Jeevan ke safar mein rahi milte hain bichar jaane ko aur rah jati hain yadein is dil ko tadpane ko… but some memories lives with us forever. This actor-singer, who was gifted with multiple talents, started a whole new era in Indian cinema. Kishore Kumar, whose original name was Abhas Kumar Ganguly, started his singing career when he was 18, though he did not know even the rudiments of music. He left his birthplace, Khandwa, in Madhya Pradesh and moved to Mumbai where his older brother, Ashok Kumar, was already an established actor. Despite this, opportunities did not come easily to Kishore. Initially he imitated the style of K L Saigal, whom he idolized. He sang his first song in 1948, Marne ki duayen kyon maangu for Dev Anand in the film Ziddi. But in spite of Ziddi’s success, Kishore found few offers forthcoming and did the odd singing assignment with bit roles making a rather tepid acting debut as hero in the forgettable Andolan (1951). Kishore then approached S.D. Burman who had given him an opportunity in Pyar (1950) where interestingly he had sung for Raj Kapoor. S.D Burman gave him the song Qusoor Aapka in Bahar (1951) which became an instant hit.
Kishore was initially taken quite lightly as a singer and was given lighter songs by Burman ‘da’ and other music directors. But with the soulful Dukhi Man Mere from Funtoosh (1956), Kishore was now in the limelight as a seriously singer. His uninhibited antics and spontaneity made him one of the greatest comedians of Indian cinema. As he got more singing assignments, he began to get offers for lead in films. He played the hero in the Vyjyanthimala starrer ‘Ladki’. The film was a hit. He sang, yodeled and danced into the hearts of millions in ‘New Delhi’ and ‘Asha’. Kishore reached his peak as an actor with the zany comedy Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)., which starred all the three Ganguly brothers and Madhubala. Kishore and Madhubala matched each other step. The pair starred in Jhumroo (1961), which Kishore produced and directed. He also composed the music for the film. Door gagan ki chaon main (1964) further confirmed Kishore’s acting talent as he scored heavily in a rather serious film.
Films like ‘Door gagan ki chhaon mein’, ‘Door ka rahi’, ‘Zameen Aasman’, ‘Shabash Daddy’ and ‘Chalti ka naam gaadi’ displayed his talent for direction and music direction. He also made a film with no songs at all – ‘Door waadiyon mein kahin’. But time doesn’t always remain same; the sixties were very tough for him, as he encountered personal and professional problems. He was reduced to doing B grade films. He had the odd singing assignment for Dev Anand in Guide (1965) and Jewel Thief (1967) but that was all. The turning point came with Aradhana (1969). Though Burman ‘da’ used Kishore as what he called his second service. His songs for Rajesh Khanna – Mere Sapnon ki Rani and Kora Kagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera proved super duper hits ahead of Mohd. Rafi’s songs for the same film. Kishore formed a solid hit pairing with Rajesh Khanna and in the early 70s the duo churned out hit after hit.
Then he became the voice for Amitabh as well and gave hits like Khaike paan banaras wala, Mere angane mein, Dede pyar de, and O saathi re tere bina…. He overtook all competition and was the undisputed number one male playback singer. He adored K L Saigal and wanted to sing like him. In fact, the year he died, he was supposed to sing Saigal’s songs for HMV. Even after his heart attack, he came back and sang for eight more years, retaining that quality of his voice. He was natural all the way — a natural actor, a natural singer, a natural comedian, and a natural music director. He was married four times, to leading actresses Ruma Devi, Madhubala, Yogita Bali and Leena Chandavarkar, in that order. With his increasing fame also grew rumours of his eccentricities, strange lifestyle and weird behaviour. He put up a board outside his house saying ‘THIS IS A LUNATIC ASYLUM.’ He reportedly spoke to trees in his backyard addressing each by a special name. Despite all his troubles he managed to remain at the top till the mid-eighties until he finally succumbed to a major heart attack in 1987.