This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
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USA: Oye! Times readers Get FREE $30 to spend on Amazon, Walmart… It is 25 years today on October 13 since the Hindi film industry lost its greatest all-rounder, Abhas Kumar Ganguly, known to the world as Kishore Kumar- actor, singer, composer, scriptwriter, lyricist and filmmaker. Here are 25 rare facts about the genius and his work.
1. In none of the above fields was he formally trained! He never even assisted anyone. Kishore Kumar just had a minimum experience in singing as a chorus singer under Saraswati Devi, the Parsi lady composer who worked for Bombay Talkies.
2. Kishore Kumar is said to be the only artiste who could make the audience laugh, dance and then suddenly cry – all in one stage show!
3. His inspirations as a singer were Kundanlal Saigal, the legendary Indian singing star of the '30s and '40s and Tex Morton, a pioneer of Australian Country Music and Jimmie Rodgers, an American Country singer besides others. But he never imitated any of them, even in his yodeling.
4. In sharp contrast, Kishore was imitated by a whole coterie of youngsters like Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Babul Supriyo, Shaan and even Sudesh Bhosle, though son Amit Kumar forged a different path.
5. When elder brother and actor Ashok Kumar would make him sing at parties, Kishore's'rate' would be 25 to 50 paise per Ashok Kumar-rendered melodies, 50 paise for others' songs and a full rupee (then a huge amount!) for singing his idol Saigal's numbers!
6. Kishore Kumar's 2900-plus songs came in 10 languages including English. He has sung over 2600 of them in Hindi and less than 100 tracks outside films.
7. The actor-singer was known for his mischievous traits: once, when Asha Bhosle did a fantastic spot improvisation during a recording, Kishore deliberately made a mistake so that the song had to be done all over again.
8. He would also make buddy R.D.Burman record the female version of a two-version solo (like 'Mere Naina Sawan Bhadon' from Mehbooba) first so that he could listen to it carefully and sing even better in his part.
9. And yet, he was humble enough to allow Mohammed Rafi to sing multiple songs enacted by him as an actor when Rafi suited the song better or could render it with more skill. He similarly had Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar and S.D.Batish give playback for him.
10. He was reluctant to sing 'Sacchai Chhup Nahin Sakti' for Dushmun because he felt that Rafi suited it more. As Laxmikant-Pyarelal had created the song with him in mind, Rajesh Khanna and the composers hoodwinked him into singing it, by stating that they were scrapping the song because he was not ready to sing it.
11. Singer-composer Roopkumar Rathod had attended one of Kishore Kumar's recordings and remembers vividly that the power of his voice made the walls of the studio reverberate.
12. Singer Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam recollects how Kishore would have everyone in splits with his jokes and mimicry before a stage performance, would then go and sing a sad song in a way that moved the audience to tears, and return backstage and start his pranks and hilarity again instantly.
13. His untrained gaayaki made Satyajit Ray choose him for a song in Charulata instead of the topmost names, because Ray needed a song for a common man.
14. Kishore had a habit of always complaining to the composer that the song was too difficult for him to sing. He would keep blundering in the rehearsals and would keep complaining that he could not manage the song at all. Finally, fed up, the composer would tell him to try a 'take', and once on the microphone, Kishore would sing to perfection, with every minute nuance he had complained about miraculously included.
15. Kishore was very particular about his remuneration and once went to the sets of his acting vehicle with half his face made up as the producer had only paid him half the money. But he would often sing free for close people and those who could not afford his fees and did a lot of charity.
16. Once he threw a party at Gauri Kunj, his home to celebrate son Amit Kumar winning his first-ever award. At ten sharp, Kishore told everyone that he had an early morning recording next day and he was going off to sleep, though they could keep the party going as long as we all wanted. He knew that sleep was vital for a singer's tonal quality at the microphone.
17. He once had a morning recording with R.D.Burman and a song for Rajesh Roshan's Kaamchor in the afternoon. At the last moment, in those days when mobile-phones were unheard of, he told his driver to turn back five minutes away from the studio as he wanted to be at his best for the Roshan song that he had loved.
18. Just because he was a musician and had a comic image, he decided to make the song-less and sad film, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin, and wanted Laxmikant-Pyarelal to score the background music. But because it was a Kishore Kumar film, he later decided that it would not even have background music.
19. At his first solo recording with Kalyanji-Anandji for 'Are O Re Dharti Ki Tarah Har Dukh Seh Le' from Suhaag Raat he insisted that a sadhu's outfit be acquired so that he could sing that mendicant's song with the proper spirit and soul.
20. Kishore once went all the way to London to wish Amit on his birthday, but sat in the car outside the auditorium where his son was performing with Kalyanji-Anandji, saying that if he entered inside, they would make him sing on stage and not pay him.
21. Even the bond with Dev Anand was created because he was doing a cameo in Ziddi (1948), which marked Kishore's debut as solo playback singer under Khemchand Prakash. He played a gardener who abused the hero Dev in a scene. When the camera rolled, Kishore used unprintable words instead of the abuses in the script repeatedly, because he had not wanted to do the role. For the next 20 years, Dev was the only star he sang for other than himself.
22. Kishore would often tell his (fourth) wife Leena Chandavarkar, "God has given you a free ticket as a tourist in the world. Why blame him for all the inconveniences in this journey? Be strong and remain detached. Happiness and sorrow are a part of life."
23. He seemed to have a sixth sense even of his death, which happened on his brother Ashok Kumar's birthday. On that day, he refused to allow younger son Sumit to go swimming and was very anxious that Amit's flight from Canada would land on time. When he keeled over, wife Leena at first thought that he was playing a prank.
24. His original ambition was to become a 'chhota mota' school master in Khandwa (the Ganguly's home town in Madhya Pradesh).
25. Kishore seemed to have a karmic connection with S.D.Burman. His first film in a small role, Shikari (1946) was also Dada's first film as composer. Aradhana saw him enter the most successful phase of his career – as a playback singer. He was the only male singer in Burman's last film Tyaag and also recorded the composer's last song – 'Chal Sapnon Ke Shehar Mein' in Deewangee.