Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Madness called Kishore

He never attended parties. He loved watching horror films. He played with his toy spooks. He made friends with the trees in his garden; he talked to them. And when he was free, he sang. Kishore Kumar Ganguly saw life as a foolish game, wherein rules where made to be broken. "In this avaricious world, every creative person is bound to be lonely. How can you deny me that right?" he asked. Yet, he married four times. He could not read the notations. Nor could he name more than three classical singers without prompting. Yet, he sang as if he was possessed. He complained of his filmmakers "who know nothing". But when Satyajit Ray offered him him a role in his famous comedy, 'Parash Pathar', he literally ran away."I was so scared," he said. He loved to live life in his own way. As with all other great men, it was contradictions that made Kishore Kumar.

When he arrived in Bombay, Kishore Kumar Ganguly had four idols: K.L. Saigal, Marlon Brando, Boris Karloff and Topol of 'Fiddler on the Roof' fame. His greatest wish was to meet the legendary Kundan Lal Saigal. He also wanted to be a singer.He arrived in Bombay as "the younger brother of the great Dadamoni, Asok Kumar". And soon, he found himself doing bit roles as an actor. He hated acting but was too scared to tell his elder brother. Singing was confined to the bathroom, and Kishore hit the silver screen with a new brand of comedy that bordered on insanity. He tried his best to shrug off the actor's robes. He troubled his directors to the ends of the world -- He filled his eyes with romance while on an action routine. He looked into the eyes of his ‘lover’ like a monster on the prowl. The more he tried to escape, the more he was loved. And he became the second biggest draw after Dilip Kumar. He was so busy that Mohammed Rafi was assigned to sing for him in 'Sharaarat'.

The comic roles he played in films such as ‘Half Ticket’, ‘Chalti ka Naam Gaadi’, ‘Padosan’ and ‘Jhumroo’ made him popular but he remained trapped in an image that did not project his real self. This forced him into fimmaking: In films such as ‘Door Gagan ke Chaon Mein’ (1964) and ‘Door ka Rahi’ (1971), Kishore did what he always wanted to do -- sing “sad songs and do serious roles”. Nobody was sure who the real Kishore Kumar was. Not even the man himself. He kept the world guessing. He acted, he sang, he wrote lyrics, he composed tunes, he directed films...As a singer, he began by imitating Saigal. In life, he imitated none.

The Kishore, who we remember today, is only a fragment of the phenomenon he actually was. As was his wish, Kishore is still remembered for his recorded voice than his onscreen pranks. After a long wait of almost three decades, Kishore struck gold as a singer. Rejected by almost all major music directors in the dawn of his career, Kishore found his mentor in S. D. Burman and a lifelong friend in R. D. Burman. He had no guru who could teach him the nuances of music. But when he sang, his voice transformed the song into an emotional entity. Arguably, Kishore was the only Indian playback singer, who acted out his songs. His renditions were earthy, if not ethereal. Constantly bullied by the music critics of his age, Kishore was looked upon as a symbol of irreverence that was considered the hallmark of Hindi movies of the Seventies. But he outlived the critics, and goes on yodelling in the hearts of thousands of admirers the world over.

Kishore Kumar constantly complained about the world he found himself in. “In this crazy world, only the truly sane man appears to be mad,” he said, a few days before his death. He used to keep a skull in the bedroom, with red light emerging from its eyes, just to keep himself posted on “the futility of life”. He braved the emotional disasters in his life with the mind of a clown. The sadness, he invested in his songs. The world called Kishore Kumar “crazy”. He sang innumerable songs that carried his answer to the world. “Rote hue aate hain sab, hansta hua jo jaayega, woh muqaddar ka sikander kehlayega...!"