In 1950 S. D Burman visited actor Ashok Kumar’s house during the shooting of Mashaal, where he heard Ashok’s youngest brother imitating his inspiration K.L Saigal. Impressed, Burman suggested he develop his own unique singing style. The youth was Abhas Kumar Ganguly, who would go on to become the legendary playback singer, Kishore Kumar. Born to Bengali parents, Kumar was always inclined towards singing and keen on pursuing a career as a singer. However this multi-talented personality could do almost everything and has tried his hand at all aspects and areas of the entertainment industry. Here is a brief look at the life of the legendary Kishore Kumar.
Kishore Da was the undisputed leader playback singing throughout his career and till date remains the singer with most Filmfare Awards, 8, in the Best Playback Singer category. With hits such as ‘Khaike Paan Banaras Waala’, ‘Roop Tera Mastana’, ‘Agar Tum Na Hote’ and Paag Ghungroo Bandh’ among many golden hits of Bollywood, Kishore Da faced his fair share of struggle as a young artist starting out in Bombay. He started as a chorus boy at Bombay Talkies and eventually landed his first song,‘Marne ki duayen kyon mangu’ for Music Director Khemchand Prakash in Ziddi (1948). He soon began getting ample singing assignments and his voice became one of the most significant and he, one of the most influential singing icons of all times.
Seldom does the music industry produce individuals as dynamic as Kishore Da. His incredible acting acumen was commendable. He began his acting career with the movie Shikari (1946) and his first lead role was in Andolan (1951). His acting in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Padosan (1968), Half Ticket (1962), Bhai-Bhai (1956) among many others are still seen as some of the finest performances of Indian cinema. With his slightly eccentric personality, Kishore Da was getting into trouble every now and then. Some famous incidents involve instances where Kumar drove from the sets to Khandala because the director forgot to say cut. He was also famous for not working without being paid and on occasion’s resorted to hilarious tactics such as yelling outside the director’s house till he paid his dues and coming to work with makeup on only half his face and saying “Aadha paisa, aadha make-up.”
Apart from Indian Cinema, Kishore Da was quite a colorful character when he wasn’t behind a camera and mic. He married four times, and has two sons. Each of his unions came with baggage of their own. He first married Ruma Guha Thakurta and they remained married for nine years, from 1950 to 1958. This union resulted in the birth of his son Amit Ganguly (Also better known as the singer Amit Kumar). His next married the fatally ill Madhubala in 1960 and they remained married till her death in 1969. Their marriage garnered a lot of media attention and speculations were rife that the unhappy marriage was a vengeful retort on Madhubala’s part after her separation from Dilip Kumar. Kishore Kumar’s marriage to Yogeeta Bali was the shortest of his four marriages and lasted but 3 years, from 1975 to 1978. His last and most controversial union was his 7 year long marriage to Leena Chandavarkar from 1980 to his death in 1987. She was a widow and Kishore Kumar thrice married. The family opposed the union but after Kumar literally held a dharna outside the Manchali actress’s home in Dharwad, singing on the top of his voice, Nafrat karne walon ke seene mein pyar bhar doon from Jhonny Mera Naam is said to have won the father over and the two were married. They had one son, Sumit Kumar but it wasn’t long before the world lost the legend to a heart attack, one day before his brother Ashok’s 76th birthday.
We remember him on his birthday this year and recall the irreplaceable charisma Kishore Da bought to the screen with his funnyman antics, and distinguishable singing skill. A legend lost to death, he lives on in the hearts of millions of music lovers and even in his absence makes our cinematic legacy immensely rich.