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When Kishore Kumar borrowed his big brother Ashok's song from Jeevan Naiya

A look at how the song 'Koi Humdum Na Raha' originally from Jeevan Naiya links the two brothers, Ashok and Kishore Kumar. Jeevan Naiya released on 2 May in 1936.

Sonal Pandya

In Kishore Kumar's debut as a music composer in Jhumroo (1961), he sang one of the best songs of his musical career with 'Koi Humdum Na Raha'. The songs of Jhumroo brought him great success but this particular song only occurred due to a favour from his elder brother, Ashok Kumar. The song wasn't new but a reworking of Ashok Kumar's rendering of it from his debut film, Jeevan Naiya (1936).

A Bombay Talkies film, Jeevan Naiya was directed by Franz Osten and produced by Himanshu Rai. Starring Rai's wife, Devika Rani, the feature about the class differences between the hero and heroine ushered in a newcomer, Ashok Kumar, who would go on to have a long and storied career. Rani and Ashok Kumar became quite the leading pair after their next film together Achhut Kanya (1936).

When Ashok Kumar saved Bombay Talkies

As was the norm at the time, all the stars did their own singing. 'Koi Humdum Na Raha' was composed by Saraswati Devi (née Khorshed Minocher-Homji), an early pioneer of female music composers in Indian cinema, and the lyrics were written by Jamuna Swarap Kashyap. Interestingly, Kishore Kumar's film Jhumroo was also about the class divide amongst two lovers. He essayed the role of Jhumroo, a gypsy residing in the foothills of Darjeeling. Kishore Kumar cast his wife Madhubala opposite him as the leading lady.

Kishore Kumar must have been around seven when he heard his brother sing the song, and when he decided to take up music direction for Jhumroo, he asked Ashok Kumar whether he could recreate it for his home production. With the help of lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kishore Kumar used the opening lines of 'Koi Humdum Na Raha' in his version of the song. Ashok Kumar had forewarned him of the song's difficulties, composed in the raag zinzoti.

In Shashikant Kinikar's book Kishore Kumar: A Versatile Genius, Kishore Kumar's reply to the episode is recorded as such: "I like the song and I've been singing it since my childhood. Well, I don't know if it is based on raag zinzoti or anything, but I want to use some portion of it. Will you give me your approval to use it in my film or not!"

Eventually, the requisite permissions were given by Ashok Kumar with a heeding not to tar the reputation of the original. Rest assured, both the songs sung by the Kumar brothers, nearly 30 years apart, live on in the annals of Hindi music history.