Interview With KK
From boulder!parrikar Thu Apr 25 18:23:29 MDT 1991
Article: 13507 of soc.culture.indian
From: parrikar@mimicad.Colorado.EDU (Rajan Parrikar)
Subject: Tete-a-tete with Kishore Kumar!(Long)
Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org (The Daily Planet)
Organization: University of Colorado, Boulder
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1991 00:16:07 GMT
KK: Nonsense. They give me trouble. You think they give a damn for me? I matter to them only because I sell. Who cared for me during my bad days? Who cares for anyone in this profession?
PN: Is that why you prefer to be a loner?
KK: Look, I don’t smoke, drink or socialize. I never go to parties. If that makes me a loner, fine. I am happy this way. I go to work and I come back straight home. To watch my horror movies, play with my spooks, talk to my trees, sing. In this avaricious world, every creative person is bound to be lonely. How can you deny me that right?
PN: You don’t have many friends?
PN: That’s rather sweeping.
KK: People bore me. Film people particularly bore me. I prefer talking to my trees.
PN: So you like nature?
KK: That’s why I want to get away to Khandwa. I have lost all touch with nature out here. I tried to did a canal all around my bungalow out here, so that we could sail gondolas there. The municipality chap would sit and watch and nod his head disapprovingly, while my men would dig and dig. But it didn’t work. One day someone found a hand – a skeletal hand- and some toes. After that no one wanted to dig anymore. Anoop, my second brother, came charging with Ganga water and started chanting mantras. He thought this house was built on a graveyard. Perhaps it is. But I lost the chance of making my home like Venice.
PN: People would have thought you crazy. In fact they already do.
KK: Who said I’m crazy. The world is crazy; not me.
PN: Why do you have this reputation for doing strange things?
KK: It all began with this girl who came to interview me. In those days I used to live alone. So she said: You must be very lonely. I said: No, let me introduce you to some of my friends. So I took her to the garden and introduced her to some of the friendlier trees. Janardhan; Raghunandan; Gangadhar; Jagannath; Buddhuram; Jhatpatajhatpatpat. I said they were my closest friends in this cruel world. She went and wrote this bizarre piece, saying that I spent long evenings with my arms entwined around them. What’s wrong with that, you tell me? What’s wrong making friends with trees?
KK: Then, there was this interior decorator-a suited, booted fellow who came to see me in a three-piece woollen, Saville Row suit in the thick of summer- and began to lecture me about aesthetics, design, visual sense and all that. After listening to him for about half an hour and trying to figure out what he was saying through his peculiar American accent, I told him that I wanted something very simple for my living room. Just water-several feet deep- and little boats floating around, instead of large sofas. I told him that the centre-piece should be anchored down so that the tea service could be placed on it and all of us could row up to it in our boats and take sips from our cups. But the boats should be properly balanced, I said, otherwise we might whizz past each other and conversation would be difficult. He looked a bit alarmed but that alarm gave way to sheer horror when I began to describe the wall decor. I told him that I wanted live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings -since I liked nature so much. And, instead of fans, we could have monkeys farting from the ceiling. That’s when he slowly backed out from the room with a strange look in his eyes. The last I saw of him was him running out of the front gate, at a pace that would have put an electric train to shame. What’s crazy about having a living room like that, you tell me? If he can wear a woollen, three-piece suit in the height of summer, why can’t I hang live crows on my walls?
PN: Your ideas are quite original, but why do your films fare so badly?
KK: 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. Where will you find a producer-director who warns you not to touch his film because even he can’t understand what he has made?
PN: Then why do you make films?
KK: Because the spirit moves me. I feel I have something to say and the films eventually do well at times. I remember this film of mine – Door Gagan ki Chhaon mein – which started to an audience of 10 people in Alankar. I know because I was in the hall myself. There were only ten people who had come to watch the first show! Even its release was peculiar. Subhodh Mukherjee, the brother of my brother-in-law, had booked Alankar(the hall) for 8 weeks for his film April Fool- which everyone knew was going to be a block- buster. My film, everyone was sure, was going to be a thundering flop. So he offered to give me a week of his booking. Take the first week, he said flamboyantly, and I’ll manage within seven. After all, the movie can’t run beyond a week. It can’t run beyond two days, I reassured him. When 10 people came for the first show, he tried to console me. Don’t worry, he said, it happens at times. But who was worried? Then, the word spread. Like wildfire. And within a few days the hall began to fill. It ran for all 8 weeks at Alankar, house full! Subodh Mukherjee kept screaming at me but how could I let go the hall? After 8 weeks when the booking ran out, the movie shifted to Super, where it ran for another 21 weeks! That’s the anatomy of a hit of mine. How does one explain it? Can anyone explain it? Can Subodh Mukherjee, whose April Fool went on to become a thundering flop?
