Article Hindi

Kishore Kumar in his own voice: Death anniversary special

On the thirtieth anniversary of the day the versatile artiste passed away, we look at some of the songs Kishore Kumar sang for himself in films like Aasha (1957) and Padosan (1968).

Sonal Pandya

As playback singer, Kishore Kumar was known as the voice of Dev Anand and, later, as the voice of Rajesh Khanna. He also sang for all the top heroes of the 1970s and 1980s from Amitabh Bachchan to Anil Kapoor. But before he became a full-time playback singer, Kishore Kumar also acted in nearly 95 films, occasionally singing for himself in them. Here are some of his best known and not-so-well-known songs that are worth revisiting even today.

1. ‘Tikadambaazi Miya Razi Biwi Razi Kya Karega Qazi’ — Adhikar (1954)

Kishore Kumar began singing with Ziddi (1948) and started acting as a leading man, like elder brother Ashok Kumar, with Andolan (1951). Here, in Mohan Sehgal’s Adhikar, he acted opposite Usha Kiran and showed off his range early on. In this song composed by Avinash Vyas and written by Nilkanth Tiwari, Kishore Kumar does it all — sings the song (whose title is a mouthful), adds lines in different languages, yodels, imitates and even throws in a dance step or two. His character Shekhar is requested at a party to sing for the group and it’s hard not to imagine Kishore Kumar’s real personality shining through as Shekhar.

2. ‘Dil Dil Se Milake Dekho’ — Mem Sahib (1956)

This romantic ditty features Kishore Kumar in an unlikely pairing with Meena Kumari. He played Sundar, a young man who has grown up in an ashram and is engaged to marry the very modern Meena (Meena Kumari). However, he has to fight for her affections with dashing beau Manohar (played by a lean-looking Shammi Kapoor). In ‘Dil Dil Se Milake Dekho’, composed by Madan Mohan and written by Rajinder Krishan, Kishore Kumar romances a smiling Meena Kumari (a rarity!) in a garden. This tune is said to be similar to the popular song, ‘Isle of Capri’.

3. ‘Nakhrewali' — New Delhi (1956)

In New Delhi, Kishore Kumar played Anand, a Punjabi who comes to the city looking for a place to stay and work. He pretends to be a Tamil and stays with a Tamilian family. Later, he meets the accomplished Janki (Vyjayanthimala) and woos her. ‘Nakhrewali’ is one example of their romance. A Shankar-Jaikishan composition, written by Shailendra, the song finds Vyjayanthimala as a statue for the first half, until she comes alive and then Kishore Kumar’s Anand is speechless for the rest of the song. He also brings in his famous yodelling for the initial portion of the song.

4. ‘Mere Neendon Mein Tum’ — Naya Andaz (1956)

In another feature opposite Meena Kumari, Kishore Kumar delivered a more sober performance as the aspiring poet Chand. For the romantic ‘Mere Neendon Mein Tum’, sung as a duet with Shamshad Begum, Kishore Kumar sits down at a piano to croon the number for his lady love Mala (Meena Kumari). In Naya Andaz, Kishore Kumar was the atypical leading man. This lovely number was written by Jan Nisar Akhtar and composed by OP Nayyar.

5. ‘Eena Meena Deeka’ — Aasha (1957)

The crazy, high-energy song ‘Eena Meena Deeka’ by C Ramchandra featured Kishore Kumar in full form. Also playing a character named Kishore, the actor-singer portrayed a good-hearted man who is falsely accused of murder. But in this song, he forgets his troubles as he shakes a leg with Minoo Mumtaz (with several costume changes) in a performance on stage. Vyjayanthimala as Nirmala is his eager audience sitting in the balcony. This rock-n-roll hit had two versions, the second song sung by Asha Bhosle. But it’s the Kishore Kumar classic that always comes to mind when you say 'Eena Meena Deeka'.

6. ‘Munna Bada Pyara’ — Musafir (1957)

This evergreen lullaby, written by Shailendra and composed by Salil Chowdhury, was sung by Kishore Kumar for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s directorial debut and brought comfort to many generations. Musafir told the story of three different families who reside in one house. Kishore Kumar played Bhanu, who takes up the responsibility of his widowed pregnant sister-in-law. He endearingly sings the lullaby to cheer her up. It was the only song he sang on the soundtrack for the National award-winning film.

