Kishore Kumar, the Greatest “All-Rounder” Entertainer of Indian Cinema

Legendary singer Kishore KumarPerhaps no one in the history of Indian cinema has donned so many hats as the legendary Kishore Kumar did. Although he was primarily known as a great playback singer, Kishore-da (real name – Abhas Kumar Ganguly) has also acted in several films and also played the part of producer, director, music director, lyricist & writer in few movies. He was probably the best comic talent in music and in films.

The Beginning

Unlike other singers of his time, Kishore kumar didn’t have a formal training in singing. In his initial years in the hindi film industry, Kishore-da acted in several comic films, and also sang in those movies (especially the mischievous type of songs). That was probably one of the reasons, that many didn’t think of Kishore-da as a serious singer, especially when another legend Mohd. Rafi was already singing for hindi films.

It took some time for the industry and the world to acknowledge the man’s talent. A few films with Rajesh Khanna & R.D. Burman (Pancham-da) changed everything, and a star was about to be born.

The evergreen track ‘Mere Sapno ki Rani’ from Aradhana, sung by Kishore Kumar, starring Rajesh Khanna. This song was composed by S.D Burman (father of R.D. Burman)

For several years, Kishore kumar’s voice was behind Rajesh Khanna’s smile, Amitabh Bachchan’s towering personality, and almost everything that depicted masculinity in cinema.

Greatest Entertainer of Indian Cinema

Its difficult to believe that the man who once wanted to leave everything and going back to Khandwa to be amidst his plants, nature and his childhood memories, would become one of the most sought after singers in Bollywood, and eventually become one of the greatest singers and the greatest entertainers in the history of Indian cinema.

Comedy scene from the movie ‘Padosan’ where Kishore Kumar is in full flow.

So what did Kishore Kumar enjoy more – acting or singing? Even the great Lata Mangeshkar once posed this question to Kishore Kumar, and he replied, “Acting jhoothi hoti hai aur sangeet dil se nikalti hai to woh sachchi hoti hai.” That’s why he’s perhaps the Kishore Kumar that we all love to listen to.

Lesser Known Facts About Kishore Kumar

Here are some lesser known facts from his personal life.

  • The versatile singer was born on 4th August, 1929 in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh
  • Kishore kumar didn’t have a formal training in music or singing
  • Kishore Kumar suffered from stage fright during his college days in Indore, and he would often sing from behind the curtains and never faced the audience.
  • Kishore Kumar had 4 wives: Ruma Devi, Madhubala, Yogita Bali and Leena Chandawaker.He initially tied the knot with Satyajit Ray’s niece Ruma. He then converted to Islam to get married to Madhubala. Post that he exchanged wedding vows with Yogita Bali and finally settled down with Leena Chandavarkar.
  • Kishore Kumar refused to endorse late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme, for which he was banned from AIR (All India Radio) and Vividh Bharati during the Emergency period (1975-1977).
  • Kishore Da holds the record of winning the maximum number of Filmfare Awards. He won eight Filmfare Awards in his lifetime.

Getting into the Skin of the Character

Here are several examples where Kishore kumar took inspiration from real life characters & instances, and applied to his creative work.

  • When he was in college, Kishore-da would often spend more time in the canteen than in the classes. Those were his struggling days and when he left college, he still owed Rs. 5.75 to his college canteen. That was the inspiration behind his popular track ‘Paanch Rupaiya Baara Aana’, with Madhubala (whom he would marry later) in the comic movie Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi.

    Songs from the super hit movie Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, including the ‘Paanch Rupaiya Baara Aana’ track.

  • The multi-faceted Kishore Kumar mimicked one of his mama’s (uncle) in Padosan, including his looks and his paan-chewing habit. Reportedly, Mehmood and Sunil Dutt had to halt the shoot for two days to work on their respective characters, becase they felt that Kishore-da’s character looked flawless and he would walk away with all the credits for the movie.

    Kishore kumar singing the funny, yet endearing song ‘Meri Pyari Bindu’, composed by RD Burman, from the movie Padosan.

