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What a yodeller!


AN ENIGMA to many, Kishore Kumar, named Aabhas Kumar Ganguly when born on August 4, 1929, was the kind of genius that rarely surfaces on earth. His sudden, premature death on October 13, 1987 shook the entertainment like a tornado. Curiously, all the three dominant male singers of Hindi cinema, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar quit the world when in their fifties. An untrained singer, he took playback singing to an unusual height. He rendered his first solo song for Ziddi in 1948, and the last a duet with Asha Bhosle for Waqt ki Aawaz in 1988. A singing career of 40 years during which he recorded 2,905 songs for films and private albums consisting of 2,661 in Hindi and 221 in Bengali.

A singer who idolised K.L. Saigal, and found inspiration in yodelling from Australian singer Jimmy Rogers and Swiss crooner Tex Norton but in the process carving out a totally individual style in that area as well. He was nominated for the Filmfare award 27 times, and won the coveted trophy eight times, thrice was lending voice to Amitabh Bachchan and twice to Rajesh Khanna. He never won an award as the voice of Dev Anand for whose playback he had got his first break, and was known as the voice of until the 1970s. There are reportedly 500 websites dedicated to him, most importantly Yoodleeyoo.com.

A reluctant actor who went on to act in an unbelievable 102 films, his favourites were Marlon Brando and Danny Kaye. All but four were in Hindi. Chasing the footprints of the highly successful Ashok Kumar, 19 years his senior, he came to Bombay without appearing for the Intermediate examination. To begin with he did whatever came his way before applying the greasepaint for Sati Vijay in 1949. His last appearance as an actor was in a home production, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin in 1982.

Kishore Kumar wrote and produced 14 films (of which six were never completed). He is credited with the screenplays of five (two incomplete, and Mamta ki Chhaon Mein censored two years after his death but unreleased till date) and directed 12 films of which four were abandoned at various stages of completion. The immortal Chalti ka Naam Gadi was made under the banner of Ganguly Bros and Satyen Bose was credited with direction though the film bore the inimitable Kishore Kumar stamp all over.

Interestingly, he composed the music of all his home productions, and one outside film, Zameen Aasman, though he did not understand the intricacies of playing various instruments, and their coordination. He also wrote 24 songs for his own productions. Despite his notoriety for no money-no work he is known to have recorded for free even when the producers were willing to pay. Rajesh Khanna and Danny Denzongpa are two notable examples.

Behind the mask of a mimic, and a comedian Kishore Kumar hid a very serious persona, some of which got reflected through the kind of films he made. He was a romantic whose personal life, for most part, remained tragic and unhappy. And he had begun to find some happiness in his fourth marriage, with actress Leena Chandavarkar when destiny cut short the bliss, and that too soon after the birth of a second son. His other marriages had been to actresses Ruma Devi (mother to Amit Kumar), Madhubala and Yogeeta Bali.

All this and much more is contained in an invaluable compilation by Vishwas Nerurkar and others (Kishore Kumar: The Many Faces of a Genius: Gayatri Publications, Pp. 590. Rs 1,200).

The volume also contains some rare photographs, comments and observations by Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Asha Bhosle, R.D. Burman, Gulzar, Sandeep Ray and Khayyam, etc. It has a complete list of solo and chorus songs, male duets, female duets, mix songs, renderings in various languages, private albums as a singer, as a composer... . You name it, and it is there.

A must for not only a Kishore Kumar fan but every lover of Hindi film music.

SURESH KOHLI

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