Sunday, June 06, 2010

Kishore Kumar in the early 50s

Last night, I was desultorily perusing some articles from my father’s collection of clippings from Filmfare and Illustrated weekly and it suddenly stuck me – we all know the Kishore Kumar who sang – and sang such that he displaced Rafi and remained numero uno for 17 years till his death – for Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and a whole host of actors in the post 1969 Aradhana phase, but perhaps his gems in the early fifties aren’t as popular today, a today where every song seems as transient as a firefly in a summer evening.

That set a chain of thought and research and I thought it would perhaps be an interesting exercise to identify some of the gems from the period when Kishore wasn’t considered the singing equivalent of a Rafi or a Mukesh or even a Hemant (well, Salil was at the point of summoning Hemant to sing on Kishore for his Naukri). It would also be an interesting exercise to understand how and why the great music directors of that age, Naushad, Madan Mohan and the rest to ignore the fresh, fun, fabulous and fantastic Kishore so totally. Naushad for example never recorded a song with Kishore in the fifties when he was arguably at his peak, I don’t think he ever found himself in the same recording studio as Kishore (reader pl leave a comment!). OP and SJ for all the transformation they brought to the Hindi Film music scene utilized Kishore only for the movies where he was the actor and even in such cases, used Rafi to sing for an on screen Kishore for various reasons (SJ in Sharat, OP in Ragini). Perhaps only Dada Burman recognized the depth and vitality in Kishore’s voice and used him quite magnificently as the voice for Dev Anand through the fifties in a string of classics – Jeevan Ke safar mein rahi (Munimji), oonche sur mein gaye ja (house no 44), ae meri topi palat ke aa (Funtoosh) and even for non Dev Anand starrers like Bahar (Kasoor Aapka on Karan Dewan). While OP and SJ found Kishore eminently suited for singing for his own maverick style of acting, it required a personal request from Ashok Kumar for Salil to deign to give a musically untrained Kishore a hearing. So could I pick my favorites of Kishore (only solos pl) from the time when he was known more as the reigning comic star rather than the most loved singing voice in the country? For ease, I have considered movies released before 1957 and thus movies like Asha, Musafir Shararat, Awaz (with the Salil classic – Araram Tararam duniya ke kaise) and Chalti Ka Naam Gadi get eliminated

1. Marne ki duaen kya mangoon (Ziddi, Khemchand Prakash), his first and therefore needs to be on the list. The Saigal influence is obvious in this song and Khemchand Prakash needs to be congratulated on identifying this voice and the genius behind it. Thanks to youtube, we can even hear it here:

2. Arji Hamari Ye Marji Hamari (Naukri, Salil Choudhury), Naukri is one of the forgotten classics. Kishore was superb as the singing star giving a glimpse of what is in store – with the amazing voice & modulations and his onscreen persona opposite a cute looking Sheila Ramani. Hear it hear to understand why I rate it so highly

3. Ek Chhoti se naukri ka (Naukri, Salil Choudhury), minimalistic music, maximum results. Hearing this one wonders why Salilda was once accused by Pandit Ravi Shanker to make the tune more complex than what it should be. I do stand corrected that technically this is a duet but at least this isn’t a duet with a female singer and thus perhaps can make its way in this list! One can see the classic here:

4. Chhota sa ghar hoga (Naukri, Salil Choudhury). I just cant help but get this song in the list. The song for which an incensed Salil initially refused to give the unemployed hero a singing break and instead was about to summon Hemant Kumar to render this classic. Would Hemant been able to sing the aaa, aae re part the way Kishore so evocatively did? Well, it is only left to imagination as one hears the classic here:

5. Kunven mein kuud ke (Parivar, Salil Choudhury). Another Salil number. When I began my research on the early fifties numbers, I was quite prepared to find a clutch of SD classics and perhaps a couple of others, it is quite incredible to note the number of Salil classics I unearthed in the early/middle fifties. Hear this and let me know if this shouldn’t be one of Kishore’s comic leitmotifs -

6. Nakherwali (New Delhi, Shanker Jaikishen), a song I heard in school and was immediately humming it. I still remember one of my classmates and I were studying for our Class Ten exams late in the evening in Calcutta with Vividh Bharati playing at a very low volume as a background to our concentration when this song came along. Wordlessly my friend looked at me and then turned to the radio to turn the volume higher and a for a few seconds we forgot the exams on the morrow and instead enjoyed a perennial classic. This song just makes one wonder why SJ were so frugal in employing Kishore when they were at their fifties zenith. Hear it hear and wonder whether Kishore and SJ should have been made for each other -

