RMIM Archive Article "186".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Kishore Kumar Ganguly
# Posted by: Joydeep Mitra email@example.com
# Source: The Asian Age
# Author: Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
Witty, Dramatic, He Was Hindi Films' Only Comic Hero
Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari
The Asian Age
13 June 1996
When dust particles dance in the ray of light that bisects the
darkened theatre and the screen lights up, a special
communication is established between the moviegoer and the
flickering images onscreen. And when the viewer becomes entranced
with the shifting dynamics of the world before him, luminaries
It was on a wet day in July 1896, in a much smaller Mumbai with a
population of barely 10 lakh people, that the screening of the
first ever cinema show in India was held at Watson's Hotel.
British officials and their memsahibs came to see this `marvel of
the century' brought here by the Lumiere brothers barely six
months after they had first exhibited their exciting invention in
Paris. When the lights came on, even the pricey Re 1 seaters
cheered and welcomed this new mass medium of entertainment. A 100
years later, in 1996, Mumbai is home to the largest film
industry, in one of the biggest film producing nations in world.
So what are the criteria that make a film personality a luminary?
It is not necessarily talent or intelligence. It is not regional
chauvinism - film people from all corners of the country efface
their ethnic identity for the melting pot of films. It is a non-
But a trait that all these remarkable artistes share, like
creative people everywhere, is a hypersensitivity to life. And
the ability to interpret it for the rest of us. The legacies left
by the lives of the older luminaries hold lessons for today's
generation of stars. Many to the luminaries have had unfortunate
ends to their rich lives bringing to mind Kipling's immortal
This season's Daffodil,
She never hears What change,
what chance, what chill
Cut down last year's;
But with bold countinuance,
And knowledge small, Esteems her seven day continuance
To be perpetual
No doubt the luminaries success has a life span like all things
mortal. But what The Hundred Luminaries of Hindi Cinema seeks to
immortalize are those moments on screen that are embedded in the
audience's psyche-the moments in which they remain perennially
alive. We are indebted to the luminaries because through their
work, they have created a vicariously thrilling fantasy world and
brought happiness to millions of Indians for whom even the ripped
theatre seat is a pew from which they practice their religion of
The Wizard of Odd marched to the tune of a different drummer. A
multi-talented actor-singer, Kishore Kumar was notoriously
eccentric in the manner of many a genius. At the height of the
Emergency, he had the courage to defy the Indian government.
Asked to perform free, he refused, and was consequently banned
from national radio and television.
Kishore had always been familiar with the vicissitudes of fate.
While laughter was his leitmotif, it had to tide him over a
lifetime that encompassed great highs and abysmal lows.
At 18, Kishore started out as a singer despite not knowing even
the rudiments of music. Abhas Kumar Ganguly changed his name to
Kishore Kumar, left his native Khandwa and came to join Bombay
Talkies where his elder brother (by 19 years), Ashok Kumar, held
sway. But Kishore found few opportunities coming his way. He sang
his first song, Marne ki duayen kyon mangu for Dev Anand in Ziddi
(1948), did bit roles in several films and acted as the main lead
in the eminently forgetable Andolan.
After his marriage to Ruma Devi resulted in a split with his
family, Kishore approached music director S.D. Burman for help
and resulted in his singing Qusoor aapka in Bahaar. The song was
a hit. From being a playback singer in Vyjanthimala's film, he
became her hero in Ladki (1953). It was Kishore's uninhibited
comic antics and spontaneous jocundity that, to a large extent,
made Ladki a success.
Kishore's amusingly askew view of life found favour with the
audiences and he now had a flourishing acting career. The comic
electricity he exuded simply lit up the screen as he sang, danced
and acted in hits like New Delhi and Asha (Eena Meena Deeka).
Also, he could now yodel better than the original yodeller, Danny
From King Lear's fool to Indian cinema's cretinous caricatures,
the traditional concept of comedian has always been one of lowly
stature, that of a sidekick. Kishore successfully challenged this
image and mixing wit with drama and romance, became Hindi
cinema's only major hero whose popularity relied mainly on
Even a revered actress like Nargis was moved to name Kishore as
her favourtie actress. This power-house of talent became so busy
that he had no time to sing his own songs and Mohammed Rafi was
called upon to playback for Kishore Kumar in the Ajab hai dastaan
teri song form Shararat.
After Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958), where Kishore and Madhubala
made great foils for each other's foibles, Kishore's marriage to
Ruma Devi disintegrated and he married the beautiful but doomed
Taking Madhubala as his heroine, Kishore produced, directed,
acted in, composed the music and wrote the lyrics for Jhumroo.
The film, however, did poorly. His next film, Door Gagan Ki Chaon
Mein, an uncharacteristically serious subject on the relationship
between father and his dumb son, was acclaimed for its
sensitivity. It led many to wonder if Kishore's talent would have
survived even without regular infusions of laughter.
Commercially, however, the Sixties saw a precipitous fall from
grace for Kishore. Beset by tax problems, he was reduced to doing
B grade films opposite starlet Kum Kum. Having earlier given up
playback singing, he had to now accept the odd singing assignment
in Dev Anand's Guide or Jewel Thief. Kishore's creative
resuscitation came about with the incredible success of his songs
in Aradhana. As the permanent of voice superstar Rajesh Khanna,
Kishore nudged aside all competition. Thereafter, whether it was
the flippant Rafta rafta or the grave Zindagi Ke safar mein,
Kishore's range made him the uncrowned king of playback singers.
As his fame grew, so did stories of his eccentricities. He put up
a board outside his house saying, `This is a lunatic asylum'. He
started having long conversations with the trees in his backyard,
addressing each by a special name. He surprised everyone by
making a songless film, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin. He zipped
through a short-lived marriage with Yogita Bali and then raised
eyebrows by tying the knot for the fourth time with film star
Leena Chandravarkar - who was only two years older than his son,
Amit Kumar. Incidentally, he called all his four wives
bandariyas (monkeys) since they all happened to be living in
Bandra when they married him. Till the mid-eighties, Kishore
retained his position at the top. His voice still pulsed with
verve and exuberance at his many stage shows. But just when he
was thinking of of retirement, he suffered setbacks in health and
in 1987, he succumbed to major heart attack. Reportedly, his last
words were "Kishore Kumar can die only in Khandwa. Long live
Kishore Kumar." It was typical of Kishore to be unconventional,
to the last.