ziddi in 1948, and the last duet with Asha Bhosle for Waqt ki Aawaz in 1988: a singing career of 40 years during which he recorded 2,905 songs for films and 2,661 for private albums in Hindi and 221 in Bengali.
Kishore Kumar idolised K.L. Saigal and was fascinated by Australian singer Jimmy Rogers, who was known for his yodelling. (Kishore himself was one of the best yodellers in the business.) He was nominated for the Filmfare award 27 times, and won the coveted trophy eight times, lent his voice to the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, and, most memorably, for Dev Anand. In fact, his first movie song was for Dev Anand.
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 (all but four were Hindi), Kishore's favourites were Marlon Brando and Danny Kaye.
Of course, he had an illustrious actor, the highly successful Ashok Kumar who was 19 years older, for a brother when he came to Bombay without appearing for the Intermediate examination. To begin with, he did whatever came his way before applying the greasepaint for Sati Vijay in 1949. His last appearance as an actor was in a home production, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin in 1982.
He wrote and produced 14 films (of which six were never completed) and is credited with the screenplays of five (two incomplete, and Mamta Ki Chhaon Mein, which went through the censors two years after his death but remains unreleased till date), and directed 12 films of which four were abandoned at various stages of completion.
The immortal Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, made under the banner of Ganguly Bros, was credited with the direction of Satyen Bose though the film bore the inimitable Kishore stamp.
Interestingly, he composed the music for all his home productions, and one outside film, Zameen Aasman. He wrote 24 songs for his own productions. Despite his notoriety for no-money-no-work, he is known to have recorded for free even when producers were willing to pay. Rajesh Khanna and Danny Denzongpa are two notable examples.
Behind the mask of a mimic and a comedian, there was a serious persona, part of which was reflected through the kind of films he made. 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, actor Leena Chandavarkar, when destiny cut short the bliss, and that too soon after the birth of his second son. His other marriages had been to actresses Ruma Devi (mother to Amit Kumar), Madhubala, and Yogeeta Bali.
All this and much more is contained in an invaluable compilation by Vishwas Nerurkar and others (Kishore Kumar: The Many Faces of a Genius: Gayatri Publications, Pp. 590. Rs. 1,200).
The volume also contains some rare photographs, comments, and observations by Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Asha Bhosle, R.D. Burman, Gulzar, Sandeep Ray, and Khayyam and others. It has a complete list of solo and chorus songs, duets, songs in various languages, private albums as a singer, as a composer... . You name it, and it's all there.
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