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Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 2)

August 9, 2022 | By

‘I have often wondered, who do I like more – an occasional Abhas under the patronage of Sachin Dev Burman or a prolific Kishore of the seventies in sync with Rahul?’ Vijay Kumar explores the phenomenon that was Kishore Kumar in a two part essay. Silhouette presents the second part of the tribute to the legend.

Continued from Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 1)

The Lone Voyager or the Eternal Meanderer

 If there is one poem that responds to Kishore the loner, it has to be that existential fait accompli or askance from the film Door Ka Rahi – Panthi hoon main us path ka, ant nahin jiska. It is the description of one who is journeying within, journeying deep and despairing as to the eventual futility of the existence itself.

 Panthi hoon main us path ka….
(Door Ka Rahi, 1971) Kishore Kumar / Irshad

panthi hoon main us path ka

Panthi hoon main us path ka

The poem merits a full recapture here:

Panthi hoon main us path ka
ant nahin jisaka
Aas meri hai jiski disha
aadhaar mere mann ka

Sangi saathi mere
andhiyaare ujiyaare
Mujhko raah dikhaayen
pal chhin ke phulajhaare
Pathik mere path ke sab taare
aur neela aakaash

Is path par dekhe kitane
sukh dukh ke mele
Phool chune kabhi khushiyon ke
kabhi kaanton se khele
Jaane kab tak chalana hai
mujhe is jeevan ke saath

I am tempted to give, for a wider appreciation, an approximate English rendering of this poem, such is its impact.

Adrift on an endless inner alley
Buoyed by my own hope
Sustained by my fortitude
My own lows and highs
Keep me company

Fleeting joys lilting my surge ahead
The stars in azure
Being my fellow travelers
Adrift on an endless inner alley….

Miseries and bliss visited me
In tandem on the way
Soaked in moments sublime now
But soon sunk in a bottomless angst
How long do I have
To survive this sentience?

Hum hain rahi pyar ke, humse kuchh na boliye
jo bhi pyar se mila, hum usike ho liye

(Nau Do Gyarah, 1957) SD Burman / Majrooh Sultanpuri

Was this the quintessential Kishore  – Kishore the loner, all on his own?  But the life is not all that unendurable.  Kishore, as he evolved, must have realized that the meaning in this life lies in becoming an inalienable part of the macro, to an unopposed connectedness to the world without – jo bhi pyar se mila hum usi ke ho liye.

What a remarkable muse on a life that looks beyond the mundane, is implicitly on its larger purpose!  The song is filmed on Dev.  But visualize it with closed eyes. It will easily double for the persona of Kishore the eternal meanderer in unquestioning acceptance of the moment present, of its bounties and its pains –

Dhoop thee nasib me, dhoop me liya hain dam. 
chaandni mili toh ham chaandni mein so liye. 

dard bhi humein qubul, chain bhi humein qubul
humnein har tarah ke phool haar mein piro liye

raah me pade hain hum kabse aap ki kasam
dekhiye toh kum se kum boliye na boliye

hum hain raahi pyar ke

Jo bhi pyar se mila hum usike ho liye

Koi lauta de mere beete huye din
(Door Gagan ki Chaaon Mein, 1964Kishore Kumar / Shailendra

One can argue with reasons if it is justified to extrapolate the essence of a song inextricably entrenched in its cinematic context to explore and interpret Kishore.  Perhaps Door Gagan Ki Chaaon Mein, an earlier film, of the year 1964, offers better insights. This film was, arguably, the apogee of Kishore’s multifaceted creativity. He produced and directed it, wrote its story, composed its music, acted its lead male character, and even wrote one of its songs.  The film was critically acclaimed. Some consider it a classic. It not only gave Kishore a rare creative freedom, it also, assumably, was an opportunity for him to give expression to, in terms of the fiction of Shankar, his own realities.

