He was born at Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh on August 4, 1929. Later he came to Mumbai and began his career as a musician. Kishore’s real name was Abhas Kumar Ganguly. He sang thousands of songs. Some of his songs became memorable.
His song ‘Marne Ki duyaen kyon mangu’ gave him instant popularity. He gave his voice to top actors of that time like Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and Amithabh Bachchan.
Kishore acted in about 81 films, both Hindi and Bengali. His famous films were Bhai Bhai (1956), Asha (1957), Musafir (1957), Jhungroo (1961) Door Gagan kki chaon mein (1964) and Padosan (1968). Some of his memorable songs are ‘Ek Ladki Bhigi Bhagi si’, ‘Yeh dil na hota Bechara’, ‘yeh sham mastani’, ‘Mere sapno ki rani’, ‘tere mere milan ki raina’ and ‘Jindagi ka safar’.
He died on October 13, 1987. It was a great loss to the music world and his fans.
Kishore Kumar (August 4, 1929 – October 13, 1987), born in Madhya Pradesh to a Bengali family as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, was an Indian film playback singer and actor. Kishore is widely acknowledged as one of the finest Indian male playback singers of all time, along with Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh. In addition to singing and acting, Kishore Kumar achieved notable successes as a lyricist, composer, producer, director, screenwriter and scriptwriter. He has sung in many Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali (his mother tongue), Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam and Oriya.
Kishore Kumar was born in to a Bengali family in the small town of Khandwa of Madhya Pradesh as Abhas Kumar Ganguly. His father Kunjilal Ganguly was a lawyer and his mother Gouri Devi was from a wealthy family. Kunjilal Ganguly had four children in all, Ashok Kumar the eldest, Sati Devi (daughter), Anoop Kumar and Kishore Kumar the youngest. Kishore was still a child, when his brother Ashok Kumar became an actor. Some time later on Anoop Kumar also ventured into the movies with the help of Ashok Kumar. Hanging around his brothers Kishore started to take a keen interest in the movies. As time went on Kishore started to show interest in the music scene too and soon became a fan of K.L. Saigal. As Kishore was getting well know to copy K.L. Saigal’s songs, his parents would often persuade him to mimic songs from Ashok Kumar’s movies.
Initial Days in Bollywood
Kishore followed his elder brothers and came to Mumbai to pursue a career in the movies. Ashok Kumar was doing well but, his other brother Anoop Kumar’s career wasn’t taking off. On a visit to Austria, Anoop Kumar bought some records to help him to improve his singing skills. One evening when Anoop came back from work, on entering, he heard some yodelling sounds coming from another room and quickly shouted, “who’s playing my records?” with no answer, he walked into the room and was shocked to find his younger brother Kishore making the same noise, which he had learnt from listening to Anoop’s record collection.
Kishore Kumar did not have a formal training in music. He did make a name for himself as an actor, but more than anything else he wanted to become a playback singer, that was his goal in life. Kishore would ask his producers if he could sing on the movies soundtrack. Kishore didn’t have a style of his own and tried to copy the likes of K.L. Saigal. Sachin Dev Burman (music composer) one day came to visit his friend Ashok Kumar. On entering the front door he heard, he was sure he heard the voice of his friend K.L. Saigal. He asked Ashok “is K.L.Saigal here too?” Ashok replied that it’s not him but his younger brother singing in the bathroom.
S.D.Burman wanted to meet Kishore as he did. After a lengthy chat S.D. Burman advised him not to copy K.L. Saigal but develop his own style, with this in mind Kishore soon developed his own style, the style of yodelling which, he had learnt from Anoop Kumar’s record collection, so yodelling became Kishore’s trademark.
Kishore Becomes Famous
Kishore wasn’t interested in acting, but was too afraid to rebel against Ashok Kumar, who wanted him to be an actor like himself. Kishore had an idea, if he didn’t act properly in his movie roles, for rushing from one studio to another, recording songs, composing music and writing lyrics, he also found time to produce and direct several movies too.
Although known mostly as a singer, he also achieved a lot of success as a comedian in films such classics as – Half Ticket, Padosan, Naukri, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Baap Re Baap, Badthi Ka Naam Dadhi, Pyar Diwana, Hungama, Door Ka Raahi and the great classic but commercial flop and his own production called Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein. Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein was a futuristic movie which had Kishore Kumar with his real life son Amit Kumar playing a deaf and mute young boy.
