Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Old Song, New Thoughts: Kishore Kumar Lives On

Tomorrow, August 4, if you happen to sit in front of television for a while, you are likely to see a familiar face. That of Kishore Kumar. Tomorrow is his birthday: had he been alive, he would have been 82, perhaps leading a retired life and giving the occasional stage performance. But can you imagine a doddering Kishore Kumar climbing on to the stage with the help of a walking stick -- that would have gone against his very name and also nature. Even when he died at the age of 58, in 1987, he was still dancing on the stage in spite of having suffered two cardiac arrests. It isn't, therefore, surprising, that he didn't live long; entertainers like him don't.

There are two Kishore Kumars I know. One belonged to the black and white era, the actor who also sang his own songs. I wouldn't really waste my time collecting those songs. Though there might be exceptions, such as O.P. Nayyar's Piya, piya, piya... or Ravi's Nakhrewaali...

The other Kishore, the one I worship, arrived on the scene riding the metaphorical Sholay-type of bike (denoting friendship and partnership) with Rajesh Khanna. A bike song (Zindagi ek safar hai suhana) and a jeep song (Mere sapnon ki raani) for Rajesh Khanna marked the reinvention of Kishore Kumar as the country's most sought-after playback singer. And Kishore Kumar lived up to his status: he made it appear as if it was the actor, be it Dev Anand or Randhir Kapoor, who was really singing the song and not him. The best example is Muqaddar ka Sikander: can you ever tell whether O saathi re was sung by Kishore or Amitabh Bachchan? Bloody hell, he sounded convincing even in the throat of Amol Palekar! -- Aane wala pal, jaane wala hai.

But which song, according to you, is Kishore Kumar's best? The best?

Readers are welcome to send in their choices, even though it's an unfair question: it's like asking a 70-year-old man to pin down the best meal he has ever had in his life. But since Kishore Kumar is one of the guiding forces of Ganga Mail, and since tomorrow happens to be his birthday, I have decided to search for an answer to mark the occasion; and I think I have found an answer, after three drinks and spending two hours surfing You Tube.

The most wholesome song that Kishore Kumar has ever sung, according to me, is Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi (from Aa Gale Lag Jaa). When I say wholesome, I mean a song that gives your soul all-round nourishment -- good lyrics set to a catchy tune and a great voice that does justice to the tune as well as the poetry. In short, a situation when you are unable to decide who should get the real credit for the song -- the lyricist, the composer, or the singer? This song is one such song.

The movie got released sometime in the early 1970's, but the words written by Sahir Ludhianvi, the most sensitive lyricist Hindi cinema ever had, still hold so true. Every so often, irrespective of how old you are or whether you are married or have married several times, you come across an engaging person from the opposite sex who makes you silently remember the lines, "Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi, yun hi nahin dil lubhata koi (I'm sure we had a connection in the previous birth, or else why should you fascinate me so much!). The works of a great lyricist or writer, even if he himself dies an early death, transcends time.

Now, Sahir could have written this song for Shankar-Jaikishen, who in turn could have got Mukesh to sing it. What a disaster the song would have been! If the song still happens to be entrenched in public psyche today, it is mainly because of the racy tune that R.D. Burman imparted to Sahir's lyrics. And once thought-provoking lyrics are set to a catchy tune, what can be a better voice than Kishore Kumar's to carry the message to the masses? Kishore Kumar, the untrained singer, but possessing the voice of the serenader living next-door. He never sang at you, but sang to you; you had no choice but to listen to him, and in the process appreciate the music as well as the lyrics.

It is, therefore, not surprising at all that Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata is recognised, even today, as a Kishore Kumar song. Very few will associate the song with Sahir Ludhianvi or R.D. Burman. Such was the power of the man's voice. Thanks to the song, Kishore Kumar continues to come to the rescue of those men and women who like each other but who can't figure why.

The song comes thrice in the film, under different circumstances -- each time a delight to listen to! Listen to this and this. My favourite lines from the song -- that's also a message from Ganga Mail to its readers:

Dekho abhi khona nahin
kabhi juda hona nahin
ab ke yuhin mile rahenge donon
waada rahaa yeh iss shaam ka
jaane tu ya jaane na
maane tu ya maane na...


Anonymous said...

This is my all time favourite.

Jai said...