Door Gagan ki Chhaon Mein

Kishore Kumar, Amit Kumar and Supriya Choudhury in Door Gagan ki Chhaon Mein

Nowhere in this film, nor in Door Ka Rahi, does Kishore support or draw upon his maverick image. On the contrary, he is consistently pensive bordering on being morose and almost laconic. He seems irresistibly drawn towards the simpler, uncomplicated rural milieu than the urban complexities and affectedness.  Kishore hated Bombay; Khandwa was written all over his heart.  His yearn to return to his roots – to Khandwa – ever flickered within, became a burning desire later.

Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein handles a life coming unstuck circumstantially – the life of Shankar (played by Kishore). As his life threatens to drift in despair and dejection, he finds a purpose, a rallying point in his traumatized son Ramu who alone had survived a fire that consumed his home and his family while he was away on duty with the armed forces.  The beauty of this film is that it delivers four songs, each timeless, to reflect on the emotional transience of Shankar. Koi lauta de mere beete hue din is both a lament and a nostalgia. This song that has the hint of a dirge at once gets an empathizing connect.  Kishore seems to be singing it from the depth of his being, living its sentiments as of his own.

Albele din pyare
Mere bichhde saath sahare
Haaye kahaan gaye
Haaye kahaan gaye
Aankhon ke ujiyare
Meri sooni raat ke taare
Haaye kahaan gaye

This song is different, rather unique, for though filmed on Kishore,  he is not lipsyncing it. Its  impact is deeper, for it goes well with the introspective and laconic character of Shankar – it reaches the audience almost as a sigh escaping his being  – beete huye din wo haaye pyare pal chhin…..

Jin raaton ki bhor nahi
(Door Gagan ki Chaaon Mein, 1964) Kishore Kumar / Shailendra

It can be deemed a sequel to Koi lauta de mere beete huye din, is deep despair, absolute mope, life coming to a dead end. For an apparently inexplicable reason, the two songs take me to the two celebrated ghazals of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar — Lagta nahin hai dil mera ujde dayaar mein and Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon!  Incidentally, Shailendra had penned the two songs at a point when he was sunk deep in the financial mire specific to his under production film Teesri Kasam. His friends hardly held his hand, his own kith and kin fleeced him Main akela to na tha thhe mere saathi kai…….Shailendra saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

Jin raaton ki bhor nahin hai
Aaj aisi hi raat aayi
Bojh se gham ke doob gaya dil
Sagar ki hai gehrai

Raat ke taaron tum hi bata do
Meri woh manzil hai kahan
Pagal bankar jiske liye main
Kho baitha hoon dono jahan

Raah kisi ki huyi na roshan
Jalna mera bekaar gaya
Loot gayi takdeer mujhe
Main jeet ke baazi haar gaya

Aa chal ke tujhe mein leke chaloon is a dream of a world sans tears, sans grief’, a world that has love alone for its nurture!  The song, penned by Kishore, has a rather simplistic world view.  But it nonetheless gives an unignorable peek into Kishore’s vision of the world.

Rahi tu mat ruk jana given voice by Hemant is a beautiful song of hope and optimism, beseeching fortitude in the face of daunting adversity and asserting that the tide will eventually turn!

In Door Ka Rahi, the portrayal of Prashant (acted by Kishore) is of the one whose feelings for the others is deep and self-less, and he feels bonded too, but the one who still manages to break loose to be ever on the move – the eternal voyager! Kishore perhaps dreamt of becoming one – Main hoon jhum jhum jhumroo, fakkar ban ke ghumroo… the words penned by him unmistakably evidence that — to meander in perpetuity, unattached, wearing a sheen of buffoonery!  But could he?

Ashok Kumar, Satyajit Ray and Kishore Kumar

Ashok Kumar, Satyajit Ray and Kishore Kumar (Pic: SMM Ausaja Archives)

Kishore — His Mentors

Ashok Kumar happened to be Abhas’s big brother, literally. The age difference was generational almost – about 18 years. And Ashok’s status was iconic – a star on the ascendant. His early impression about his youngest sibling was of the one who had a hoarse  voice and the one who coughed too frequently. He could not glimpse in the squawking duckling, the singing swan who would take in his wings the world much beyond his little Khandwa…would mouth such transcending messages of love as Hawaon pe likh do hawaon ke naam, hum anjaan pardesion ka salaam. Ashok, however, was not convinced that Kishore would find his feet aface such accomplished and entrenched singers namely Rafi, Talat, Mukesh, Hemant and Manna De. What really surprising is that a man of Ashok’s sensitiveness could not discern the brewing precociousness of Kishore, which Sachin Burman could.  He had no doubt about Kishore’s exceptional and original voice.  He advised Kishore to develop his own style than to emulate Saigal.

