About Kishore Kumar
Kishore Kumar (August 4, 1929 Ė October 13, 1987) was an Indian film
playback singer and comic actor. He also achieved notable successes as
a lyricist, composer, producer, director, screenwriter and scriptwriter.
Kumar has sung in many Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali (his
mother tongue), Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri,
Malayalam and Oriya. Along with Mukesh and Mohammed Rafi, he was one of
the three leading male Bollywood playback singers from the 1950s to the
Kishore Kumar was born as Aabhas Kumar Ganguli, in to a
Bengali family in the Khandwa town of Central Provinces and Berar,
British India (now in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh). His father
Kunjalal Ganguli was a pleader (advocate), and his mother Gouri Devi
came from a wealthy family. Abhas Kumar was the youngest of four
siblings, the other three being Ashok Kumar (the eldest), Sati Devi,
and Anoop Kumar.
While Abhas Ganguli was still a child, Ashok
Kumar became a popular Bollywood actor. Later, Anoop Kumar also
ventured into cinema with the help of Ashok Kumar. Spending time with
his brothers, Abhas Kumar too started to take a keen interest in the
movies and music. He became a fan of singer-actor Kundan Lal Saigal
(whom he considered his guru), and started mimicking him.
Ashok Kumar became a Bollywood star, the Ganguli family used to visit
Mumbai regularly. Abhas Kumar changed his name to Kishore Kumar and
started his cinema career as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, where
Ashok Kumar was a star. His first film as an actor was "Shikari"(1946),
in which Ashok Kumar played the lead role. Music director Khemchand
Prakash gave him a chance to sing the song "Marne ki duayen kyon mangu"
for the film "Ziddi" (1948). After this, Kishore Kumar got many other
assignments, but he was not very serious about a film career. In 1949,
he decided to settle in Mumbai.
Kishore Kumar played hero in in
the Bombay Talkies film "Andolan"(1951), directed by Phani Majumdar.
Although Kishore Kumar got some assignments as an actor with help of
his brother, he was more interested in becoming a successful singer. He
was not interested in acting, but was too afraid to rebel against Ashok
Kumar, who wanted him to be an actor like himself.
did not have a formal training in music.Initially, he used to copy K.
L. Saigal's style as a singer. The popular music director Sachin Dev
Burman, who was impressed by his singing skills, advised him not to
copy Saigal but develop his own style. Kishore kept this advice in mind
and eventually developed his own style of singing, prominently
featuring the yodeling that he had heard on some records bought by his
brother Anoop. In the Bollywood music circles, yodelling became
As an actor, Kishore Kumar worked with many
notable directors. He played an unemployed young man seeking a job, in
Bimal Roy's "Naukri" (1954) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee's directorial
debut "Musafir"(1957). Salil Chowdhury, the music director for "Naukri"
was initially dismissive of him as a singer, when he came to know that
Kishore Kumar didn't have any formal training in music. However, after
hearing his voice, he gave him the song "Chhota sa ghar hoga", which
was supposed to be sung by Hemant Kumar.
After some initial
flops as an actor, Kishore Kumar achieved success as a comic hero with
movies like "New Delhi" (1956), "Aasha"(1957), "Chalti Ka Naam
Gaadi"(1958), "Jhumroo" (1961), "Half Ticket" (1962), and
"Padosan"(1968). "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi", his home production, starred
the three Ganguli brothers, and Madhubala (whom Kishore married later).
The film is about romance between a city girl (Madhubala) and a car
mechanic (Kishore Kumar), with a subplot involving eccentric brothers.
director S. D. Burman is credited with spotting Kishore Kumar's talent
as a singer, and advancing his singing career. He recorded with Kishore
for Dev Anand's "Munimji" (1954), "Taxi Driver"(1954), "House No
44"(1955), "Funtoosh" (1956), "Nau Do Gyarah"(1957), "Paying
Guest"(1957), "Guide"(1965), "Jewel Thief"(1967), and "Prem
He also composed music for Kishore Kumar's home
production "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958). Some of their intial hits
included "Maana janaab ne pukara nahin" from "Paying Guest"," Hum hain
raahi pyar ke" from "Nau Do Gyarah" (1957), "Ai meri topi palat ke aa"
from "Funtoosh", and "Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si" and "Haal Kaisa Hai
Janaab Ka" from "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958).