  • Kumar was fond of drinking milk and eating jalebees. He loved getting into the skin of the character, even though he was singing and wasn’t acting. For the song ‘khaike paan banaras wala’ in Amitabh Bachchan’s Don, Kishore Kumar chewed several paans, while singing, in the recording studio.

    The popular ‘Khaike Pan Banaraswala’ from the original Don, starring Amitabh Bachchan. Sung by Kishore Kumar and music by Kalyanji Anandji.

  • Now this is a big one, and am sure Amitabh Bachchan would be happy that this happened. Hrishikesh Mukherjee originally wanted to cast Kishore Kumar and Mehmood as the main actors in his film ‘Anand’. However, it seems, due to some confusion Kishore Kumar’s watchman shooed away Mr. Mukherjee thinking he was some fan who was trying to get in touch with Kishore-da.

A Very Patient Man

Kishore Kumar wanted to marry Leena Chandavarkar (after her first husband died) but Leena was not ready to have another man in his life. Although, Kishore Kumar kept in touch with Leena, he never proposed to her again. Several months later, Leena Chandavarkar started appreciating Kishore Kumar as a human being (especially his patience) and finally agreed to get married to him.

However, Leena Chandavarkar’s father was strictly against their marriage (as Kishore Kumar was in the process of divorcing Yogeeta Bali). When Kishore Kumar went to Leena’s house to convince her dad, Leena’s dad refused to come out of his room. Kishore Kumar, not ready to give up, waited patiently without taking it as an insult. Suddenly, he spotted a harmonium at one corner, and that’s it. Kishore just sat down with the harmonium and started belting out his emotional songs one after another. After a couple of hours, Leena’s dad came out to see Kishore and said “My daughter was right; you’re a very patient man and that is indeed a virtue”. Saying that, he agreed to their marriage.

Sang for Various Actors and in Various Languages

Even though Kishore Kumar had a masculine voice, he had the versatility to mould his voice in the recording studio to suit the on-screen personality of Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and many other actors. Perhaps, it was because he himself was an actor, he could apply those nuances that would suit each of these actors.

Phoolon Ke Rang Se from the movie Prem Pujari, starring Dev Anand

O Hansini from Zehreela Insaan, this time for Rishi Kapoor

Main Hon Don from the movie ‘Don’, Kishore-da singing for Amitabh Bachchan

‘Dil Kya Kare’ from the movie Julie, Kishore Kumar singing for a new actor

Kishore Kumar singing for Dharmendra in the movie ‘Blackmail’, checkout the song ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas Tum Rehti Ho’

Kishore Kumar singing for Shashi Kapoor, ‘Keh du tumhe’ from the movie Deewar

Kishore Kumar singing ‘Kitne Bhi Tu Kar Le Sitam’ from the movie ‘Sanam Teri Kasam’, featuring Kamal Hassan

Kishore Kumar sang Aane Wala Pal Jane Wala Hai from the movie Golmaal, starring Amol Palekar.

And mind you, these comprise not even 1 percent of the songs that kishore Kumar has sung in his lifetime.

When Kishore-Da Acted Funnily in Real Life

Kishore kumar was a live-wire in real life too, and always up to some sort of mischief. Here are some examples of his antics, which at times, drew his producers crazy.

  • Kishore Kumar had a ‘Beware Of Kishore’ board outside his Warden Road apartment. That’s true! Once filmmaker H.S. Rawail visited Kishore Kumar’s house and when the former offered to shake his hand, Kishore-da bit his hand and said ‘Didn’t you see the sign’!
  • Fed up of Kishore Da’s funny antics, a filmmaker once approached the court to get a verdict that the talented singer-actor will have to follow his instructions during the shoot. Kumar took it so literally that after a car scene he drove till Khandala as the director forgot to say ‘cut’!
  • Once a producer paid him only half his remuneration in advance and said that he would pay him the rest of the amount after the completion of the movie. The next day Kishore Kumar turned up on the sets with half of his head and moustache shaved and declared that he would continue appearing like that till the time, the producer doesn’t pay him his full fee.

More hit Songs of Kishore Kumar