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

August 4, 2015 | By

You must sound unique and different, so adopt the song in a way as if it is your own and shape it, mould it, deliver it in your unique style. That is what will leave a lasting impression, SD Burman used to emphasize to Kishore Kumar. “This advice Baba followed all through his career. He became a champion at it, a master of this craft,” says Amit Kumar. Remembering the immortal artist Kishore Kumar on his birth anniversary, Peeyush Sharma presents a detailed conversation he had had with Amit Kumar in 2009, exploring the multi-hued facets of Kishore Kumar’s phenomenal talent and personality, exclusively for Silhouette Magazine.

Pictures used in this article are courtesy the Facebook profiles of Amit Kumar and Pancham Unmixed, madanmohan,in, sdburman.net and Internet – only for reference purposes)

Amit Kumar and Sumeet Kumar in one of their shows

Amit Kumar and Sumeet Kumar in one of their shows (Pic courtesy: Amit Kumar)

Amit Kumar had visited Toronto, Canada in 2009 to give a public performance. He was accompanied by his wife Rima and daughter Muktika and also Sumit Kumar, his brother. They arrived at the venue about half an hour prior to the show and were seated in an enclosed area. On my request, the organisers introduced me to them. After the show I drove them to their hotel and spent the next full day with them, entertaining them and talking about everything I had in mind. We had lunch and dinner together and even watched a movie.

Among the many things we discussed, we spoke about extensively about his legendary father Kishore Kumar. The immortal singer, composer, actor, director, comic, producer… a multi-faceted phenomenal powerhouse of talent who regaled audiences when he lived and continues to fascinate music and movie buffs to this day.

Just like all children who watch their father go to work each morning and return home, but know very little about their father’s work, so was it with Amit Kumar. Many a questions I had about Kishore, the singer, the actor, the music and movie maker and its’ history, found no answers with Amit. Apparently, Kishore as a father, did not discuss his work at home. We talked in Bengali and Hindi and I have translated into English excerpts from those conversations that happened through the course of the day.

His Idols and Mentors

Kishore Kumar

He was good in playing the piano, though he never learnt it, but could play the inversions quite well. The compositions from films like Jhumroo, Door Gagan, Door ka Rahi, were mostly composed on this piano which he brought from Switzerland… and the “Shirt” which he is wearing was named after him as “The Kishore Kumar Shirt”. It became a “trend setter” towards the end of the “Fifties”. (Pic and caption courtesy: Amit Kumar)

On a question as to whom did Kishore Kumar hold in highest esteem, Amit said, there were three personalities that he had the highest ‘shraddha’ (reverence) for. He used to regard them as God literally. About one everyone knows – Kundan Lal Saigal.  The second person was Masterji (Khemchand Prakash). Baba used to say he made me a singer. And the next one was Sachin Dev Burman. Baba used to say, Masterji made me a singer but Burman da polished me and made me shine. Whatever I am today, I owe it to him. The photographs of these three people always remained in his room, recalled Amit.

Elaborating on each Amit explained, whenever on his own, Kishore Kumar would sit on piano and sing K L Saigal’s songs and this happened very frequently. He would even ask Amit to pay attention at particular points of the song and say, try it, you will not be able to do it this way. In the early years, recalled Amit, he shrugged it off thinking that like all the older generation people his father had a Saigal fixation and paid no heed. But, gradually it caught his attention. His father was asking him to practice these for a reason, for therein lay many great lessons on how to perform a song, a notation, an emphasis, a turn in tune, a murki, how to handle a gap, where to breathe, and many more such intricacies. There were many Saigal songs that he practiced singing with his father, and yet could never master them as they are truly tough renditions by a timeless maestro.

Anil Biswas had told me KL Saigal was the only singer on whose basic scale rendition, the entire lot of accompanying instruments were set to tune. So perfect was his vocal madhyam, gandhar or shadaj that once he sang it out, all musicians would set their instruments to tune. Every other singer always does it the other way or the opposite way, to set their vocal on taanpura or harmonium. That is why KL Saigal was great and so well respected.

Kishore Kumar referred to Khemchand Prakash as Masterji. It was this great music director who gave Kishore a break and taught him the first basics of a film song. Not only with him, these sessions had Lata Mangeshkar participating and learning as well.  The throw of the voice into a recording microphone, how to stay in tandem with the beat while singing a tune, how to accommodate a co-singer in a duet, how to recognize cues to pick and start a line, were some of the things that Kishore Kumar learnt from Masterji.

