On an early Sunday morning, a soothing voice wakes me from my sleep. Circa 1992; the program is Rangoli on Doordarshan, the song is Meet Na Mila Re Man ka from Abhimaan and the voice is inimitable. This was my introduction to Kishore Kumar, also known as Abhas Kumar Ganguly. I had to grow a little older before I could appreciate the melancholy in Mukesh’s voice, the velvety texture of Talat Mehmood or the divinity of a Mohammad Rafi rendition but Kishore’s uniqueness was in reaching out across age groups. Ina Meena Deeka or Singh Noi Tobe Naam Tar Singho are catchy and hummable for a 7-year-old, and I would keep singing these songs on a loop – to the amusement (and at times irritation) of my family.
Growing up in a family that adored Hindi film music meant that the tape recorder at our home never stopped belting songs, especially from the golden era of the 1950-60s. The most it would progress was until the late 1980s. No audio cassette from the 1990s ever saw the inside of our revered tape recorder; to my parents and aunts, it was sacrilege. The songs of the contemporary times were treated with condescension and snobbery, a view that passed on to me. My appreciation of Hindi film music has, for good or bad, been restricted to the songs that came out between the 50s and 80s. Kishore Kumar being one of the prominent voices for a most of that period, remains deeply etched both in my nostalgia and my latest playlist.
For true fans, film songs are not merely pleasure to the auditory senses. They are life lessons (Aanewala Pal Jaanewala Hai), motivational speeches (Tum Besahara ho to kisika sahara bano), expressions of love (O Hansini), declaration of undying friendships (Tere jaisa yaar kahaan) , mournful ruminations (Dil Aaj Shayar hai, gham aaj nagma hai) and war cries (Aa dekhe zara). When one thinks and speaks in Langue de Cinema, lyrics seep into everyday conversations and the voice of Kishore in all its variations and depth and eccentricity becomes entwined with your life. My love for Kishore is inseparable from my love for life itself. A life, at every turn of which lies a marker with his name on it. What better song to impress your crush than Rim Jhim Gire Sawaan, which Amitabh himself uses for similar affect in Alaap? How else does one rationalise a fun night of partying with friends if not by playing Jo na piye wo kya jaane peete hain kyun hum deewaane midway through the party?
Kishore brought his unique mannerisms to every song, and it helped that he was a very capable actor in his own right. It was a blessing that Kishore never received training in the conventional rules of music. His voice was too precious to be tied down to the restrictions of notes and rules. Without formal training, he let his gifted voice soar exuberantly in the horizons of music; yodelling was just one of the many things he achieved because it. For the memories of college road trips that were never complete without Ek Raasta hai Zindagi, for the Sunday mornings of the childhood, for creating a musical connect between two generations of the family; for all this and much more, I will be forever be crazy for Kishore.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.