Nonetheless, Ashok, besides being a brother, was a de facto patriarch. It was his duty by default to settle Kishore.  He tried to push and promote Kishore in acting – an area in which Ashok excelled and had just a few peer.  The indomitable spirit of Kishore perhaps subconsciously resented the overarching and overwhelming influence of his brother.

Occasionally, he could pick courage to peck at the elder, especially on the point of singing, when he would defiantly assert that he would do one better than him (Ashok). He did take to acting presumably for sustenance but in his earlier films he looked less intense, often overacted or buffooned. Most of his films flopped yet he was, to a degree, acceptable to the audience. He needed to be complemented to succeed big

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi became a huge success for it had Madhubala, and more importantly Ashok Kumar.  The elder’s presence rubbed on Kishore as he gave his best acting performance till date.  The film demonstrated many things. The awe in which Manmohan (Kishore) holds Brijmohan (Ashok) looks so real, best visible in the scene where Manu dares the elder Brij, once a famous boxer, for a duel in assertion of his freedom to pursue his love.  He knows the outcome yet the defiance. And the tad indulgent, tad sneering smile of the elder is un-missable.  Did this characterize the relationship of the two brothers of the real? Perhaps it is not entirely true.  It was evolving. Chalti ka Naam Gaadi was a proof of that in the open  —  the great actor Ashok agreeing to play second fiddle to Kishore! Kishore coming of age!

chalti ka naam gaadi

Ashok and Kishore fight it out in a boxing bout with Anoop prancing around as the referee

Kishore as singer-actor had no contemporary peer. The great Saigal had ruled in the 30s and 40s.  Incidentally, the singing of the singer-actors more than compensated for their below par histrionics. Door Ka Rahi is an important facet in the evolving relations between the brothers, as Kishore lent his voice to a song lip-synced by Ashok on screen Bekarar dil tu gaaye jaa. The Big Brother had accepted Kishore the singer!

Not everybody is born with prodigality ingrained.  Yet they also serve who stand and wait.  Anoop Kumar must have been the desired buffer between the two great Gangulies — a bridge of sorts as in the timeless song Babu samjho ishare…

On-screen, this song is a great fraternal bonhomie. Beneath its cloak of comicality, this song, however, hands out lessons as to how to be worldly-wise and successful. Majrooh strongly advocating that the end justifies the means even as if either or both are suspect as to bona fide or ethically – the advocacy making light of the Gandhian doctrine that emphasizes the purity and correctness  of the means and the end.

Sau baatonki ki
Aik baat yahi hai
Kya bhalaa to kya
Buraa Kaamyaabi
Mein Zindagi hai

I have read, paan was Sachin Dev Burman’s  weakness. I guess, Kishore too was. Kishore was a singing prodigy. That notwithstanding, he still needed a god-father to keep him buoyed. Burman Dada squeezed him in occasionally in a space overwhelmingly dominated by Rafi. Instances: Munimji, Funtoosh, Nau Do Gyarah, Paying Guest, Teen Deviyaan, Guide, Jewel Thief, Prem Pujari. He also composed music for that super comedy Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. That kept Kishore in circulation till it was discovered that he was the voice of the super star Khanna.

