Kishore Kumar’s melodious romantic song “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil” from 1965 super hit film GUIDE (starring Dev Anand) beautifully brings home this legendary singer and his passion for music. You may find his songs soothing and relieving but the tale of his real life is nothing less than a Bollywood’s typical Filmi Drama.
The real life of Kishore Kumar incorporates all ups and downs, marriages and divorces, glamour and adversities, star power and controversies. This is the reason why director Anurag Basu is set to make a biopic on phenomenal star Kishore Kumar with today’s sensation Ranbir Kapoor in lead.
Table of Contents
A Born Singer, Destined To Become An Actor
Born on 4th August 1929 in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Kishore Kumar’s ambition was to become a famous Bollywood singer. He was used to imitating songs of his idol K. L. Saigal (singer and actor) and always dreamt of becoming a superstar like him. After completing his education, Kishore Kumar came to Bombay in 1946 and began pestering his brother Ashok Kumar, an established actor in Bollywood, for introducing him to K. L. Saigal. However destiny had something else in store for him. He neither got the opportunity to meet K. L. Saigal (who died on 18 January 1947) nor did he get a chance to sing. Left with no option in hand, he accepted a small role in his brother Ashok Kumar’s film SHIKARI.
That’s how he entered the world of cinema and later seen as a hero in film ANDOLAN in 1953. But he got his career’s big break when he appeared in film LADKI opposite big stars like Vyjantimala and Bharat Bhushan. By the end of 1954, he established himself as an actor with films ADHIKAR, ILZAAM and NAUKRI. Films like DELHI KA THUG, NEW DELHI, HALF TICKET, SHARARAT, AASHA and BHAI BHAI celebrated silver jubilees. He also acted with all the leading actresses of that time namely Meena Kumari, Nimmi, Madhubala, Nutan, Vyjantimala, Anita Guha, Shashikala and others.
It was during this period that he went into home production with CHALTI KA NAAM GADI. The movie was a runaway hit and remains as a best comedy in the annals of Hindi Cinema. Kishore Kumar produced few more movies like DOOR GAGAN KI CHHAON MEIN and DOOR KA RAHI, but they failed miserably because of his mismanagement as a filmmaker. Kishore Kumar also continued appearing in films but he was not satisfied with his filmy career as his heart always laid in singing.
He was determined to establish himself as a singer and hence used to wander from music director to music director but nobody took him seriously because Kishore Kumar had no formal training in music. Destiny took a turn in 1950, when music director S. D. Burman came to meet his brother Ashok Kumar. During the meet, he was regaled by a voice that was very close to the melodious voice of K. L. Saigal. Surprised S. D. Burman asked Ashok Kumar to put off the radio. Ashok Kumar smiled and told that the song was not being aired on radio but being sung by his brother Kishore Kumar. S. D. Burman called Kishor and said, “You have a good voice but do not imitate K. L. Saigal. Develop your own style. If you promise, I will give you a chance”. An overjoyed Kishore nodded.
Soon S. D. Burman, experimented with his voice in the film MUNIMJI. The song was Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi. The song became super hit. Encouraged S. D. Burman employed Kishore Kumar in FUNTOOSH and PAYING GUEST. S. D. Burman also recommended Kishore Kumar as playback singer for Dev Anand’s home production NAU DO GYARAH. Kishore Kumar sang two songs Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke and Aankhon Mein Kya Jee. Both the songs were super hit. Soon Kishore Kumar became famous as “Voice of Dev Anand”.
Kishore Kumar won his first “Filmfare Award” in 1970 for singing the song Roop Tera Mastana in ARADHANA (1969) under S. D. Burman’s music direction. He won 8 Filmfare Awards and holds the record for winning most number of Filmfare Awards in “Best Male Playback Singer” category.
Immensely successful film ARADHANA (1969) turned singer Kishore Kumar and actor Rajesh Khanna into overnight sensation and the two became good friends in the industry.
Further with movies like KATI PATANG, AMAR PREM, DAAG, SAFAR, HAATHI MERE SAATHI, Kishor Kumar gave numerous beautiful songs and identified as the “Voice of Rajesh Khanna”. His popularity reached such zenith that actors who earlier avoided him, started hiring him as their playback singer. Kishore Kumar was gifted with a voice that could cover a fairly wide range. Though he sang for many actors and composers, the trio of singer Kishore Kumar, actor Rajesh Khanna and music composer R. D. Burman created cinematic charismata on screen through their movies.
Four Marriages And Short-Lived Relationships
Kishore Kumar got what he always dreamt of but his marriage life was not really successful. Kishore Kumar (22) married Bengali singer Ruma Ghosh (17) in May 1951 in Bombay and had a son (Amit Kumar) with her in 1952. Kishore Kumar divorced his first wife in 1958 and he (31) married co-actress Madhubala (27) in 1960. Madhubala was Muslim and Kishore’s Brahmin parents never accepted her as his wife. Their relationship remained under great strain and Madhubala moved back to her house in Bandra. Their marriage ended with Madhubala’s death in 1969. Later, Kishore Kumar (47) married to actress Yogeeta Bali (24) in 1976 but Yogeeta divorced Kishore in 1978 to marry Mithun Chakraborty. Later, Kishore Kumar (51) married Leena Chandavarkar (30) in 1980 and their married life ended with Kishore’s death in 1987 at the age of 58. He also had his second son (Sumit Kumar) with Leena Chandavarkar.
Controversies About Kishore Kumar’s Behavior
Journalists and writers sometimes wrote about Kishore Kumar’s unusual behavior to label him as mad and an eccentric person. He used to place a sign saying “Beware of Kishore” at the door of his house. He was also known for his paranoiac behavior for not being paid and having a “No Money, No Work” principle. In one case when he was paid half the amount for a film he was acting in, Kishore Kumar landed up on the set with one sided make-up on his face. On being asked by the director why he had done so, he replied “Half make-up for half payment”. Kishore Kumar was notorious for defying producers and directors. Once, a producer went to court to get a decree that Kishore Kumar must follow the director’s orders.
Towards his end Kishore Kumar had expressed his desire to quit films and settle down in his native Khandwa but instead he quit world. Late afternoon, October 13, 1987 Kishore Kumar suffered a massive heart attack and slumped down into his wife Leena’s arms. With the sad demise of entertainer par excellence, the Hindi Film Industry lost its limb. At 58, he was too young to die but the hundreds of songs which he has immortalized by his melodious voice ensure that he stays in his songs and more importantly in our hearts.
To conclude, let us remember Kishore Kumar’s last request —
“Chalte… Chalte… Mere Ye Geet Yaad Rakhna
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.”