Apart from Sachin Dev Burman, Khemchand Prakash was another composer who recognized Kishore’s talents. He composed and recorded with Kishore for the movie Ziddi which became a huge hit. Incidentally, it was in Khemchand’s own studio, where Kishore met Lata Mangeshkar. Lata reports that one day she was going to Khemchand’s studio to record, looking around she was under the impression that she was being followed, it was only after reaching the studio that she realized that it was Kishore, Ashok Kumar’s younger brother with whom she would record duets in the future which would become hit after hits. By now a lot of other well know composers too realised Kishore’s potentials and started to work with him.
S.D. Burman recorded with Kishore for Dev Anand’s (actor) Munimji, Taxi Driver, Funtoosh, House No 44, Nau Do Gyarah, and Paying Guest. At a time when Lata was doing well, S.D.Burman fell out with her and replaced her with Asha Bhosle, Lata’s younger sister. S.D.Burman, Majrooh, Asha and Kishore became a stong team and produced some fantastic music for films like, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, the song, “Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si”, “Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka” and “Paanch Rupaiya Baara Aana” became very popular among the moviegoers, there was also, Dev Anand’s film Paying Guest and Teen Deviyan. The song “Mana Janab Ne Pukara Nahin” from Paying Guest was incredibly popular. Kishore and Asha recorded a lot of casual hits such as, “Chhod Do Aanchal”, “Ankhon Mein Ji”, “Arre Yaar Meri Tum Bhi Ho Gajab”, “Chhedo Na Meri Zulfein” and there was another classic song from the film Dilli Ka Thug, which had, “C.A.T..Cat Maane Billi” and “Hum To Mohabbat Karega”, the list is endless.
Majrooh Sultanpuri and Shailendra were favorite song writers of Kishore, he would request them to write all the songs for his home productions. In the days when composers would recommend lyricists to producers, Shankar-Jaikishan (composers) had promised Shailendra that they would recommend him around, but didn’t keep their promise, to which Shailendra sent them a note with the lines, “Chhoti Si Yeh Duniya Pehchaane Raaste Hain Kahin To Miloge Phir Poochhenge Haal”, Shankar-Jaikishan realized what the message meant and having said, sorry turned the lines into a well know song.
Kishore too was interested in composing. History has it that Kishore and Kalyanji Shah of Kalyanji-Anandji fame, introduced electronic sounds to the then composers who were around. Most of the time Kishore would assist S.D. Burman but he would compose and write songs himself. This shows in films like, Jhumroo for which Kishore wrote “Main Hoon Jhumroo”.
The Lean Years
1960’s, was quite a lean patch for Kishore. Most of his films flopped at the box office, there are a few songs memorable at the time like, “Zaroorat Hai Zaroorat Hai” from the film (Manmauji-1961) which was penned by Rajinder Krishan and composed by Madan Mohan. at about this time Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh were the favorites singers around. Composers were showing a blind eye towards Kishore, but he soon bouced back with the song, “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil”, from the film (Guide).
In 1966, S.D. Burman’s son, Rahul Dev Burman burst into the music limelight when he scored the music for the film, Teesri Manzil. He recorded all the songs with Rafi. But it was matter of time when R.D. Burman would work with Kishore. Their first hit came in the shape of (Padosan) with the song, “Mere Samnewali Khidki Mein”. There was a scene in the movie where Mehmood (comedian) would fight Sunil Dutt (actor) in a singing match. Kishore insisted that it would be boring if dialogues were spoken during the song to which Mehmood agreed. Keeping this in mind Kishore, Mehmood and lyricist Rajinder Krishan and R.D. Burman sat together and came up with the ‘musical fight sung titled, “Ek Chaturnar Karke Singaar”, it was sung by Kishore and Manna Dey who was a trained classical singer. Manny Dey found it preposterous that he should lose the song fight to the likes of Kishore and at one point refused to record the song. Mehmood who was also movie’s producer had personally assured Manna Dey that he was a better singer than Kishore and it was the films script that dictated who loses.
