Eighty five years ago on 4th August, 1929 a legend was born, a precious addition to the world of Indian cinema. Named as Abhas Kumar Ganguly and popularly known as Kishore Kumar, he was affectionately known as Kishore Da. A multi talented personality, he excelled as a playback signer, actor, composer, lyrics writer, director, producer, screenplay writer and scriptwriter. He did not let language limit him either; he sang in Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, Oriya and Urdu. He was the master of all he surveyed and left an indelible mark that has inspired thousands.
Khandaw, Central Provinces and Berar (now in Madhya Pradesh) was where the Bengali Ganguly family resided. Kishore Kumar was the youngest of the four children of Kunjalal Ganguly (a lawyer) and Gouri Devi. The eldest son, Ashok came to Bombay and became a famous Bollywood actor. A little while later his second brother, Anoop, too ventured into the film industry. the family visited the brothers in Bombay often and as Kishore started spending more time with them, his interest for films and music started developing. He was immensely inspired by singer-actor K. L. Saigal, whom Kishore considered as his guru and tried to emulate his singing style.
His career started as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies. In 1946 he made an appearance in his first film, ‘Shikari‘. His singing debut was “Marne ki duayen kyon mangu” for the film Ziddi. He was not keen on acting as a career, it was Ashok who wanted Kishore to be an actor like him. Singing was Kishore’s dream, but since he did not have any formal training jobs were hard to come by. He continued to act in movies like Bimal Roy’s Naukri and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir. He sang a song in Naukri, and though the Music Director was hesitant, his hesitance melted away once he heard Kishore singing. Aasha, Chalti Ka Naam Gaagi, Half Ticket and Padosan were some of the most remembered films of Kishore Kumar.
It was music director S. D. Burman who is credited with spotting Kishore’s talent. During a casual visit to Ashok’s house while the movie Mashaal was still in progress, Burman heard Kishore imitating K. L. Saigal. Burman was impressed and advised Kishore to develop a style of his own. Taking the advise, Kishore set out to find his own signature style. He was drawn to yodeling, which he heard on the records of Tex Morton and Jimmie Rodgers. His yodeling was a huge hit and soon became associated with Kishore Kumar.
Kishore recorded with Burman for movies like Munimi, Taxi Driver, House No. 44, Funtoosh, Guide, Jewel Thief and many more. Another director that recognized Kishore’s talent was C. Ranchandra. They collaborated for movies like Aasha and others. “Main Hoon Jhumroom” was his first attempt at lyric writing.
His acting career went downhill in the ’60s since he garnered notoriety for coming late or not coming at all and his films flopped. On the other hand, his singing career was steady. From Padosan to Aradhana, he gave his voice to many movies and won his first Filmfare award for “Roop Tera Mastana.”
Kishore Kumar’s personal life was in a constant state of flux and he married four times. He was paranoid about not being paid and there have many incidents regarding his unusal behaviour. He was eccentric and a loner who preferred the company of trees over people. He took his breath on 13th October, 1987 as a heart attack got the best of him.
It is his songs that have enticed people. A heady cocktail of roamnce, mischief, mystery and melancholy, he was a natural singer and his songs lilted with laugher in a manner that was truly incredible and so uniquely Kishore Kumar. His versatility and brilliance has seen his name echo through the years long after he passed on and even today he commands a loyal legion of fans that ensure this incredible performer is gone, but never forgotten.