Last year on this day the Google-Doodle (given above) acknowledged the 85th birth year of a legendary singer who has yodelled his way into the hearts of three generations of Indians now. Kishore Kumar’s 86th birth anniversary falls today and his songs remain relevant even in the current times. You just have to look at the many reality-singing contests on television, ‘antakshari-games’ in college festivals and family-picnics or even on FM radios. Chances are you’ll hear adults, teenagers and even children as young as nine or ten years crooning Kishore Kumar’s classic hits. Unlike many singers of today who enjoy their ten-songs-fame and fade into oblivion, Kishore Kumar’s voice and songs seem to have no expiry date.
Born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly to a wealthy Bengali family in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Kishore Kumar followed his famous star brother Ashok Kumar into Bollywood. A multi-faceted personality, he was also an actor, lyricist, producer, music composer, director, screen play writer besides being blessed with an amazing voice. His elder brother Ashok Kumar introduced him to the industry and producers of his time wanted him to act to cash in on his brother’s charisma. His comic timing was brilliant and he could make you laugh your gut out in films like Padosan, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, besides enthralling you with songs like ‘Kehnaa hai, Kehnaa hai..’ and ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si.’ Fortunately he made his dislike for acting widely known and inspite of being an untrained singer, decided to pursue that particular talent and gradually moved to full time singing.
What makes his appeal cut across generations is perhaps the range of emotions spread across the canvass of his songs. His voice, even without any training in classical music, could convey a gamut of feelings with effortless ease. You can find a Kishore Kumar song for anything and everything:
from pathos, loneliness and despair~“Koi hamdam na rahaa…”, “Ghungroo ki tarah bajtaa hi rahaa hoon mein…” to passionate romance~“Roop teraa mastaana…”, “Mere dil mein aaj kyaa hai…”;
from flirtatious fun~“Yeh shaam mastaani madhosh kiye jaye…”, “Mere saamne waali khidki mein ek chaand Ka tukdaa rehta hai…” to an abiding love~ “Tum bin jaaon kahaan ke duniya mein aa ke kuch nahin chahaa…”;
from songs of farewell like the evergreen “Chalte chalte mere yeh geet yaad rakhna…”, to songs of hope “Aaa chal ke tujhe mein le ke chaloon ek aise gagan ke taale…”;
and from attitude and swagger~“Bachnaa ae haseenon…”, to sheer lunacy and nonsensical lyrics~ “Dedo meraa paanch rupaiya baraah annaa…”, “My name is Anthony Gonsalves…”
But for me personally, you actually turn to his songs when you want to kick away your blues, add a spring to your step and a pep in your heart as you yodel along with him~ “Zindagi ek safaar hai suhaana…”, “Mein hoon jhum jhum jhum jhum jhumroo…”, “Yeh dil na hotaa bechaara…” and many many more such melodies. This was his domain, his forte. Stories abound of his eccentric behaviour and how he insisted on being paid first before he sang. Other popular trivia includes his putting up a ‘Beware of Kishore’ board at his Warden Road apartment and shaving off his moustache and hair till he was paid his full remuneration by a producer. My favourite one is about how once, a producer went to court to get a decree that Kumar must follow the director’s orders. As a consequence, he obeyed the director to the letter. He refused to alight from his car until the director ordered him to do so. After filming a car scene in Mumbai, Kumar drove until he reached Khandala because the director forgot to say “Cut”!! Perhaps this childlike attitude was what added that extra spark to his songs. You too want to thumb your nose at the weariness of the world and hum along with his boyish insouciance~“Hum hain raahi pyaar ke humse kuch na boliye jo bhi pyaar se milaa hum ussi ke ho liye…”