The Superstar Era
In 1969, Shakti Samanta produced the film Aradhana for which music score was composed by S.D. Burman. The first songs recorded were the Mohammed Rafi solo “Gun guna rahe hain bhanvre” and Rafi-Lata duet “Baghon mein bahar hai”. However, although Rafi was to continue voicing the remaining songs already composed, S.D. Burman fell into a coma following the onset of a sudden illness and it became the responsibility of R.D. Burman (his son) to finish the task. R.D. Burman made it very clear that he preferred Kishore Kumar’s voice to that of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore got the break he had been seeking for nearly two decades when he won his first Filmfare award for the song, “Roop Tera Mastana”.
S.D.Burman and Kishore recorded for Dev Anand’s directoral debut film Prem Pujari which flopped but soundtrack became a hit, there was “Phoolon Ke Rang Se”, “Lena Hoga Janam Hamein” and “Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye”.
For the film Sharmilee, Kishore and S.D.Burman recorded, a duet with lata with the song “Aaj Madhosh Hua Jaaye”, there was “Khilte Hain Gul Yahan” and the smash hit “O Meri Sharmilee”. At the same time Kishore recorded with S.D.Burman for the film Jugnu the song was “Pyaar Ke Is Khel Mein” and then around at that same time again S.D.Burman and Kishore recorded for film Zameer(1974) which had the songs “Zindagi Hasne Gaane ke liye hai Pal Do Pal”, “Phoolon Ke Dere Hain”, and “Tum Bhi Chalo Hum Bhi Chalen” and starred Amitabh Bachchan. Zameer (1974) was S D Burman’s last film as a Music Director.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal also composed many tunes for Kishore Kumar which became big hits like “Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai” from Daag and “Mere Naseeb Mein Aye Dost” from Do Raaste , “Naach Meri Bulbul” from the film Roti, “Chal Chal Mere Haathi” from the film Haathi Mere Saathi and “My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves” for the film Amar Akhbar Anthony. However, for many Kishore’s most accomplished piece of work for the duo is probably the song “Mere diwanepan ki bhi dawa nahin” from the film Mehboob Ki Mehndi. Laxmikant-Pyarelal got Kishore and Rafi to sing duets for the films Dostana and Ram Balram. The Laxmikant-Pyarelal list continues with “Achchha To Hum Chalte Hain”, “Kal Ki Haseen Mulaqat Ke Liye”, “Gore Rang Pe Na Itna”, “Tu Kitne Baras Ki”, “Gaari Bula Rahi Hai”, “Ruk Jaana Nahi” (film Imtihaan) and “Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi” (film Mr X In Bombay).
Kalyanji-Anandji and Kishore recorded for such film as Dharmatma, Laawaris, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Kabeela, Johny Mera Naam and Don. The songs “O Saathi Re” from Muqaddar Ka Sikander and “Khaike Paan Banariswala” from the film Don were hits, as was “Mera Jeevan Kora Kagaz” from the film Kora Kagaz.
In 1975 it was reported that S.D. Burman went into a coma for the second time, while Kishore was recording the song “Badi Sooni Sooni Si Hai Zzindagi” for the film Mili. Due to his fathers death R.D. Burman spent more time with Kishore Kumar. He asked Kishore to sing for both Amitabh and Dharmendra for the film Sholay.
Kishore with R.D. Burman at his side recorded for Dev Anand’s films like Warrant (1975), Heera Panna, and Shareef Badmash. These films didn’t do well at the box office but the music was popular, including songs like “Ruk Jaana O Jaana” from Warrant, “Panna Ki Tamana” from Heera Panna and “Neend Chura Ke Raaton Mein” from the film Shareef Badmash which were all chart busters.
Songs such as “Agar Tum Na Hote”, “Humein Tum Se Pyaar Kitna”, “Mere Naina Saawan Bahado”, “Chingari Koi Bhadke”, “O Maajhi Re” were hits.By now Kishore was also singing for the younger heroes. He was singing for Rishi Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt too. Kishore and Lata sang some trendy tunes for Sanjay’s first movie called Rocky. There was “Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai” and “Hum Tumse Mile”.
