Today marks the 23rd death anniversary of Kishore Kumar. He was an Indian film singer and actor who also worked as lyricist, composer, producer, director, screenwriter and scriptwriter. Kishore Kumar sang in many Indian languages including Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam and Oriya. He died on October 13, 1987.
Kishore Kumar started his cinema career as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, where his brother worked. His first acting film 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. He decided to settle in Mumbai in 1949. Kishore Kumar played the hero 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 singer. He was not interested in acting, but his elder brother Ashok Kumar wanted him to be an actor like himself. Music director S.D. Burman is credited with spotting Kishore Kumar’s talent as a singer, and advancing his singing career.
During the making of Mashaal (1950), Burman visited Ashok Kumar’s house, where he heard Kishore imitating K.L. Saigal. He complimented Kishore, but also told him that he should develop a style of his own, instead of copying Saigal. Kishore Kumar did not have formal training in music.
S.D. Burman 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), Prem Pujari (1970), and Tere Mere Sapne (1971). He also composed music for Kishore Kumar’s home production Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958).
C. Ramchandra was another music director who recognized Kishore Kumar’s talent as a singer. Their collaborations include Eena Meena Deeka from Aasha (1957). Kishore Kumar’s work includes, 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.
As an actor in the 1960s, Kishore Kumar became notorious for arriving late for shootings, or not coming at all. His films flopped frequently, and he also landed income tax trouble. As a singer, his work in this period includes “Zaroorat Hai Zaroorat Hai” from Manmauji (1961), “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil” from Guide (1964) and “Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara” from Jewel Thief (1967).
In 1969, Shakti Samanta produced and directed the film Aradhana for which Kishore Kumar won his first Filmfare award for the song “Roop Tera Mastana.”
Kishore Kumar sang for all the leading actors in the 1970s & 1980s, including Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Dev Anand, Shashi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff.
R.D. Burman frequently used Kishore as his male singer, and recorded several hits with him in the 1970s. Apart from the Burmans, Kishore Kumar worked with other music directors as well. The composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal (L-P) also composed many hits sung by Kishore Kumar.
Other composers including Rajesh Roshan, Sapan Chakravarty, and Bappi Lahiri also worked with Kishore Kumar. Rajesh Roshan’s first hit film Julie featured hits sung by Kishore Kumar, Bhool Gaya Saab Kuchh (duet with Lata Mangeshkar) and Dil Kya Kare Jab Kisise.
During the Indian Emergency (1975–1977), Sanjay Gandhi asked Kishore Kumar to sing for a Congress rally in Mumbai, but Kishore Kumar refused. As a result, the government put an unofficial ban on playing Kishore Kumar songs on All India Radio and television.
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 (1980). But none of these films did well at the box office. His last appearance as an actor was in Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin.
Kishore Kumar’s song Pal Bhar Ke Liye from the film Johnny 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). Sony TV organized a television singing contest ‘K for Kishore’ to search for a singer like Kishore Kumar.
Kishore Kumar was born into a Bengali family. He married four times. His first wife was Ruma Guha Thakurta aka Ruma Ghosh. They were married from from 1950 to 1958. Kishore Kumar’s second wife was the actress Madhubala who had worked with him on many films including his home production Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958).
When Kishore Kumar proposed to her, Madhubala was sick and was planning to go to London for treatment. At this time, she didn’t know that she had a ventricular septal defect; her father wanted her to wait and consult doctors in London first.
Nevertheless, Madhubala married Kishore Kumar in 1960. Madhubala was Muslim; the two had a civil marriage. Kishore Kumar converted to Islam and adopted the name Karim Abdul.
His family was against the marriage so the couple also had a Hindu marriage to please them, but Madhubala was not accepted by them. Doctors in London told Madhubala that she would not live for long. Their marriage lasted nine years, ending with Madhubala’s death on February 23, 1969. Kishore Kumar’s third marriage was to Yogeeta Bali which lasted from 1976 to 1978. Kishore Kumar was married to Leena Chandavarkar from 1980 until his death.