7. Are Bhai Nikal ke aa ghar se (New Delhi, Shanker Jaikishen). From the same New Delhi comes the other Kishore classic, hear it here and wonder SJ did justice to the talent they had at their path breaking disposal New Delhi had other classics including the third Kishore number (Milte hi nazar aap) and most notably the Lata number – tum sang preet lagayi which had the SJ imprimatur written all over it, while the Kishore numbers didn’t really sound like the SJ of the fifties, did it? SJ’s reluctance to employ Kishore was probably best exemplified in Shararat (1958) where Kishore lip synced a Rafi classic – Ajab hai dastan teri yey zindagi. Arresting stuff when put over in the voice of Rafi but perhaps leaves a little bit to be desired in the Kishore voice, doesn’t it?

8. Aisi Shaadi Se Hum (Baap Re Baap, O P Nayyar). Simply impossible for anyone but Kishore to sing. This song has snatches of several songs which became hits later on (the yodeling in this song bears marked resemblance to the Main hoon Jhumroo number and on can hear snatches of deem nei tobu naam taar dingo from the Bangali Lokuchuri). Hear it here and let me know if you know a more funny song

9. Jeevan Ke safar mein rahi (Munimji, S D Burman). A classic that has stood the test of time. A debonair Dev and a coquettish Nalinin Jaywant made for lovely watching. Not just this Kishore-Lata tandem (well tandems are allowed in this list, duets aren’t), all the songs were superb and we saw SD Burman alternate Hemant and Kishore on Dev – something he did quite consistently – alternating Hemant, Rafi and Kishore on Dev & with remarkably few exceptions till Gambler. Hear it hear and lets again understand why it stood the test of time:

10. Oonche Sur Mein Gaye Ja (House no 44, S D Burman). This movie was a musical jewel and perhaps the younger readers and enthusiasts would more likely remember the Hemant classics on Dev Anand (Chup Hai Dharti, Teri Duniya mein jeense se) or even the Lata number picturised on a resplendent Kalpana Kartik (Phailie hui sapnon ki baahen) but the pick for me was the Kishore number. Hear it for yourself and let me know if Kishore’s exhilarating pace was meant for the naughty Dev.

11.12, 13 I am sorely tempted to make this a best 13 and not a best 10 as there is no way I can miss the three Funtoosh classics (Ae meri topi palat ke aa, Denewala Jab Bhi deta and Dukhi man mere). Just see them here and let me know if Dev and Kishore weren’t but made for each other!

14. Chhahe koi kush ho (Taxi Driver, S D Burman) I was about to end this at Funtoosh when I realized I haven’t done full justice to Kishore- SD-Dev combination – how can I leave out Taxi Driver – a movie where Dada Burman made Kishore compete for the vocal superiority with Talat Mahmood on a playful Dev? A Taxi Driver which won SD his first Filmfare award for the Talat classic – Jayen to Jayen kahan. Hear Mastram here and become one – the joi de vivre is perennial isn’t it? and let me know if SD’s constant mix and match of Talat, Hemant, Rafi and Kishore on a debonair Dev was good value.

I do realize I have missed some classics from Ladki (1953) and the Karan Dewan enacted Bahar (1951) and I haven’t included the songs sung for Raj Kapoor in Pyar but this small list should be enough for everyone to look at the pre-’56 Kishore afresh – a time when he was a singing, comic star and not the voice of the superstars of the seventies. I think younger readers and Kishore fans would be delighted to peruse the early Kishore – a Kishore before he became almost synonymous with Pancham.

Well, those are my fourteen - a fourteen that showcases a Kishore when he was starting out, a Kishore before he became the best known male singer in the country and a Kishore when he had to ask music directors to give him a chance to take him seriously as a singer...

Why did it take him 2 decades to reach the pinnacle? Even die-hard Rafi fans like me wonder - did the great music directors of the fifties err by not using Kishore enough? What magic could a Shanker Jaikishen have achieved if they had lavished their magic on Kishore less sparingly than they actually did? Points to ponder...

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