When S. D.
Burman was not on good terms with Lata Mangeshkar during 1957-62, he
gave patronage to her younger sister, Asha Bhosle. The Asha
Bhosle-Kishore Kumar duets composed by S. D. Burman also became very
popular. Some of these include "Chhod Do Aanchal" from "Paying
Guest"(1957), "Ankhon Mein Kya Ji" from "Nau Do Gyarah" (1957), "Haal
Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka" and "Paanch Rupaiya Baara Aana" from "Chalti Ka
Naam Gaadi" (1958), "Chhedo Na Meri Zulfein" from "Ganga Ki Lahren"
(1964), and "Arre Yaar Meri Tum Bhi Ho Gajab" from "Teen Devian" (1965).
Ramchandra was another music director who recognized Kishore Kumar's
talent as a singer. Some of the C. Ramchandra-Kishore Kumar hits
include "Eena Meena Deeka" from "Aasha" (1957). Kishore Kumar also gave
a few hit songs with other music directors; for example, "Nakhrewaali"
from "New Delhi" (1956 by Shankar Jaikishan, and "C.A.T..Cat Maane
Billi" and "Hum To Mohabbat Karega" from "Dilli Ka Thug" (1958 by Ravi).
Kumar produced, directed, and acted in the film "Jhumroo" (1961). He
wrote the lyrics for the title song, "Main Hoon Jhumroo", and composed
music for all the songs in the film. Later, he produced and directed
the serious film "Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein" (1964). He also wrote the
script and composed music for the film. The film is based on the
relationship between a father (Kishore Kumar), and his deaf and mute
son (played by his real-life son, Amit Kumar). The movie achieved
critical success, which perhaps motivated him to make another two films
called "Door Ka Rahi" (1971) and "Door Waadiyon Mein Kahin" (1980).
the 1960s, as an actor, Kishore Kumar build up a notoriety for coming
late for the shootings, or bunking them altogether.As a singer, he had
some hit songs to his credit, including" Zaroorat Hai Zaroorat Hai"
from "Manmauji"(1961), "Gaata Rahe Mera Dil" from "Guide"(1964), and
"Yeh dil no hota bechara" from "Jewel Thief" (1967).
In the late
1960s, S. D. Burman's son, Rahul Dev Burman also started patronizing
Kishore Kumar. Their first notable success was the soundtrack of the
film "Padosan" (1969), in which Kishore Kumar sang popular songs "Mere
Saamne waali khidki mein" and "Kehna hai". Padosan was a comedy film
staring Kishore Kumar as a dramatist-musician, Mehmood as a Carnatic
music and dance teacher, and Sunil Dutt as a simpleton called Bhola.
Kishore Kumar's character in the film was inspired by the personality
of his uncle, Dhananjay Banerjee (a classical singer). The highlight of
the film was a musical, comical duel between Kishore Kumar-Sunil Dutt
and Mehmood, "Ek Chaturnar Karke Singaar".
In 1969, Shakti
Samanta produced and directed the film "Aradhana", for which the music
was composed by S. D. Burman. S. D. Burman fell ill after recording
some duet songs with Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosale, Lata Mangeshkar and
Kishore Kumar. Afterwards, his son and assistant R. D. Burman took over
the recording. R. D. Burman got Kishore Kumar to solo sing the songs
"Mere Sapno Ki Rani" and "Roop Tera Mastana", which became smash hits.
Kishore Kumar won his first Filmfare award for the song "Roop Tera
Kishore Kumar sang for all leading actors in 1970s,
including Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar,
Dev Anand, and Rishi Kapoor.