Kishore Kumar with Asha Bhonsle, SD Burman and Vijay Anand

Kishore Kumar with Asha Bhonsle, SD Burman and Vijay Anand (Pic courtesy: Hamara Photos)

Regarding Sachin Dev Burman, he would raise his hands heaven wards and say, though Masterji introduced him to films, but his entire career was designed, fathomed and successfully crafted and created by SD Burman. Without SD Burman there would have been no Kishore Kumar. At every step, SD Burman had more faith in Kishore Kumar’s capability than the singer himself. There were many such songs that Kishore Kumar was wary of singing but SDB’s faith and guidance steered the way. Taking a cue from SDB, other music directors also used Kishore Kumar in their films. It was SDB’s support and love and Kishore Kumar’s partnering with Dev Anand that really kept Kishore Kumar alive in the Hindi film world.

While we were on Kishore Kumar-SD Burman, I asked Amit if he knew what had gone wrong between the years 1958/59 to 1965 that Kishore Kumar did not record with SD Burman. Amit said he had no knowledge of it and that his father never spoke about it either. Also, during those years Amit was in Calcutta with his mother, Ruma Devi.

Amit Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Ruma Ganguly

The little Amit Kumar with his illustrious parents – Kishore Kumar and Ruma Devi (Pic courtesy: Amit Kumar)

Not many people know that Kishore Kumar’s home production “Suhana Geet” starring Madhubala had also remained unfinished although a couple of songs of the film are available on YouTube. Asked about this film Amit said he did not have knowledge about it. He said there were five or six such films that Baba had launched and made some songs for, but for some reason or the other they were not completed.  For Suhana Geet he guessed it must have been owing to Madhubala ji’s ill health and death. But, he had seen the songs on internet too.

Only Kishore could sing them this way

Pancham and Kishore Kumar

RD Burman and Kishore Kumar (Pic courtesy: Pancham Unmixed)

Kishore Kumar had a knack and expertise in delivering songs in a way that they sounded like no other singer could perform the song that way, as if these songs were created for him only.  Amit immediately agreed to my observation and said, “Yes, that was Baba’s biggest quality. He would sing it in a way that it always appeared as if it was made for him only.” Amit said this technique was also taught by SD Burman. The senior Burman used to emphasise that you must sound unique and different, so adopt the song in a way as if it is your own and shape it, mould it, deliver it in your unique style. That is what will leave a lasting impression. “This advice Baba followed all through his career. He became a champion at it, a master of this craft,” said Amit.

There are numerous songs that we can recall in this category. I mentioned a few and Amit added a few, a very impressive list. Listing a few common favorites that are uniquely Kishore Kumar rendition:

S D Burman, V. Balsara, Bhupinder Singh and Kishore Kumar

S D Burman, V. Balsara, Bhupinder Singh and Kishore Kumar

Khwaab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat kaun ho tum batalao (Teen Deviyan)
Phoolon ke rang se dil ki kalam se tujhko likhi roz paati (Prem Pujari)
Hum bewafa hargiz na the, par hum wafa kar na sake (Shalimar)
Kahan tak ye man ko andhere chhallengey (Baton Baton Mein)
Mere mehboob qayamat hogi, aaj ruswa terei galiyon mein mohabbat hogi ( X in Bombay)
Sachhai chhup nahi sakti banawat ke usulon se (Dushman)
Tum kitni khubsoorat ho, ye mere dil se puchho (Jungle Mein Mangal)
Bhanware ki gunjan hai mera dil (Kal Aaj aur Kal)
Dil aaj shair hai gham aaj naghma hai, shab ye ghazal hai sanam (Gambler)
Hey nigahen mastana, dekh sama hai suhana (Paying Guest)
Jeevan ke safar mein raahi (Munimjee)
Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo makam (Aap Ki Kasam)
Zindagi ka safar, hai ye kaisa safar (Safar)
Sagar kinare dil ye pukare tu jo nahin to mera (Sagar)

Amit paused to add, that it is not that these numbers could not be performed well by Rafi Saheb or Manna Da, but no one can imagine these songs by anyone else other than Kishore Kumar. That was his unique delivery.

Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo makaam (Aap Ki Kasam, 1974) – RD Burman / Anand Bakshi / Kishore Kumar. RD Burman used a variety of instruments in this composition, reflecting the change of seasons, the passage of time and haunting memories. Kishore Kumar sang with all his heart and soul. Pure class!.

That made me ask Amit about Kishore Kumar’s take on Rafi Saheb. Amit said, “Baba had huge respect for Rafi Saheb. He would mention songs and hum them saying only Rafi can sing these and that ‘I (Baba) can never even be a shade of Rafi’. In recordings also when they met, he paid full respects to Rafi Saheb.”

What about his other co-singers? Amit said, “In the recording studio Baba was very friendly and jovial with all, but outside of it, he would not even maintain a contact with most of them including Lata and Asha. He (Kishore Kumar) would not phone them or entertain phone calls. He would never party together nor involve himself with anyone. He would say, ‘salamat door ki achchhi‘.” (Maintain distance, preferably).

The special Kishore improvisations

Madan Mohan, Kishore Kumar and Chetan Anand

Madan Mohan with Kishore Kumar and Chetan Anand

Discussing the Kishore starrer films that were available on DVD/VCD we found that both of us had recently watched Tamasha (1952). The unique thing about Tamasha was that it was the only film where Dev Anand and Kishore Kumar acted together. Amit recalled that it was during the making of Tamasha that Khemchand Prakash , who was scoring the music had died. I knew about that and said Prakash’s brother, Basant Prakash had stepped in to complete the score (Manna Dey is credited as the third music director along with Khemchand and Basant Prakash in Tamasha). “Though in Tamasha, Baba has given no playback for Dev Saab, there is a fun song in it by him, Khali pili akkha baithe din bom marta hai,” said Amit. This song was credited to Manna Dey as music director, I added. Amit said, in all probability Baba did it. He always did such songs on his own.

Taking the cue again, I asked if ‘Paannch rupaiya barah ana’ in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi was all Kishore’s work. Amit said, of course it was. “The words panch rupaya barah ana were Baba’s and the take off in between the antara was also his,” like, Amit explained, breaking off to sing the lines “chahe namoona dekh lo, teri gathri mein laga chor musafir jag zara, tu jjag zara. All these portions in each verse were his.”

Paannch rupaiya barah ana (Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, 1958)

I asked if SD Burman had no objection to such interference, Amit said, “That was the main thing, no one could tell Baba what to do or what not to do. And with Burman Saab, they shared a unique relationship. Even the final version of Roop tera mastana in Aradhana was done by Baba suggesting the Bangla nursery rhyme, Kal ke jaabo sasur badi, alhaade khai gauda godi. Anybody who signed Baba was prepared for this active participation. At this point, I confirmed that Hemant Kumar in an interview had said this to me as well. He, as if remembering something, smiled saying, “Baba when he made (produced) a film always kept a song for Hemant and when Hemant produced a film he would keep a song for Baba in it. It was their mutual thing.”

Aa chalke tujhe main leke chaloon (Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964)
Hemant Kumar sang the title song in Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, which Kishore Kumar had written, produced, directed and played the lead role with his son Amit Kumar. Kishore Kumar was also the lyricist and music director for this film.

Are you aware of Aradhana (1969) songs or song being done by RD Burman? (SD Burman is the composer of the film’s music score). Amit said he (Kishore Kumar) had mentioned about ‘Roop tera mastana’ and his suggestion of the Bangla nursery rhyme. “Baba had never spoken about any tune being composed or suggested by R D Burman to SD Burman. Yes, during recording some of the songs Pancham as usual was doing arrangements and training the musicians, but that was all,” Amit said.

Yeh dard bhara afsana sun le by Kishore Kumar in Shreeman Funtoosh.

Yeh dard bhara afsana sun le by Kishore Kumar in Shreeman Funtoosh.

I then asked Amit if he was aware about the story of R D Burman replacing Rafi with Kishore for Aradhana songs. Amit said it was impossible to happen.

“First of all once S D Burman was set on using a particular voice for a song no one could change it. It was a known fact. Next, Baba would never step in to replace another singer, specially Rafi Saheb who he held in high regards,” he said. “In some other film,” Amit continued, “another music director in 1970 had cancelled the recorded Rafi song and asked Baba to re-do it. Baba flatly refused to do it.”