The new composers like Rajesh Roshan, Sapan Chakravarty (who was R.D.Burman’s assistant), Bappi Lahiri and others preferred Kishore’s voice. Rajesh Roshan’s first hit composed film Julie had some memorable songs, “Bhool Gaya Saab Kuch”, “Dil Kya Kare Jab Kisise”. Rajesh Roshan worked with Kishore also for the films Do Aur Do Paanch, Doosra Aadmi, Kaala Patthar, Swami, Swayamvar, Man Pasand and Kaash. Bappi Lahiri, know for lifting western tunes asked Kishore to sing hit numbers like, “Chalte chalte”, “Aaj Rapat Jaayein”, “Pag Ghunghroo” for the film Namak Halal in 1982. Then in 1984 there was the film Sharabi which had songs like “Jahan Chaar Yaar” and “Manzilen Apni Jagah Hai” for which Kishore won another Filmfare award.
S D Burman and Kishore too did films like Zameer which had the songs “Zindagi Hasne Gaane ke liye hai Pal Do Pal”, “Phoolon Ke Dere Hain”, and “Tum Bhi Chalo Hum Bhi Chalen” and starred Amitabh Bachchan, But these songs were originally composed by S.D.Burman. S D Burman made Kishore Sing these songs for Zameer. Zameer(1974) was S D Burman’s last film as a Music Director.
Kishore Kumar sang for Amitabh Bachchan, Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor and Govinda. Due to the adaptability of his voice and success of his songs, at one time, Amitabh Bachchan would always want Kishore Kumar as his playback singer just as Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand wanted him in the past.
During the Indian Emergency in 1975-77, Kishore refused to sing for Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency Propaganda” as a result, his songs were banned by all the national media at that time, but this didn’t stop Kishore becoming the legend he turned out to be.
Kishore’s son Amit Kumar became a great singer in the 80’s thanks to patronage of R.D. Burman and Rajesh Roshan. But Kishore was still around, singing for the younger heroes and older heroes to their likes. Kishore and Amitabh had a bitter misunderstanding in the mid 80s. Amitabh refused to do a guest appearance in a film produced by Kishore. This upset Kishore and as a result he stopped singing for Amitabh. Coincidentally, Amitabh’s films started flopping and he faced the worst career faze. Many years later, he made a comeback with the game show series, Kaun Banega Crorepati.
Kishore sang for Anil Kapoor for his first film, Woh Saat Din and also recorded for his film Mr. India. Once again Kishore was recording great songs for R.D. Burman for the film Saagar.
In 1987, Kishore was unhappy with the songs he was singing and decided to retire and seek out his roots back at his Native Khandwa. However in October 1987 he died in Mumbai. But his last wish to go home was fulfilled as his body was taken to his birth place Khandwa for cremation.
Kishore inspired many of today’s singers one way or another. Singers like Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Vinod Rathod and Babul Supriyo started their careers as Kishore’s clones. When Kishore was in the prime of his career there was no space for anybody else, they only sang for low-budget films when those movie producers couldn’t afford to sign Kishore Kumar.
Kishore Kumar was married four times, his wife’s are, Ruma Guha Thakurta (1950-1958), Madhubala (1960-1969), Yogeeta Bali (1975-1978) and Leena Chandavarkar (1980-1987). He had two sons Amit Kumar, also an accomplished playback singer, and Sumit Kumar.
For a complete filmography, please see the IMDB entry.
Acted In: (1954) Naukri. (1956) Bhagambhag. (1955) Baap Re Baap. (1957) Aasha. Bandi. (1958) Jalsaaz. Chalti Ka Naam Gadi. Dilli Ka Thug. (1960) Bewakoof. GirlFriend. Mehlo Ke Khawab. (1961) Karodpati. Jhumroo. (1962) Bombay Ka Chor. Manmauji. Naughty Boy. Rangoli. Half Ticket. (1963) Ek Raaz. (1964) Bagi Shehzada. Dal Mein Kala. Bavre Nain. Mr X In Bombay. Ganga Ke Lahren. Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein. (1966) Pyar Kiye Ja. Akalmand. (1967) Duniya Nachegi. Payal Ki Jhankar. Hai Mere Dil. (1968) Padosan. Do Dooni Char. (1971) Hungama. (1973) Pyar Diwana.