S. D. Burman and Kishore continued
to churn out several hit songs together, including Phoolon Ke Rang Se
and Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye from Prem Pujari (1969), Aaj Madhosh Hua
Jaaye Re, Khilte Hain Gul Yahan and O Meri Sharmilee from Sharmilee
(1971), Meet na mila from Abhimaan (1973), Pyaar Ke Is Khel Mein from
Jugnu, and Phoolon Ke Dere Hain from Zameer (1974). In 1975, Kishore
Kumar composed his last song for S. D. Burman. S. D. Burman went into a
coma for the second time, soonafter Kishore recorded the song Badi
Sooni Sooni Si Hai Zindagi for the film Mili.
R. D. Burman
considered Kishore Kumar his favorite singer, and recorded several hit
songs with him in the 1970s. In the superhit Bollywood film, "Sholay"
(1975), he asked Kishore Kumar to sing for both Amitabh Bachchan and
Dharmendra. Some of the popular Kishore Kumar-R. D. Burman songs
include "O Maajhee Re" from Khushboo, "Yeh Shaam Mastaani" and "Yeh jo
mohabbat hai" from "Kati Patang" (1970), "Kuchh to log kahenge" from
"Amar Prem" (1971), "Raat Kali Ek Khwab Mein Aayee" from "Buddha Mil
Gaya" (1971), "Musafir hoon yaaron" from "Parichay" (1972), "Diye jalte
hain" from "Namak Haraam" (1973), "Meree bheegee bheegee si" from
"Anamika" (1973), "Zindagee Ke Safar Mein" from "Aap Ki Kasam" (1974),
"Agar Tum Na Hote", "Humein Tum Se Pyaar Kitna", "Mere Naina Saawan
Bhado" and "Chingari Koi Bhadke".
R. D. Burman also recorded
several hit duets with Kishore Kumar, and Asha Bhosle and Lata
Mangeshkar. Some of these duets include "Panna Ki Tamana" from "Heera
Panna"(1973), "Neend Chura Ke Raaton Mein" from the film "Shareef
Badmash", "Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai" from Sanjay Dutt's debut film "Rocky"
Apart from the Burmans, Kishore Kumar worked with other
major music directors as well. The composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal
(L-P) also composed many hit songs sung by Kishore Kumar. Some of there
hit songs include "Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai" from "Daag", "Mere
diwanepan ki bhi" from "Mehboob Ki Mehndi", "Mere Naseeb Mein Aye Dost"
from "Do Raaste", "Naach Meri Bulbul" from "Roti", "Chal Chal Mere
Haathi" from "'Haathi Mere Saathi", "Gaari Bula Rahi Hai", "Ruk Jaana
Nahi" (Imtihaan), "Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi" (Mr X In Bombay), and "My
Name Is Anthony Gonsalves" from "Amar Akbar Anthony". L-P, whose
favorite singer was Lata Mangeshkar, also composed several hit
Kishore-Lata duets, including "Achchha To Hum Chalte Hain", "Kal Ki
Haseen Mulaqat Ke Liye", "Gore Rang Pe Na Itna" from "Roti", and "Tu
Kitne Baras Ki". L-P also got Kishore Kumar and Rafi to sing duets for
the films "Dostana" and "Ram Balram".
several hit songs with Kishore Kumar including "O Saathi Re" from"
Muqaddar Ka Sikander", ""Khaike Paan Banaraswala" from "Don", "Mera
Jeevan Kora Kagaz" from "Kora Kagaz", "Neele Neele Ambar Par" from
"Kalakar" and "Pal Bhar Ke Liye" from "Johny Mera Naam".
composers such as Rajesh Roshan, Sapan Chakravarty (who had earlier
worked as R. D. Burman's assistant), and Bappi Lahiri also worked with
Kishore Kumar. Rajesh Roshan's first hit film "Julie" featured hit
songs sung by Kishore Kumar, "Bhool Gaya Saab Kuch" (duet with Lata
Mangeshkar) and "Dil Kya Kare Jab Kisise". Their other hits include
"Chhookar mere man ko" from "Yaarana" and "Tune abhi dekha nahin" from
"Do Aur Do Paanch". Bappi Lahiri also recorded many popular songs with
Kishore Kumar, including 'Pag Ghunghroo" from "Namak Halal" (1982),
"Manzilen Apni Jagah Hai" from "Sharaabi" (1984) and "Chalte
During the Indian Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi asked
Kishore Kumar to sing for a Congress rally in Mumbai, but Kishore Kumar
refused. As a result, the Government put a ban on playing Kishore Kumar
songs on the All India Radio or television.But Kishore Kumar refused to
apologize. Finally, the ban was lifted after some prominent producers
and directors lobbied against it.
