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The Versatile Genius

For those who believe that Kishore belonged to the vocal, demonstrative mode, there are enough songs to dispel that myth. From the early O.P. Nayyar composition ‘Meri neendon mein tum‘ to ‘Jeevan se bhari‘ to the much later ‘Badi sooni sooni hain‘, the mellow baritone washes over listeners like a soothing balm. That Kishore Kumar […]

For those who believe that Kishore belonged to the vocal, demonstrative mode, there are enough songs to dispel that myth. From the early O.P. Nayyar composition ‘Meri neendon mein tum‘ to ‘Jeevan se bhari‘ to the much later ‘Badi sooni sooni hain‘, the mellow baritone washes over listeners like a soothing balm.

That Kishore Kumar was capable for quite, introspective moments is probably quite a revelation. The gentle, soft spoken Lata, breaks into unbridled joy as she reminisces over the ‘mazaa’ that recording sessions with Kishore brought. ‘Pehle gaana, phir hasna’ admonished Lata, as Kishore made everyone laugh over his antics.

Asha Bhonsle recalls with amusement the recording of ‘Piya piya piya’ for Baap re baap. She mistakenly sang into Kishore’s line. The quick witted, ever inventive Kishore assured the dismayed Asha. ‘Don’t worry about it. I am the hero of the film. As soon as your out-of-turn intonation comes on screen, I’ll place my hand on the heroine’s mouth’.

Astonishing adaptability was probably the cornerstone of his success, as much as his varied eccentricities were the result of his deep sensitivity. How else can one explain his deep disenchantment with the commercial culture and decadence of the late seventies and early eighties. It’s all become terribly boring, may be I’m to blame. But then I’ve been singing for three and a half decades now and I’m used to the style of great composers of the yesteryears like S.D. Burman and Husnlal Bhagataram. Those days we were given a whole day for rehearsals and another for the take. Unlike today when within two hours flat you complete the entire recording’.

It was the paucity of singing challenges that led him to remark, ‘I want to run away. It’s because there’s too much exertion involved in today’s music. It’s not like the music of the earlier days’.

This from the same man who put a board outside his calling it a ‘Lunatic Asylum’ and referred to his wives as ‘Bandariyas’ because they lived in Bandra. He exasperated greenhorn interviewer by introducing her to the trees in his backyard as his friends. And drove his interior decorator very nearly crazy by insisting on converting his drawing room into a swimming pool, installing boats instead of sofas and hanging live crows instead of paintings.

Kishore Kumar’s eccentricities were probably his way of defending himself from a cruel, confused world. Through laughter was his leitmotif’. Kishore Kumar was buffeted on the seas of life. In private, his search for love and acceptance, made and broke his marriages. He defied his family to marry Ruma Devi and ironically never found time to spend with his wife and young son. He was entranced by the beautiful Madhubala, but illness doomed their union. His brief dalliance with the young Yogeeta Bali was another pained cry for companionship. And when he finally found true love with Leena Chandavarkar, cruel fate intervened and before long took him away forever…

Despite his private agonies, Kishore always remained buoyant. His idiosyncrasies constantly surprised everybody around him and ensured that no one could take him for granted. When asked why the films he directed were such flops, he said ‘Because I tell my distributors to avoid them. I warn them at the very outset that the film might run for a week at the most. Naturally they go away and never come back’.

Though a devoted artiste, his candid view of his abilities stopped him short of smugness and arrogance. Who else would ridicule his own hit film ‘Chalti ka naam gadi’ with a spoof ‘Baddhti ka naam dadhi’.

His constant search for the unexpected and startling bore some astonishing results. Radio host Ameen Sayani recounts that when he was asked to interview Kishore, the singer insisted on concocting four characters – a judge, a child, a young man and an old man, and then played all four characters. The unusual programme was an instant hit.

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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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