Dene wala jab bhi deta poora chapapd phar ke deta
(Funtoosh, 1956) SD Burman / Sahir

It is a Kishore extravaganza.  He is just stunning. The song is an amazing manifestation of his singing versatility, six-in-one, completely subsumed in Dev on-screen. And what words….brilliant Sahir, or tongue-in-cheek Sahir:  arre nang dharang malang janoko doorbeen se taad ke deta……

I have often wondered, who do I like more – an occasional Abhas under the patronage of Sachin Dev Burman or a prolific Kishore of the seventies in sync with Rahul? There is no doubt that it was Sachin’s ward who opened up channels for Kishore to flourish to the fullest, on a scope and sweep unprecedented. The scores they churned out were of unrelenting excellence.  But a time came when I missed the competitive musical milieu of fifties and even sixties, which though dominated by Rafi yet gave space and turf to Talat, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Hemant and even Kishore.  And I will never know if Kishore is more romantic in that Paying Guest number when he audibly whispers basti ke diye bujh jaane de or in the Aandhi duet Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin.

kishore kumar, his mother and Amit Kumar

Kishore kumar with his mother Gouri Devi and Amit Kumar (Pic: Twitter)

Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin
(Aandhi, 1975) RD Burman / Gulzar

O nigahen mastana has on screen perhaps the most adorable pair in Dev and Nutan, but the intensity of Suchitra and Sanjeev is incomparable. A few words on the scene.

Chance brings together, though for a while, the separated JK and Arati – played by Sanjeev and Suchitra – rejuvenating their love in limbo.  But the compulsion to keep under wraps the fact of their marriage forecloses conciliation. Yet the emotional up-surge is far too over-whelming, heightened further by the acute consciousness that the togetherness will be just for a few fast fleeting moments before the guillotine! The two artistes, arguably the best of their times, deliver the scene with an intensity and skill very rarely seen in Hindi cinema.  The scenic impact cascades as their empathizing communication, mostly in silence, is given voice to, so heartily, so eloquently, by Lata-KK duo on a brilliant RDB lilt.

Kishore-Rajesh Synergy

Kishore the singer remained on sidelines for about twenty years — during the fifties and the sixties. This was despite the fact that he, even though untrained in music like Saigal, was music unto himself. His occasional songs were classy, never run of the mill types. If it hadn’t been for Sachin Dev Burman, Kishore would not have had enough opportunities to sustain his presence as a singer of the top league. Reason? He was not the voice of any of the stars of those times. Of the Dilip-Raj-Dev trio, only Dev allowed him some space.

Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna

Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna (Pic: Iwmbuzz)

Thus while Rafi and Mukesh were settled and entrenched in their respective well demarcated territories, Kishore remained an occasional singer till his age of forty. By the close of sixties, a new generation of artistes was asserting itself in the Bollywood. The creative space that thus opened up was Kishore’s opportunity. Cometh the time, cometh the man. Rajesh Khanna, yet an aspiring actor, batted for Kishore. And rest, as they say, is history.

Rajesh- Kishore was a destinational connect ensconced in music. I am not sure if this connect took off with the song of Khamoshi — Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi or the song of Aradhana — Mere sapno ki raani. The year in any case was 1969. Mere sapno ki rani, though more popular, was no match to the depth and intensity of Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thhi — Kishore singing in a tad muffled voice that seemed to be originating from the sound of the river ripples beneath the boat. The two songs gave a glimpse of the Kishore-Rajesh synergy. They were together in 245 songs across 92 films, which is a record for a singer-actor combination. The number is 202 for Jeetendra, 131 for Amitabh and 119 for Dev.

Ye kya hua, kaise hua
(Amar Prem) RD Burman / Anand Bakshi

This is one of the most beautiful songs that Hindi cinema has given us. The words of Anand Bakshi sound deep in their cinematic context. They emote, they connect. Beaten in love, the hero should have lapsed into a lament, a yearning such as Shaam-e- gham ki kasam, or a muffled cry Kis ko khabar thi kis ko yakeen tha, aise bhi din aaynege. But no, here the hero flowers into an articulated celebration that sources sorrow. It is an emotional inflict that is raw. He is almost actualizing the famous Shelley muse Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. Yet Yeh kya hua kaise hua needed the star power for its sublimity and only the trimurti with Rajesh as the head god — the other two being Kishore and RD Burman, could have delivered.

And the words sit so well on Rajesh who, if dissected for handsomeness will come a cropper, but the world of his time looked at him holistically and found him irresistibly handsome. In the film, I find a pimpled Rajesh in white dhoti-kurta, eyes a tad moist, very adorable, and evoking empathy. And Kishore is just sublime, brilliantly reinforces the angst and haplessness of a lover just turned away.