Kishore Kumar produced and
directed some movies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such as "Badhti
Ka Naam Daadhi" (1978), "Zindagi"(1981) and "Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin"
(1982). But none of these films did well at the box-office. His last
appearance as an actor was in "Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin".
patronage from R. D. Burman and Rajesh Roshan Kishore Kumar's son Amit
Kumar also became a leading Bollywood singer in the 1980s. Kishore
Kumar also continuted singing for several actors. He also did some
stage shows, apparently to earn money to pay his income tax arrears.
Kumar stopped singing for Amitabh Bachchan in the mid-1980s, after
Amitabh didn't do a guest appearance in a film produced by him. He also
stopped singing for the actor Mithun Chakraborty, after his wife
Yogeeta Bali divorced him and married Mithun.
Kishore Kumar sang for Anil Kapoor in his Kapoor's debut film, "Woh
Saat Din" and also recorded for his first superhit "Mr. India". He also
recorded some popular songs for the film "Saagar" with R. D. Burman. By
this time, he had decided to retire and was planning to go back to his
However, on October 13 1987, he died of a
heart attack in Mumbai. His body was taken to Khandwa for cremation. He
recorded his last song a day before he died. The song was "Guru O
Guru", a duet with Asha Bhosle, for the film "Waqt ki Aawaz"(1988)
composed by Bappi Lahiri.
Kishore Kumar's voice inspired many
upcoming Bollywood singers, including Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Vinod
Rathod and Babul Supriyo. After his death, many of his songs have been
remixed and re-sung by several artists.
Kishore Kumar's song
"Pal Bhar Ke Liye" from the film "Johny Mera Naam" (1970) was used in
an episode of "The Simpsons" titled "Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore". His
songs have also been featured in several films, including "Such a Long
Journey" (1998) and "Side Streets" (1998).
Kishore Kumar married
four times. His first wife was Ruma Guha Thakurta aka Ruma Ghosh. Their
marriage lasted from 1950 to 1958. Kishore Kumar's second wife was the
famous actress Madhubala, who had worked with him many films including
his home production "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958). They married in
1961, although Kishore Kumar knew that she had major health problems
and would die in a few years. Madhubala was a Muslim, and the two had a
civil marriage, for which Kishore Kumar reportedly converted to Islam
and changed his name to "Karim Abdul".
His family was against
the marriage, and the couple also had a Hindu marriage to please them,
but Madhubala was not accepted by them. Madhubala went to London for an
operation, but the doctors didn't operate on her, as her chances of
survival were remote. The marriage lasted for 9 years, and ended with
Madhubala's death on February 23, 1969.
Kishore Kumar's third
marriage was to Yogeeta Bali, and lasted from 1976 to August 4, 1978.
Kishore Kumar was married to Leena Chandavarkar from 1980 until his
death. He had two sons Amit Kumar (an accomplished playback singer)
from Ruma, and Sumit Kumar from Leena Chandavarkar.
Kumar is said to have been paranoid about not being paid. During
recordings, he would begin singing only after his secretary confirmed
that the producer had made the payment. Once, when he discovered that
his dues hadn't been fully paid, he landed up for shooting with make-up
on only one side of his face. When the director questioned him, he
replied "Aadha paisa to aadha make-up."
On the sets of "Bhai
Bhai", Kishore Kumar refused to act because the director M V Raman owed
him five thousand rupees. His brother Ashok Kumar persuaded him to do
the scene. But, when the shooting started, he walked across the floor
and, each time he walked a few places, he said, "Paanch Hazzar
Rupaiya," (five thousand rupees) and did a summersault. After he
reached the end of the floor, he went out of the studio, jumped into
his car, and ordered his driver Abdul to drive away.
occasion, when the producer R. C. Talwar did not pay his dues in spite
of repeated reminders, Kishore Kumar turned up at Talwar's residence
one morning and started shouting "Hey Talwar, de de mere aath hazaar"
("Hey Talwar, give me my eight thousand"). He did this every morning
for a few days, until Talwar paid him.
