New Delhi: There was a time in our country when we used to script’ films. No Bimal Roy , Raj Kapoor or Guru Dutt films were made on instincts. Their movies were flagrant with presence of a meticulously drawn script.
However, late sixties onwards you didn’t require clairvoyant faculties to decipher that script was no longer the USP. Suddenly the lead actor was treated as the lynchpin - inversely proportional to the associated risk. Some would resort to market a music director and thus pre sell his movie at a premium.
These kind of things happen the world over except that here in India and specially in the seventies, so swayed were they by his gait and charm, not to mention his alluring voice that Kishore Kumar Ganguly upstaged everyone including the heroine and the dance director and forced many producers to include his songs as the starting point and move the script forward. Kishore was in a sense the western musical hero who took the story forward unlike the quintessential Indian movie where in spite of songs of each variety being served on a platter, they usually have little or no impact on the story. How else could one explain some the most stupendous songs from his repertoire being ornamented in obscure movies such as ‘Meri Dosti Tera Pyar’ , ‘Aaj ka yeh Ghar’ , ‘Khitij’ , ‘Ahsaas’ and so on?
Had his Gatekeeper not mistook Hrishikesh Mukherjee for that allusive ‘Bangali’, the obituary for Rajesh Khanna would have been so very different today. Needless to mention ‘Zindagi , kaisi hai yeh pehli’ , ‘Maine Tere liye hi’ and ‘Kahin Door jab din’ could well have been his !! He had also refused to sing ‘Kasme Vaade Pyaar Wafa’ from ‘Upkaar’ for reasons which were not even best known to him. Add to it the Satyajit Ray cult comedy ‘Paras Pathar’ when he simply ran on almost felonious, hearing the news that he had been offered a role and so very unlike the jouissance reminiscent in his driving off to Panvel during the shooting of Miss Marry when the Director forgot to say ‘cut’(or did he ?).
If he was a Gavaskar sticking his neck out on a square turner in ‘Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein’ ; he was also the Vijay Mallya of IPL when he made ‘Badhti ka Naam Dadhi’. If he was so bitten by the Hitchcock bug why didn’t he even attempt anything remotely similar? Was Boris Karloff‘s fascination meant only for his personal consumption? Apart from naming himself ‘Kundan Lal’ in ‘Jalsaaz’, why the world at large had remained oblivious of his immanent relationship with Saigal? Ustaad Bilayat Khan Saheb was one of his closest aide. You must be kidding!
Was he really that unpredictable? The seminal ‘Door’ Trilogy epitomises his love with nature, a facet he owes to his surroundings in Khandwa. Reminisces childhood friend Ramnik Bhai Mehta , now 85 and still going north “We were returning from school and on our way back , he would choose a beauty spot on the meadow (where the present day court is situated) near the playground and in the midst of an enchanting sunset glow, would suddenly burst into his musical phrases . An antelope used to graze around and on hearing young Kishore sing , suddenly stopped in his tracks ; waited for the song to finish and ‘jaise hi gaana finish hua – heeron bhaga’. So he was not completely unfathomable, was he ? Almost all the films he created were a tertiary tribute to Mother Nature. ‘Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi’ was an intentional exception. Less of Nature but no less his nature. Both ‘Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein’ and ‘Badhti Ka Naam Daadhi’ didn’t require him to act. Both were naturally Kishore .
So what exactly was Kishore Kumar? His formula was simple. He gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night. In between occupies himself as best as he can in a manner not meant to be comprehended or analysed. Trying to decode him is futile and inscrutable. Just like this article. For the statistically minded his ratio of hits to the number of total songs composed is ranked highest in the industry. And just like him, have we shot a tangent totally out of sync with our last sentence!
He was India’s first truly comic hero though his other talents did not allow him to concentrate on any one attribute for long. He upgraded the comedian from a mere side kick in the movies to a major star and had the potential to convert Bollywood comedy into a Hollywood style comedy had his reluctance not come in the way. Jerry Pinto in his Biography of Helen admits that Kishore was the only one who could relegate her to the sidelines. Throughout the song Hip Hip Hip Hip Hurrah from Jalsaaz, he plucks the dagli of a Parsi , grabs a piggyback rides on an innocent bystander, pretends blindness, squeaks and whirls, thoroughly totally upstaging Helen. His perfunctory skills especially with regards to his comic timings and dancing sashays had already created a stir in every heart, the crevice has just grown bigger and the thirst refuses to die . He has more than made up for his lack of reputation as an Action hero (again in sync with his nature –one more predictable aspect !! ) by being an ‘Auction Hero’ what with one of his unreleased songs recently auctioned at Rs 1.56 Million , a price exceeding all his collections of VHSs put together. He has the most number of hits in Youtube by an Indian and his songs remain one of the most downloaded ones anywhere in this planet. In some ways it was a tragedy that he could act and even more tragic that he could sing. The typical MD could not utilize him to his full bloom in the fifties and the reverse started to happen in the seventies.
Oldies used to love him then, it is increased a little now. Youngsters saw him as God’s gift to mankind then, now they see him as mankind’s gift to God. Cassettes had replaced Vinyl and in turn CD’s/ DVD have started occupying the shelf once considered the domain of Cassettes. What has remained unchanged is his magic, his craze. Additionally he now has a new brand of acquaintances – his business partners whom he had neither met or talked in his life and given his nature, one doubts if he would ever have; selling his unreleased songs and movies at ludicrous and exorbitant price and ‘promises’ songs of ‘Suhana Geet’; ‘Pyaar Ajnabi Hai’; ‘Band Master Chik Chik’ at an even higher ones ! As he sits up there and watches the tamasha unfold ; he must be saying.
‘Main kehta tha na ...Duniya kehti Mujhko Pagal ; main kehta duniya pagal’. Don’t cry because Kishore is over. Smile because he happened. And had he not happened, he would surely have been invented. He is currently on the verge of obliterating the term ‘Generation Gap’ in almost every Indian’s dictionary. And for all of us almost every day is August 4, almost everyday waiting for a new Kishore to emerge. Its his personality that today’s India needs most. The talent would be a bonus.