Rajesh Khanna in Yeh kya hua

Kishore — In the Last Lap

By mid-seventies Rajesh and Rahul had peaked, thereafter they were on a downslope, just perceptibly initially but rather rapidly later. Kishore yet soared however as he had concurrently become the voice of the latest star of Bollywood, namely Amitabh Bachchan. Despite a brief hiatus in their professional relationship, they remained buoyed in their creative synergy. However, after Sharabi of 1984, Amitabh too slid into are cession. For almost three years Kishore was without an effective star push. And that was the period – 1986-1988 – when his songs came in and went without much touching the people at large. Ironically, this was the first time that Kishore had really no star to go with. In the fifties and sixties, He was the other even if occasional voice of Dev, and thereafter of Rajesh and Amitabh.

It is also true that Kishore had developed a nagging heart ailment, and, for a change, not owing to a woman but of real. Because of this perhaps Kishore could not sing full-throttled. His last recorded song was a day before his death( 13th October, 1987). The film was Waqt ki awaaz and the mukhda was Guru guru, a duet with Asha. Tune to this song and there will be an unmistakable feeling that Kishore’s voice lacked the vitality that all through characterized his singing.

Music director Jaikishan with Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar (Pic: Gujarat MidDay)

After the recording he spoke to Asha and asked her to feel his pulse, adding at the same time, is it not missing? Asha comforted him that he was fine. He however insisted that would you phone me up tomorrow? He told some others also to phone him up. Did he intuitively know that something was going to happen? Kya unko aabhas ho gaya tha? He was alive to the seriousness of his illness yet told his wife Leena not to call the doctor, for ‘he would give me a heart attack’! Paradoxical it seems! Even when he had seen something deadly coming he was caught between his two personas.

He died on the 13th Oct which was the birthday of his brother Ashok. The elder could never celebrate his birthday thereafter. By a destinational design, Kishore had made sure that his brother always remembered him on his most important day.

Kishore died young. The tag of one survives post-death applies a tad more to Kishore, for his songs while assuming myriad expressions and forms still drew upon the inherent energy that has sparkled life across ages — Jijivisha, no different for the exultant yodel of a primitive man to the mobile obsessed mankind of now. Kishore the dead returned to his roots, his own city Khandwa where the authorities have raised a fitting memorial for him.

Life was a celebration for Kishore as for as it went, summed up so beautifully in the song Zindagi ek safar hai suhana…

Maut aani hai aayegi ik din,
jaan jaani hai jayegi ek din,
aisi baaton se kya ghabrana,
yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana.


Don’t miss the first part

Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 1)

More to read

Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 1

Kishore Kumar, The Master of his Craft – Amit Kumar Remembers his ‘Baba’

Manna Dey: A Story of Amazing Versatility – Part 1

Suraiya: The Last Singing Star of Indian Cinema

Creative Writing

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Born in 1950, Vijay Kumar’s ancestral roots were in Uttar Pradesh. He took early schooling in Ludhiana, Punjab; secondary school and college education in Kanpur; a post-graduate in Statistics, and much later, obtained a law degree from the Delhi University. A government job brought him to Delhi, where he had the opportunity to handle national policies on education and culture. His last professional engagement was in the Ministry of Tourism, where he was the Director, heading the division responsible for the promotion of education and skills specific to the tourism sector. Vijay Kumar is a recipient of the National Hospitality Education Award 2011-12, in recognition of his contribution towards skill development initiatives for the tourism and hospitality sector. His early childhood was shaped by a familial milieu that was quasi rural, with songs and music for every occasion. His mother had a good memory for Kabir and Tulsidas and she recited them. This music sensitization mutated into a love for the Hindi film music as he grew.
All Posts of Vijay Kumar

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One thought on “Abhas versus Kishore — An Existential Reality (Part 2)

  • Silhouette Magazine

    Some comments received on this article on Facebook:

    Vineeth Abraham: Magnificent. Worth the wait. Makes me want to revisit all these old gems. Always been a Kishore fan but would never have been able to articulate the reasons the way you have. Bravo.

