Never Before Never Again
AN ARTICLE BY J.S.RAO Known for his eccentricity, he was called everything from a miser to a madcap to a moron. But, as a singer he was unparalleled. So was his ability to make people laugh. J S Rao remembers Kishore Kumar on the occasion of his 15th death anniversary. The man from Khandwa, as […]
AN ARTICLE BY J.S.RAO Known for his eccentricity, he was called everything from a miser to a madcap to a moron. But, as a singer he was unparalleled. So was his ability to make people laugh. J S Rao remembers Kishore Kumar on the occasion of his 15th death anniversary. The man from Khandwa, as he called himself, died exactly 15 years ago in October 1987. It is strange that an eccentric like Kishore Kumar Ganguly should have thought so much of his birthplace in Madhya Pradesh. He was the later-day Don Quixote de la Mancha who tilted at the windmills of false values so fostered by the Bombay film industry. But despite its perfidy and intrigue, the same film industry could never deny the undoubted genius of this versatile showman. Kishore Kumar has been called everything – from a miser to a madcap to a moron. Perhaps, it is out of such madness that his genius emerged. As a singer, he was unparalleled: his songs coming as naturally as laughter. No other comedian had the precise timing for slapstick that he had and like slapstick itself, he was no respecter of age or sex. The heroine’s gouty uncle could face as much the butt of his humour as his cruder contemporaries like I S Johar or Mehmood. In many ways, greatness was thrust upon him and he played the fool to the hilt. To understand Kishore Kumar, one would have to go back to his native Khandwa. In 1949, he came to what was then Bombay, hoping that his elder brother and film star Ashok Kumar would introduce him to his idol – singer K L Saigal. He too wanted to be a singer, but the film industry conned him into becoming an actor. Naturally, Kishore Kumar rebelled. He came to the sets with half his head shaved or half his moustache trimmed off. He muffed his lines. He said to Meena Kumari what he should have told Bina Rai in some other film. He ran away, or hid himself under the tables when the producers came home, he laughed when he was supposed to cry. But nothing worked. Only the audience laughed the louder at what they thought his antics. “I just went cuckoo”, he once confessed. The same quality was reflected in his singing. His ability to yodel perfectly, freak off into nonsense rhyme and still return to the original tune was exhilarating. For those used to straightforward singing, this was heady wine. And Sachin Deb Burman, that talented music director, made him a constant playback for Dev Anand. Who does not hum those tunes even today? From Paying Guest (Mana janab ne pukara nahin) to Nau Do Gyarah (Hum hain raahi pyar ke) to Funtoosh (Ai meri topi palat ke aa), he weaved his spell. And in the films in which he starred, from Bandi, Bhai Bhai, Looko Chhori (Bengali), Shararat, New Delhi, he yodelled his way through; Eena meena deeka, Mera naam Abdul Rahman, CAT Cat, Hum to muhabbat karega and the list is too long to recollect.
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