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The Versatile Genius

What do you call a man who can sing and dance; act and mimic; write and compose; make you laugh and cry all at one time? How do you define a person who lives by defying norms? How do you quantify a genius whose talent is immeasurable? Multi-faceted, versatile, sensitive, prankster. There has been only […]

What do you call a man who can sing and dance; act and mimic; write and compose; make you laugh and cry all at one time? How do you define a person who lives by defying norms? How do you quantify a genius whose talent is immeasurable? Multi-faceted, versatile, sensitive, prankster.

There has been only one such man in hindi Filmdom. Kishore Kumar – a man who lived for his one love – music. Kishore Kumar wore so many garbs, that probably the real Kishore Kumar, always remained an enigma to his own family and close friends, Even R.D. Burman, the composer who unarguably brought out the best in his exasperatingly talented man.

R.D. Burman would chortle heartily when he recalled his first encounter with the madcap genius. He ran into a strange looking man at Kardar studios. Perched on the compound wall, wearing a muffler, cap and wielding a large black stick, he was imitating everyone who passed by. This strange man then followed S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman into the recording studio and mimicked every note that was being rehearsed by Lata Mangeshkar. When S.D. Burman, now thoroughly exasperated, asked him why, he replied, “I am an orphan. Nobody looks after me. Please give me a chance to sing.”

Born on August 4, 1929, in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Abhas Kumar Ganguly, nurtured dreams of becoming a singer and following the footsteps of his idol K.L. Saigal, to bury whose records, he diligently saved his pocket money. He visited his by then famous star brother Ashok Kumar, in Mumbai frequently, in the hope that he would introduce him to K.L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting and hated every moment of it. He used every guile in his book to ruin his acting career.

‘I muffed my lines; pretended to be crazy, shaved my head, played difficult, began yodelling in the middle of tragic scenes, told Meena Kumari what I was supposed to tell Bina Rai. But they still wouldn’t let me go. I screamed , ranted, went cuckoo. But who cared? They were just determined to make me a star’.

And though Kishore Kumar hated being ordered around by directors, (who according to him didn’t know their jobs most of the time) the hits followed. New Delhi (1956), Asha (1957), Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958), Jhumroo (1961), Half Ticket (1962),Shreeman Funtoosh (1956) and Padosan (1968). All time blockbusters, that managed to tie down Kishore to a busy acting schedule, so much so, that for a song in Sharaarat, Mohd Rafi, actually had to provide playback for him.

In an industry, where comedy was seen as a filler or diversion from the main plot, there emerged in the form of Kishore, a hero who made comic acting an evolved art. Laughing, singing and dancing, Kishore was the complete comic hero, comparable to the likes of Bob Hope and Danny Kaye. And his unconventional looks and personality only added to the fun that audiences had when watching him. Even while playing second fiddle to the hero, Kishore added an extra zing to the film. Whether it was the pan chewing ustad of Padosan, who takes on the carnatic maestro Mahmood in a musical duel or in his usually funny song and dance routine in movies like Miss Mary.

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One Response to “The Versatile Genius”

  1. 1
    A Singh Says:

    Most comedians are very good serious actors as well. Looking at the roles played by KK in films like ‘Chali Ka Naam Gaadi’ and ‘Door Gagan Ki Chaawan Mein’, one can see the contract in the KK as a actor. Indeed KK was a complete actor. His performance in ‘Door Ka Rahi’ is also Good.

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