    Ravindra Nath Shrivastava: बेहद खूबसूरत और गहरे डूब कर लिखा गया ..

    Jyoti Samtani: Vijay ji, no words to thank u for making me a part of this beautiful journey. Will revert as one just cannot read ur amazing works articulated with much effort and dedication 8n a hurry. So will do it with leisure and peace and then revert as I am always too curious to see u unfolding your gems.
    Wishes galore for many many more achievements.

    Rahul Muli: Sir, the way in which you have explored and analysed Kishor Kumar’s songs and his persona is virtually unique.

    Amar Nath Singh: Very good, sir

    Toya Sinha: You always write with such well researched material..
    wonderful 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻

    Subramaniam Viswanathan: Absolutely wonderful! Reading this in installments as every line deserves due attention to assimilate. Thank God uparwala made him a little eccentric, otherwise his brilliance would have been lost to us! Off-late, I play ‘bhoole bisre geet’ at bed-time and it is amusing that the first song on the first date of every month is unfailingly ‘Sun lo zamaana, aaj pehli taarikh hai’. I loved Kishore best when he sang for Dev Anand, esp the lighter flirtsome ones. Perfect synergy of romance, mischief and humour. My recent most favorite is ‘Wo dekhe to unki inaayat’ from ‘Funtoosh’ which sounds deceptively serious till you watch the video, which is great fun any time!

    Sharvari Khatavkar: Magnifique ❤️

    Shefali Gandhi: Vijay Kumarji, profoundly written and well articulated write-up! I missed the first part and will surely go through it.

    Sue Rao: Wonderful. Brings him back to life for me. Specially loved the English rendering of Panthi.

    MV Krishnan: Amazing read

    Vimmi Subramanian: Superb write up on the unfathomable singer whose mask of buffoonery hid an over sensitive, phenomenally talented genius whose heart belonged to Khandwa.
    I have always thought about the melancholic Kishoreji portrayed in Door ka raahi and door gagan ki chaaon me…that was the real person…a loner in the crowd.
    Enjoyed going through your excellent write up.🙏

    Nina Vijaykumar: Excellent write up Sir


    Seeta Srivastava: Keshav your write up is beyond any phrase of appreciation.

    Pisharoty Chandran: Drank this in too, Vijay Kumar. Thank you for tagging. A salute to your energy and dedication to pen such a lengthy essay. My favourite ‘Panthi hoon main’ has been translated by you with finesse. ( the antaras are in reverse order in print, though).
    KK needs a sensitive soul like you to get under his skin and unravel the machinations of his mind.
    Congratulating you for this magnificent article on Kishore Kumar.. the apparent and the latent.

    Bipin Parekh: Thoroughly enjoyed reading your two parts write up about a multitalented genius-Kishore Kumar. You provide a riveting 360-degree view of KishoreDa’s life story both as a person and as an artist. Thank you.

    Bhaskar Ramamurthy: Wonderful write up..enjoyed reading it

    Andy Dewan: Remembering Guru. A treat to read.

    Kavita Batheja: thanks for writing this absolutely beautiful life story. it was a treat. hope to read more from you soon.

    Malvika Saraf: Write up 👌👌👌

    Inderpal Singh Bakshi: Wonderful write up.Stay blessed and keep up.

    Suresh Sharma: Congratulations Vijay ji! The article is so mesmerizing, so thought provoking and so engrossing that I have to write a lot about many of the songs/ poems, which have been beautifully used by you in bringing out the inner conflict, which neither Abhas nor Kishore Kumar was aware during their ‘ respective’ life- time! But I am not a natural writer like you…so I will take time in writing what is coming to my mind, heart and sub- conscious! So, now I just want to convey my heartiest congratulations for this mesmerizing, thought- provoking and engrossing piece of literature, and convey my thanks for making me a part of it by tagging me! Looking forward to many such literary treats !🙏👍

    Jessica Menezes: A fantastic journey into the mind,heart,life and times of the brilliant multi talented genius KK.💕

    Maha Bir Sarwar: Inside out revelation of the psyche of a rare kind of genius. Congrats Sir.

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