The film "Anand" (1971)
was originally supposed to star Kishore Kumar and Mehmood in the lead
roles. One of the producers of the film, N.C. Sippy, had earlier served
as Mehmood's production manager. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the director of
the film, was asked to meet Kishore Kumar to discuss the project.
However, when he went to Kishore Kumar's house, he was driven away by
the gatekeeper due to a misunderstanding. Kishore Kumar (himself a
Bengali) had done a stage show organized by another Bengali man, and he
was involved in a fight with this man over money matters. He had
instructed his gatekeeper to drive away this "Bengali", if he ever
visited the house. When Hrishikesh Mukherjee (another Bengali) went to
Kishore Kumar's house, the gatekeeper drove him away, mistaking him for
the "Bengali" that Kishore Kumar had asked him to drive away.
incident hurt Hrishikesh Mukherjee so much, that he decided not to work
with Kishore Kumar.Consequently, Mehmood had to leave the film as well,
and new actors (Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan) were signed up for
In spite of his "no money, no work" principle,
sometimes Kishore Kumar recorded for free even when the producers were
willing to pay. He recorded for free, for some films produced by Rajesh
Khanna and Danny Denzongpa.On one occasion, Kishore Kumar helped
actor-turned-producer Bipin Gupta, by giving him Rs. 20,000 for the
film "Dal Mein Kala" (1964). When the little-known actor Arun Kumar
Mukherjee died, Kishore Kumar regularly sent money to his family in
Bhagalpur.Mukherjee was one of the first persons to appreciate
Kishore's singing talent.
Many journalists and writers have
written about Kishore Kumar's seemingly eccentric behavior. Kishore
Kumar had put a "Beware of Kishore" sign at the door of his Warden Road
flat, where he stayed for some time while his bungalow was being done
up. Once, the producer-director H. S. Rawail, who owed him some money,
visited his flat to pay the dues. Kishore Kumar took the money, and
when Rawail offered to shake hands with him, he reportedly put Rawail's
hand in his mouth, bit it, and asked "Didn't you see the sign?". Rawail
laughed off the incident and left quickly.
Once, when a reporter
made a comment about how lonely he must be, Kishore Kumar took her to
his garden. He then named some of the trees in his garden, and
introduced them to the reporter as his closest friends.
to another reported incident, once Kishore Kumar was to record a song
for the producer-director G. P. Sippy. As Sippy approached his
bungalow, he saw Kishore going out in his car. Sippy pleaded him to
stop his car, but Kishore only increased the speed of his car. Sippy
chased him to Madh Island, where Kishore Kumar finally stopped his car
near the ruined Madh Fort. When Sippy questioned his strange behavior,
Kishore Kumar refused to recognize or talk to him and threatened to
call police. Sipppy had to return. Next morning, Kishore Kumar reported
for the recording. An angry Sippy questioned him about his behavior on
the previous day. However, Kishore Kumar insisted that Sippy must have
seen a dream, and claimed that he was in Khandwa on the previous day.
Kumar was also noted for defying producers and directors. Once, a
producer went to court to get a decree that Kishore Kumar must follow
the director's orders. As a consequence, Kishore Kumar obeyed the
director to the letter. He refused to alight from his car until the
director ordered him to do so. Once, after a car scene in Mumbai, he
drove on till Khandala because the director forgot to say "Cut".
the 1960s, Kalidas Batvabbal, patently disgusted with Kishore Kumar's
alleged lack of cooperation during the shooting of "Half Ticket", gave
him away to the income tax authorities, Kishore had to face a raid at
his house. Later, Kishore invited him home, tricked him by asking him
to enter a cupboard for a "chat" and locked him inside. He unlocked
Batvabbal after two hours and told him "Don't ever come to my house
Kishore Kumar was a big fan of Chaim Topol and met him in London on September 9, 1983.
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