Kishore Kumar - Iconic Singer and Comedian
Today, August 4, is Kishore Kumar's birth anniversary.
The versatile genius, Kishore Kumar nurtured dreams of becoming a singer following the footsteps of his idol, the legendary singer K. L. Saigal. He frequently visited his famous star brother Ashok Kumar in Mumbai from Khandwa, his birthplace, in the hope that he would introduce him to K. L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting – a hero who was as much a comedian. But Kishore Kumar’s real ambition was to become a playback singer, which became true when music director Khemchand Prakash called him to lend his voice for Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948). However, Kishore gave credit for his popularity to Burmans – father and son. It was S. D. Burman who made Kishore Kumar, the superstar singer of the 70s when he chose him to sing ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhna. Earlier Sachinda had made Kishore the voice of Dev Anand in hit films Baazi, Paying Guest, Munimji, Guide, Teen Devian, and Jewel Theif. Another composer who placed implacable faith in Kishore Kumar was Sachnda’s son, R. D. Burman. Kishore’s ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of the hero he sang for was what made him a star singer. He was as much the voice of dapper Dev Anand, the adorable Rajesh Khanna as well as the angry youngman Amitabh Bachchan. As he was still on top, singing superhit songs, Kishore’s sudden death on October 12, 1987 shocked the nation.
Kishore Kumar was a genius who died before his time. He was a comic par excellence and if you have not seen films like Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, Padosan, New Delhi then do yourself a favor and watch them. Of course he sang romantic melodies, sad songs and children’s songs and sung them all with unmatched talent, but he was by far the best in his uproariously funny songs. Kishore Kumar did not need to do an act. He was mad. He was crazy, he was wild. He would sing – in Hindi, in English, in Bengali, in Gibberish; he would dance, he would squat, he would jump, he would roll, he would sleep – all in the same song of 3 minutes. The man who started in 1948 in the KL Saigal mould under the baton of Khemchand Prakash with Marne ki duayen kyun maangun (Ziddi) and Jagmag karta nikla (Rimjhim) carried on for twenty years trailing behind Rafi, Mukesh etc, when suddenly post-Aradhana he zoomed off like a rocket redefining playback singing as the voice of Rajesh Khanna and later, Amitabh Bachchan and everyone else, leaving the great singers far behind. But singing was only one part of his multifarious talents. He was an actor, writer, producer, director and composer. It is the mad, crazy, wild and funny Kishore Kumar singing for himself on the screen that was absolutely adorable.
Bollywood has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing. Comedy is a tough thing to enact and to do a comic song is all the more demanding. Still, thanks to the comedy icons, there is no dearth of such songs. These are joyous, naughty, swinging songs with deliberately clever wordings which were immensely enjoyed by the audiences. The way these songs have been sung with sparkling comic timing by some of the ace comedians, is what makes them classics in their own right and rage of their time. Here is a pick, my most favorite, from the long list of popular comedy songs sung by Kishore Kumar:
Charandas ko peene ki jo aadat naa hoti – Pehli Jhalak (1954)
In this song, Kishore Kumar enacts Charandas as well as Charandas’ harassed wife. And needless to say, he sings the song too (lending voices to both the characters). The lyrics by Rajinder Krishan are very amusing and his description of the behavior of a drunkard is quite realistic and life like. C Ramchandra is the music director.
Mannu Tera Hua Ab Mera – Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1956)
This song sung by Kishore and Manna Daa has to be one of the most beautifully sung songs ever. It talks about the haves and have-nots as far as having a girlfriend is concerned. Kishore having besotted Madhubala with his boyish charms belongs to the haves while the eternal bachelor Anoop bemoans his lack of a girlfriend, and the ensuing duet makes for compulsive rib tickling viewing.
Kishore Kumar has to recover five rupees and twelve annas which Madhubala owes for getting her car repaired in his garage. But he also uses this opportunity to profess his love for which he can sing dadra. And now he chooses SD Burman’s classic Dheere se jana bagiyan mein to give it a comic twist. Kishore Kumar is not done yet. In the end he declares he can become a jogi for her love – and now he chooses KC Dey’s iconic Teri gathri mein laga chor.
Ek Chatur Naar - Padosan (1968)
In the film, Kishore Kumar has graduated into a love guru. But his task is now immensely more difficult. He has to help his protégé, the village idiot Bhola (Sunil Dutt) wean away the next window neighbour Bindu (Saira Bano), to whom he has got infatuated, from the influence of Mehmood. The only reason why she should have any tolerance for the clownish Mehmood is his music capability which has helped him get into her proximity as her music and dance teacher. Teaching music to the tone deaf Bhola was impossible, so the Guru KK sets up this duel with Mehmood, with Bhola lip-synching while KK and his team sing in playback mode. Padosan was a Mehmood film, but an understated, cerebral Kishore Kumar holds his own against over-the-top mannerisms and slapstick of Mehmood.
Cinematic comedy can be considered the oldest film genre and one of the most prolific and popular. Comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. These are light-hearted screenplays crafted to amuse, entertain and provide enjoyment. The common man, living most of the time in stress and strains of the day-to-day drudgery, has always looked to comedies for respite and relief. Bollywood has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing. Kishore Kumar is one of them. Here are my most favorite of his comedies:
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (Satyen Bose, 1958): This is a true classic. Simple story, wonderful music, great acting, brilliant cast and phenomenally hilarious. The story, like the 1928 Chevrolet in the film, ran amok. It gives you more laughs than you can handle. The lead duo, Kishore and Madhubala were a treat on the screen. The film's highlights are the songs, 'Ek ladki bhigi bhagi si', 'Panch rupaya barah ana' and 'Babu samjho ishare', besides, of course, Kishore Kumar's antics. The movie stands tall amongst the greatest comedies ever.
Pyar Kiye Ja (C. V. Sridhar, 1966): A mad mad comedy highlighting the eccentric Kishore Kumar and the comic genious of Mehmood, Pyar Kiye Ja spawned many remakes. Mehmood, Om Prakash's son, plays an aspiring film director in the movie. The classic scene when he narrates his to-be-made horror film story to his dad replete with sound effects of raindrops, door creeking and wind blowing, is one of the funniest scenes of Hindi cinema. Not surprising, Mehmood won the Filmfare (1967) Award for Best Comedian for his role in the film.
Padosan (Jyoti Swaroop, 1968): This is an unforgettable gem. Every scene, song and dialogue remains etched in mind. The two uncrowned kings of comedy, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood are at their best. Add to this an excellent performance by Sunil Dutt as Bhola, a simpleton to the core youngman, and you have a super entertainer. The trio enact their characters magnificently. A highlight of the movie is some hilarious numbers, particularly, 'Ik chatur naar karke singar' and 'Mere samnewali khidki mein'.
The comic songs, like the popular comedians, contributed to the success of many movies. These are joyous, naughty, swinging songs with deliberately clever wordings which were immensely enjoyed by the audiences. Kishore Kumar's lighter songs based on country rhythm, were received extremely well to boost the box-office returns of the films – ‘Mere angana mei tumhara kya kaam hei’ (Lawarris), ‘Khaeke paan banaras wala’ (Don), ‘Rang barse’ (Silsila), 'Pag ghungru baandh Mira nachi re' (Namak Halal) etc., all sung on screen by the versatile mega star Amitabh Bachchan
Besides, there are hundreds of beautiful haunting melodies that brought grace and good luck to the films and honor and awards for the great singer. We miss Kishore Kumar – the legend of his lifetime whose melodious voice continues to entertain us, from generation to generation.