PN: But you, as the director should have known?
KK: Directors know nothing. I never had the privilege of working with any good director. Except Satyen Bose and Bimal Roy, no one even knew the ABC of film making. How can you expect me to give good performances under such directors? Directors like S.D. Narang didn’t even know where to place the camera. He would take long, pensive drags from his cigarette, mumble ‘Quiet, quiet, quiet’ to everyone, walk a couple of furlongs absentmindedly, mutter to himself and then tell the camera man to place the camera wherever he wanted. His standard line to me was:Do something. What something? Come on, some thing! So I would go off on my antics. Is this the way to act? Is this the way to direct a movie? And yet Narangsaab made so many hits!
PN: Why didn’t you ever offer to work with a good director?
KK: Offer! I was far too scared. Satyajit Ray came to me and wanted me to act in Parash Pathar – his famous comedy – and I was so scared that I ran away. Later, Tulsi Chakravarti did the role. It was a great role and I ran away from it, so scared I was of these great directors.
PN: But you knew Ray.
KK: Of course I did. I loaned him five thousand rupees at the time of Pather Panchali-when he was in great financial difficulty- and even though he paid back the entire loan, I never gave him an opportunity to forget the fact that I had contributed to the making of the classic. I still rib him about it. I never forget the money I loan out!
PN: Well, some people think you are crazy about money. Others describe you as a clown, pretending to be kinky but sane as hell. Still others find you cunning and manipulative. Which is the real you?
KK: I play different roles at different times. For different people. In this crazy world, only the truly sane man appears to be mad. Look at me. Do you think I’m mad? Do you think I can be manipulative?
PN: How would I know?
KK: Of course you would know. It’s so easy to judge a man by just looking at him. You look at these film people and you instantly know they’re rogues.
PN: I believe so.
KK: I don’t believe so. I know so. You can’t trust them an inch. I have been in this rat race for so long that I can smell trouble from miles afar. I smelt trouble the day I came to Bombay in the hope of becoming a playback singer and got conned into acting. I should have just turned my back and run.
PN: Why didn’t you?
KK: Well, I’ve regretted it ever since. Boom Boom. Boompitty boom boom. Chikachikachik chik chik. Yadlehe eeee yadlehe ooooo (Goes on yodelling till the tea comes. Someone emerges from behind the upturned sofa in the living room, looking rather mournful with a bunch of rat-eaten files and holds them up for KK to see)
PN: What are those files?
KK: My income tax records.
KK: We use them as pesticides. They are very effective. The rats die quite easily after biting into them.
PN: What do you show the tax people when they ask for the papers?
KK: The dead rats.
PN: I see.
KK: You like dead rats?
PN: Not particularly.
KK: Lots of people eat them in other parts of the world.
PN: I guess so.
KK: Haute cuisine. Expensive too. Costs a lot of money.
KK: Good business, rats. One can make money from them if one is enterprising.
PN: I believe you are very fussy about money. Once, I’m told. a producer paid you only half your dues and you came to the sets with half your head and half your moustache shaved off. And you told him that when he paid the rest, you would shoot with your face intact…
KK: Why should they take me for granted? These people never pay unless you teach them a lesson. I was shooting in the South once. I think the film was Miss Mary and these chaps kept me waiting in the hotel room for five days without shooting. So I got fed up and started cutting my hair. First I chopped off some hair from the right side of my head and then, to balance it, I chopped off some from the left. By mistake I overdid it. So I cut off some more from the right. Again I overdid it. So I had to cut from the left again. This went on till I had virtually no hair left- and that’s when the call came from the sets. When I turned up the way I was, they all collapsed. That’s how rumours reached Bombay. They said I had gone cuckoo. I didn’t know. I returned and found everyone wishing me from long distance and keeping a safe distance of 10 feet while talking. Even those chaps who would come and embrace me waved out from a distance and said Hi. Then, someone asked me a little hesitantly how I was feeling. I said: Fine. I spoke a little abruptly perhaps. Suddenly I found him turning around and running. Far, far away from me.
PN: But are you actually so stingy about money?
KK: I have to pay my taxes.