7. ‘C-A-T Cat, Cat Maane Billi’ — Dilli Ka Thug (1958)

Kishore Kumar, in a fun duet with Asha Bhosle, charmed a winsome Nutan in SD Narang’s Dilli Ka Thug. The song was penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri and composed by Ravi. Kishore Kumar also sang the memorable ‘Yeh Raaten Yeh Mausam’ and ‘Hum To Mohabbat Karega’ in this film, but it is his inspired turn as a reporter who turns up to interview Nutan’s Asha that comes to mind when one thinks of the actor in Dilli Ka Thug. His light-hearted antics did not match the rest of the movie’s overall murder mystery, but the chemistry of the leading pair carries the film forward.

8. ‘Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si’ — Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

Kishore Kumar married his Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi co-star Madhubala in 1960 and this classic song is instantly remembered when their names come up together. Both Kishore Kumar and Madhubala flirtatiously skirt around each other as they are thrown together one rainy night. The hit comedic drama featured all three brothers — Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and younger brother Anoop Kumar. Kishore Kumar sang most of the songs on this soundtrack composed by the great SD Burman. ‘Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si’ was written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and reportedly inspired by the Merle Travis song ‘Sixteen Tons’.

9. ‘Mai Bangali Chokra’ — Raagini (1958)

Raagini, starring brothers Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar, also had the actor-singer in a culturally mixed relationship, this time with the actress Padmini. Kishore Kumar portrayed a Bengali in typical attire who confesses of his love to a ‘Madrasi’ chokri (girl) played by the Southern star. The two showed off their strengths in the song penned by Qamar Jalalabadi. Kishore Kumar sang his heart out and peppered the lyrics with typical Bengali phrases while Padmini displayed her dancing skills. Interestingly, Kishore Kumar only sang four songs on this OP Nayyar-composed soundtrack. He played a classical singer in the film and even had Mohammed Rafi sing ‘Mann Mora Baanvra’ for him.

10. ‘Cheel Cheel Chilla Ke’ — Half Ticket (1962)

Kishore Kumar’s Vijay tries to pass himself off as a child to avail of the lesser-priced half-ticket in this film directed by Kalidas. In ‘Cheel Cheel Chilla Ke’, written by Shailendra and composed by Salil Chowdhury, he taps into his inner comedian to regale the rest of the passengers in the train compartment who are travelling with him. Kishore Kumar pulled off his ‘childish’ act with élan, interacting with the other children with ease. The luminous Madhubala was also in the film as Rajnidevi, a woman Vijay meets on the train and falls in love with.

11. ‘Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi’ — Mr X In Bombay (1964)

Before Anil Kapoor famously became Mr India in 1987, Kishore Kumar was the invisible man in Mr X In Bombay. In one of the early Hindi films with a sci-fi subject, Kishore Kumar played a poet Sudarshan who falls in love with Shobha (Kum Kum) whose father is a scientist being blackmailed by Rajan (Madan Puri). In this mournful number written by Anand Bakshi, Sudarshan is sick at heart and pining away for Shobha. Composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the song was typical of the romantic numbers Kishore Kumar would go on to sing for heroes like Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna, but here, in fact, it was picturized on him as he walked around Bombay's landmark Gateway of India.

12. ‘Pyar Bantte Chalo’ — Hum Sab Ustad Hain (1965)

Kishore Kumar returned to the train compartment, this time with a message of love and harmony, in ‘Pyar Bantte Chalo’ from Hum Sab Ustad Hain (1965). The heart-warming lyrics were written by Asad Bhopali while the song was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The actor-singer was again named Kishore in the film and takes on the task of hunting down missing persons — the wife and son of a dangerous criminal Romi (Sheikh Mukhtar). Dara Singh had a role in the film as Romi's long-lost son Ram who becomes, naturally, a wrestler.

13. ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ — Padosan (1968)

The most epic song battle in Hindi cinema (on screen and off) has to be ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ from the laugh-riot Padosan. Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar gave exceptional performances on the song written by Rajinder Krishan (who also wrote the screenplay of the film) and composed by RD Burman. Kishore Kumar, who never had any formal training in singing, based his character Vidyapati on his uncle, Dhananjay Banerjee, who was a classical singer. Manna Dey, who was classically trained, sang for Mehmood. In the film, however, Vidyapati ‘lends’ his voice to Bhola (Sunil Dutt) who is trying to impress his pretty neighbour Bindu (Saira Banu).