I can listen to this all day! :)

Ardra said...

a tough call BG. Different songs for different moods, at different times...and so I happily desist from naming a favourite.

Anonymous said...

:)) I like that the birthday coincides with our discussions on expressions in the songs...

Am sure we all have our favourites...but ur passion for Kishore Kumar is so so obvious... and I like it :))


Soumya said...

Difficult to name one favourite...the noisy ones like 'Eena, meena, deeka,...' really pep up the spirits!

Anonymous said...

This is something-

Sepiamniac said...

my fav of KK: Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thi, Khamoshi

Despite being a Rafi fan, I think only he could have sung this song!

And, remember this song happened, before Aradhana.

SV said...

I can listen to Rim Jhim Gire Sawan any number of times in a day!

Madhurima said...

Difficult to name one, currently "Tum ho mere dil ki dhadkan".

Sudeep said...

Dear BG,
Some Kishore songs from the “black and white era, the actor who also sang his own songs” are actually very nice, and I do “waste my time collecting those songs”.

True, we did not have R D Burman in those days, but we did have Hemant Kumar.

Listen to this one – Romance as it should be – elegant and understated. Don’t miss the lyrics, and don’t miss the ending.

Kashti ka khamosh safar

P.S: It was sad that I could not put in a comment in your last blog entry. The unfortunate choice of the title was hurting.

Anonymous said...

You really hit the nail when you said he sings for actors like the actors themselves were singing...SO TRUE! And the examples you gave were so apt.

I know when you think of Kishore, the peppy songs come to mind first...but the songs that are clost to my heart are the sad ones sung by him. Like "Wo shaam kuch ajeeb thi" "Zindagi ka safar" "Chingari koi bhadke" "Chukar mere man ko"

Paresh Palicha said...

BG, we are really spoilt with choices here as there are hardly any song with KK as a singer that can be termed bad or even substandard. And, the funny thing is that we feel that this is my favorite while we are listening to any of his songs.

Still, because you ask I've got 3 in the list that I'd keep on the loop if I'm marooned on an island (cliche :P). Coincidentally, 2 of them has underdog Shashi Kapoor & 1 Big B:

One is Khilte hain gul yahan from Sharmilee:

Second is Ek Rasta hai Zindagi from Kaala Patthar:

And, third is Manzilein Apni jagha hain from Sharabi:

Desi Babu said...

Ghosh-babu, awesome post again! I haven't seen anyone write as passionately about Kishore-da, as you do. For those of us, who are always torn between Rafi-sahab and Kishore-da, you always help tip the scales.

My favorite, as you might have guessed, has something to do with the rains, smoke and fire. In the month of saawan, of course!

Rim Jhim Gire Saawan, Sulag Sulag Jaaye Man..

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness rim jhim is the best one ever, and once again desi babu takes a shot at my heart. I think I love you desi babu.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite..
Kabhi palkon pe anshu hain.. kabhi lab pe sikayat hai.. magar ye zindegi phir bhi mujhe tujhse mohabbat hai....
Grt lyrics and mesmerizing voice..

Sunil J said...

Kishore Kumar is my favorite singer and "Tera Mujhse Hai Pahle Ka Nata Koi" is one of my all time favorites, you missed this version
but there are other songs by him I love based on my mood. Koi Hota Jisko Apna, Gungaroo Ki Tarah etc are some of the few that I listen constantly...

Scorpio said...

My Favorites : Not in that order..
1. Mere dil main aaj kya hai
2.O mere, dil ke chain
3.yeh shaam masatani
4.pal pal dil ke paas
5.rim jhim gire saawan
6.meri bheegi bheei si
7. Dil kya kare jab kisi se
8.Chingari koi bhadake
9.Aane waala pal
10.Ek ajnabi haseena se

Anonymous said...

the lyrics of this song is very powerful. it is only sahir who can do it. perhaps he was pouring his heart in to his poems. one can feel "dard" in his poems - filmi or non-filmi. a poem like "kabhi kabhie mere dil mein khayal aata hai" was so strong that a complete movie was made due to it, out of it.

no doubt, it is kishore kumar who put it to all of us and we knew it because of kishore kumar. kishore kumar was a playback singer but got fame due to his voice. sahir had other means of getting his fame. but all in all, do not you think that it was a deadly combination, kishore kumar, r d burman and sahir ludhiyanvi.