Many forgotten songs by Kishore Kumar deserve the same treatment as his Dev Anand/Rajesh Khanna/Amitabh Bachchan classics.
Think Kishore Kumar, and the inbuilt sound system in your head comes to life. For some, it plays his high-energy numbers; for others, it’s romance, or even his heartbreakingly brilliant ‘serious’ numbers.
And it’s not just a phenomenon restricted to pre-millennial generations: Kishore is one of those artists, alongside his long-time cohort R.D. Burman, who has transitioned well into the 21st century. Variety, artistry, youthfulness — you name it, and the epithet connects.
He would’ve been 89 today, but so blessed was his voice that at least this writer wouldn’t have been surprised if he was still yodeling in the background for one of today’s young stars. Heck, he still does, through his remixed/recreated songs.
And yet, despite having legions of fans across generations, several of his songs have been consigned to the scrapheap of history.
Songs that deserve the same treatment as his Dev Anand/Rajesh Khanna/Amitabh Bachchan classics; songs that are every bit as hilarious as his Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi gems, as melancholy as Koi humdum na raha or Koi hota jisko apna, but forgotten.
So, in tribute to the genius, ThePrint picks some of his gems to (re)introduce to the modern Kishore fan.
Khali peeli kaahe ko akkha din baith ke (Film: Tamasha, 1952)
A wafer-thin Kishore Kumar is bullying a sleeping Dev Anand in playful Bombaiyya Hindi. The composition soon transitions into a marching song, then a folksy complaint, and then a ‘cat maane billi’ rap. The hilarious song saw Kishore beginning to show his range as an actor-singer par excellence.
Ek roz humari bhi daal galegi (Film: Bandi, 1957)
Trust us, go ahead and give this song two listens. On the first, watch Kishore’s pitch-perfect comic antics and the lyrics that embellish them. On the second, observe how complicated this song is to sing.
That’s the magic of Kishore — that someone formally untrained in singing could be so nuanced. And, so complete.
Munna bada pyara, ammi ka dulara (Film: Musafir, 1957)
The song is the epitome of playful Kishore, singing here for his sister-in-law (Nirupa Roy).
Salil Chowdhury’s music sounds simple enough but is far from it, but Kishore is equal to the task. The duo made magic with Half Ticket (Aake seedhi lagi and Cheel cheel chilla ke) around the same time, but this song proves that wasn’t a flash in the pan.
Main Bangali chhokra (Film: Ragini, 1958)
This is Kishore’s massive hat-tip to his Bengali roots in a fun duet with Asha Bhosle that is reminiscent of Paanch rupaiya baarah anna from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. The actress, Padmini, was also an actual ‘Madrasi’, i.e. Tamil.
Around the 3:20 mark, the line ‘Pappi tujhe pukaarti Ganguli yaaram’ is a huge in-joke. Pappi is said to have been Padmini’s nickname, and Ganguli was Kishore’s family name.
Kashti ka khamosh safar hai (Film: Girl Friend, 1960)
While Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics are undoubtedly the star of this show, Kishore’s duet with Sudha Malhotra is velvety smooth.
Khoobsurat haseena (Film: Mr X in Bombay, 1964)
When you want to romance someone in a flying car, it doesn’t get better than this. Or even in a car on the Indian roads, for that matter. This duet with Lata Mangeshkar finds Kishore at his romantic best.
This song was blatantly ripped off by Anu Malik for Baazigar (1993) as Aye mere humsafar.
Baid ke palle pade (Film: Rahgir,1969)
This Gulzar-penned gem is Kishore and composer-singer Hemant Kumar’s take on Om Jai Jagdish Hare. Observe the quick changes in note and rhythm, and Kishore’s effortlessness in dealing with them.
Panthi hoon main us path ka (Film: Door Ka Rahi, 1971)
Often typecast as a comic actor and singer, some of Kishore’s best works are in Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein and Door Ka Rahi, the melancholy masterpieces that he directed and acted in, and composed the music for.
Panthi hoon main us path ka, along with Beqarar dil tu gaaye ja, is the Everest of these efforts. A most haunting melody, based on Rabindra Sangeet, this song is everything you could ask for in a ‘sad’ song.
Jaane aaj kya hua, aisa kabhi hua na tha (Film: 36 Ghante, 1974)
Kishore was at his peak in the 1970s, and found patronage under every music director. It’s therefore a surprise when a song pops up that you’ve never heard.
Set to music by R.D. Burman’s assistant Sapan Chakraborty, Kishore is positively bardic in this background song.
Aapke anurodh pe (Film: Anurodh, 1977)
A slight cheat here since this song is not particularly ‘unknown’. But given how brilliant the Laxmikant-Pyarelal composition is, and how beautifully Kishore has rendered it, it doesn’t get half the love it deserves.
In terms of sheer artistry, this has to be in any list of top Kishore songs, even if it is an obscure songs’ list.
Kabhi kabhi sapna lagta hai (Film: Ratnadeep, 1979)
A film by Basu Chatterjee, set to music by R.D. Burman, with lyrics by Gulzar and vocals by Kishore and Asha Bhonsle, and yet this song is one of those rare classics that anyone hardly seems to know.
Band mutthi lakh ki (Film: Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi, 1982)
While not as rare as some of the others, this has nonetheless not achieved the fame it should, considering this is the only occasion Kishore, Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey sang a song together. The film itself was directed by Kishore.