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The spark that he was

VINAY KUMAR

Yodelling or singing romantic songs, adding a note of comedy or a dash of sadness, Kishore Kumar could do it all.



HATS OFF TO YOU Kishore Kumar in "Rukshana".

It was about five decades ago when a young lad from Khandwa landed up in Bombay to meet his idol K.L. Saigal.As his brother Ashok Kumar was a superstar at that time, he did not think it to be an impossible task. As luck would have it, the lad could not meet Saigal but coming days saw him being cajoled to enter the filmdom. The lad was none other than Kishore Kumar, born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, who hailed from an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family.

In the years to come, Kishore Kumar would emerge as the man who could act, mimic, sing and produce films. Truly, a multi-faceted, versatile genius he wanted to be the greatest and most successful singer on the land but picked up acting on the way. In the later years, he concentrated on his playback singing and came up with smash hits that had people swaying to his tunes.

Kishore Da burst on the Hindi film scene like a breath of fresh air, lapped up comic roles and essayed them with such lucidity that the roles looked tailor made for him. Remember Chalti Ka Naam Gadi and Padosan where he regaled with his acting and ruled the hearts with his melodious voice. As he kept to himself, loved his solitude and frowned upon anything that he considered pedestrian, Kishore Da came to be known as outrageous, a madcap genius, unpredictable and as someone who had an uncanny penchant to be comic, crazy and bizarre.Kishore Kumar came to be associated with the most charming women of his times and married four times. His first wife was Ruma Devi, who had established her own choir, and the other three were successful Bollywood actresses - Madhubala, Yogeeta Bali and Leena Chandravarkar. If he separated from Ruma Devi - mother of well-known singer Amit Kumar - it was because she wanted to build a career and he wanted someone to build a home. His second wife, Madhubala, a popular heroine of her times, was very sick and wanted to be married before she died. He married her knowing it. She was a big fan of Dilip Kumar and watched Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya nearly 500 times. Often Kishore Kumar would get upset on seeing her watch Dilip Kumar's movies. She died in February 1969.

He considered his third marriage with Yogeeta Bali a joke but found happiness in the fourth marriage with Leena Chandravarkar who herself had passed through tragic times. In a rare interview to Pritish Nandy, the then editor of Illustrated Weekly of India, Kishore Da had expressed a desire to leave Mumbai for Khandwa as he considered Bombay a "friendless, stupid" city where everyone was out to exploit someone.

Kishore refused to bow to the wishes of Sanjay Gandhi to sing for a Congress rally in Mumbai during Emergency. Even though there was a ban on playing his songs on All India Radio, he refused to apologise. Scores of prominent producers and directors finally convinced those in power to lift the ban.

Kishore preferred to be a loner and did not smoke, drink or socialise. Hespent time talking to his trees, even singing to them. His movie Door Gagan Ki Chao Mein, which had opened with just 10 people in the hall, went on to become a hit. It is another matter that he brought in words like Boom, boom, boompitty, boom, boom, chiachikachik, chik, chik, yadlehe, yadlehe, ooo in his songs to rib-tickling effect.His Mere Sapno Ki Rani launched him and Rajesh Khanna on the path to super stardom from Shakti Samant's celebrated hit Aradhana and Kishore went on to give his fans, admirers and all others strings of hits in Amar Prem, Aap ki Kasam, Safar and Kora Kagaz. His duets with Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar climbed popularity charts and Kishore was suddenly everywhere.

It could only be termed as a strange coincidence that the three great singers of Hindi filmdom - Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh - died suddenly of massive heart attacks. Kishore Da died on October 13, 1987 at age 58.

Kishore once sang. "Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hai Jo Muqaam Woh Phir Nahi Aate." Kishore will never return but his songs will continue to hit airwaves for generations to come.

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