The phenomenon of Kishore Kumar

Four masterpieces that exemplify the brilliance of one “Abhas Kumar Ganguly”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

…say who again!

This man who was probably half the reason for the style that everyone admired in Bollywood’s “Gregory देव Peck”, the reason why woman swooned over the beloved “Rajesh काका”, and the bat-shit craze that followed the “Angry Young लम्बू Man”. And as I listen to his songs repeatedly day after day, and discover new ones even now, I cannot but admire the exceptional talent this man was.

This man………….the legend………….KISHORE KUMAR………….was born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly.

Everyone has a list for this genius, and so do I. After all, I am but one of you. But I admit, this list is not laminated. It has changed, it has grown, it has shrunk – and that, perhaps, reflects how I have appreciated this incredibly talented human being during the different stages of my life over the last twenty-seven years.
Why twenty-seven years – you could ask. For a start, that’s not my age – duh!

Second, I was not always into पिताजी के ज़माने के गाने. But once it so happened that my elder cousin got home a T-Series cassette album – “Kumar Sanu sings with jhankar beats”. And amongst several songs sung by amader Sanu-da was this one – “O saathi re, tere bina bhi kya jeena”. That song got me hooked, so hooked, that here I am, writing this article twenty-seven years later, as I fondly remember hearing that song on repeat twelve times within the first one hour of landing the tape. My journey of knowing Kishore Kumar had started with that album, and I had not even realised it – for I had not paid attention to the fact that the name of the album actually was “Kumar Sanu sings for the immortal Kishore Kumar – with jhankar beats………volume 2″!

But let me now start with my list, before I cross my ideal word limit for these kinds of articles, and this becomes just another eulogy of this great man.

First on the list is “Yun Neend Se Wo Jaane Chaman Jaag Uthi Hai”. Only the top quartile (you can probably say at this point that I also have an interest in math!) loyalists of this maestro can claim to know the details of this song – like, it was for the movie Dard Ka Rishta, the music director was RD Burman, it was written by the common man’s song writer Anand Bakshi, and it was lip-synced on screen by Sunil Dutt. Well these are facts. But facts are not the things that should surprise you in this song.
For a start, this is a raag-based ghazal, and for this singer who grew up wanting to sing like Kundan Lal Saigal, this must have meant a lot of hard work. But the effortless murki/मुरकी in the fourth line of the mukhda/मुखड़ा with “…jaag uthi hai” (0:36 min) and then again in the antara/अंतरा with “….yaadein watan…” (1:48min) has always floored me. And of course – this is a patriotic song guys – one of only two or three sung by this great singer at a time when Mahendra Kapoor was belting it by the dozen!

Second on the list is another of Anand Bakshi and RD Burman’s superhit, the hauntingly beautiful “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” from the movie Mehbooba (1976). When you know that this is another of those raag based songs, and for someone who had never really sat at the feet of a sangeet guru and studied music, this would have been a massive undertaking.
Legend has it that RD had already recorded the female version with Lata Mangeshkar. But after listening to the song, Kishore was adamant that he wanted a male version of it. So RD went about explaining to him that the song was based on raga “Shivranjani, and our man told him “तेरे राग की ऐसी की तैसी”. And then returned to the studio after seven days to record it in one go!
When you think of some of the other songs based on this raag – “Aawaz deke humein tum bulaao” and “Baharon phool barsaao” sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi – you wonder how big a gamble RD and Shakti Samanta took to even record a second version of this song. Well! – the gamble paid off, and the rest is history!

Third on the list is not one but three songs – and I am going to stick my neck out and say that only the top ten percent of the followers of this divine voice would know of this fact – for this point is not about his skill as an actor or singer! These three songs are:
– “Man mora baawra” from the movie Raagini (1958), music O P Nayyar
– “Ajab hai dastaan teri aye zindagi” from the movie Shararat (1959), music Shankar Jaikishan
– “Hamne to dil bicha diya tumhari raah mein” from the movie Albela Mastana (1967), music Datta Naik
Ordinary lyrics, certainly not the most exceptional of the music from any of these distinguished composers – then why………….you wonder……..would these songs make it to my list? Here’s why – the first two songs were sung by Mohd. Rafi, and the third one by Mahendra Kapoor – but all of them picturised and lip-synced on Kishore Kumar, who loved both these singers so much that he had no insecurities what-so-ever of any of these other legends playback for him. Such was his greatness!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9503vK9eLA

“Raah pe rehte hain, yaadon pe basar karte hain, khush raho ehley watan, hum to safar karte hain” – cannot summarise more poetically the journey of this great human being, and evoke a sense of void that his death left in the hearts of many. The combination of the dulcet vocals of the singer and arrangement of the violin, guitar and santoor captures the emotion of not only the song, but the whole movie into it.
I place this song fourth on my list, probably because of how underrated the song is. Written by Gulzar and composed by RDB, this song leaves you in a state of reverie and anxiety, probably very similar to how the old lady and her three daughters were left feeling when Gerulal left them in their village home in this 1982 movie Namkeen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nKpafPZZCw

I wish I could say more than “just have a listen of these songs on the list”. Or may be listen to the ones that fascinate you……….from your own list. But if you have figured out why I have been raving about Kishore Kumar until this point, don’t be shy to pop your comments and your reflections about the brilliance of this man!

Meet you again soon, until then

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Lisa
Lisa
2 years ago

Very wistful. Of course my list differs but the last one is definitely one of my favourites too. Thank you for writing this. Soulful stuff

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
2 years ago

Written with a lovely flow of thoughts, Played the songs one by one while reading the different paragraphs, Gives the feel of a background music, while I scroll through the melodious flow of words.
Waiting for the next one ..
Suggestion:
Also add a playlist (YouTube) link of this handpicked list for a repeat listen.

A R I (@AriGanguly)
2 years ago

This is an awesome post, Ayan – so much detail.
I already know a number of Kishore Kumar hardcore fans who would love reading this, top to bottom!

Alakananda Bhattacharya

I have to say, this was one of the closest to my heart articles I’ve read in a while! Not only do I admire your style of writing and the way you included facts in a fun way, but the passion with which you wrote the article, truly touches all the right chords! Great stuff, Ayan…keep up the good work! Looking forward to read more of your stuff 🙂

DEV
DEV
2 years ago

Awesome piece of writing. Revived my childhood memories when I used to listen to these songs. And yes, what an iconic and versatile personality. Salud!

Sud
Sud
2 years ago

I am a Kishore fan too , but in a different way . Liked this trivia ( completely new to me ) , very well written . Keep it coming .

Ritu
Ritu
2 years ago

I am tone deaf. Your writing is so soulful, feel compelled to listen to Kishore songs, with maybe some wine! You are bad for calories!!!

Chandan
Chandan
2 years ago

Jal gaye jo dhoop mein toh saaya ho gaye, aasman ka koi kona so gaye… very nice collection

Chandan
Chandan
2 years ago

Neend se yun phir n the Sanjeev Kumar song, it seems has been penned by a migrant labourer

Jaishree
Jaishree
2 years ago

His songs are immortal, one can sense the feeling in his voice simply genius!

I am a die hard fan of kishore da

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