How did Kishore Kumar take his success on becoming number one after Aradhana? Amit said, “Baba gave 75% credit to S D Burman and 25% to Kaka. But always maintained that this number one and number two was all too freaky and any situation/equation can change any day. He just did his work and did not bother with this. Actually, I remember an incident, it was probably for Aap Ke Deewane (1980), in a duet with Rafi Saheb, Baba was paid his demanded amount, but Rafi Saheb was paid lesser. Baba on coming to know about it, immediately summoned the producer and made sure Rafi Saheb got one rupee more than Baba’s amount and was paid in full for all songs. Baba would settle for not singing a song rather than take it away from another artist, whoever it may be.”

Tumko khush dekhkar (Aap Ke Deewane, 1976)
Singers: Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi

There is an interesting song in Chori Mera Kaam (Kalyanji Anandji) sung by Kishore, Amit and Kanchan, Main main main kachhe angoor ki bel. Before I could pose a question, Amit started laughing. “I will tell you about this one. Varma Malik was the lyricist, when the situation was finalized, Brij (the director) got all of us together, including Kalyanji Anandji and their team that consisted of Babla and Kanchan. Malik started with the opening line and the tentative tune was suggested by Anandji. From there Baba took it over. The male parts in the song were all tuned, written (or verbally spoken) by Baba, that is his part, and my part. Malik suggested a word here or there to fit in properly, it became an impromptu creation. And since it was turning out really interesting, we started recording as well. Now originally Asha Bhosle was supposed to sing all songs but as we were in the spirit to record we roped in Kanchan, who was practicing with us to do the final as well.”

“You know,” Amit carried on, “Baba was giving playback for all hero songs that were on Shashi Kapoor. But for this one he insisted that he does the senior part going on Ashok Kumar and I do the one for Shashi. This is a landmark. People talk about this one all the time. It was fun all the way. We really enjoyed it.”

With Anjaan and Indeevar, the lyricists, Kishore Kumar was quite close. He would phone them while practicing and say I am changing this word or line here, they would readily accept or give an alternative suggestion. He did that with his music directors also all the time.

Main kachche angoor ki bel (Chori Mera Kaam, 1975)
Singers: Kishore Kumar and Amit Kumar

A vast repertoire of almost 3,000 songs

I asked him about the Bengali Puja album, where Kishore sang to the music direction of Amit Kumar. Amit said, ”Yes, Baba encouraged me. I created those tunes on piano. He liked them and asked the recording company to accommodate. People thought that he must have done the music and passed the credit to me. But no, it was all my music with only the final rendering done by Baba. It was a big hit in Bengal.”

There are Puja albums where Lata has given music and Kishore has sung the numbers and vice-versa too, I pointed out. “Yes,” said Amit. “He just loved doing these out of the run mill things.”

Hemant Kumar, Ila Bosu, Director Hiren Nag, Kishore Kumar, Gouriprasannya Majumdar, Music director Gopen Mallick

Hemant Kumar, Ila Bosu, Director Hiren Nag, Kishore Kumar, Gouriprasannya Majumdar, Music director Gopen Mallick are seen at the recording of the Duet song Tak dhin dhin ta [Kishore & Ila Bosu ] for the film Sabarmati, 1969
(Pic courtesy: From the collections off Dibyendu Dey)

In a final tally, there are about 2910 songs credited to Kishore Kumar’s name in all languages, including film and non-film numbers. Amit said, “Yes the compilation team from Calcutta had met him and they came out with a number like that.” Did he know it was almost the same number for Manna Dey too, I asked. Amit was surprised. He was not aware of this, he said.

On his stage performances Amit does dedicate a lot of time speaking about his father and performing relevant songs with stories behind them. I suggested that he should bring out a DVD calling it, Baba Ki Kahaani, Meri Zubaani. He liked the idea, so did Sumeet.

On the choice of movies that Kishore liked, Amit said, “Baba was crazy about watching movies. In early days they had the projector and all necessary stuff needed to screen movies at home and Baba would get the prints he fancied, then came the VHS tapes and then the VCD/DVD. Baba’s collection was in thousands. All scary movies, all Alfred Hitchcock movies, many more musicals from the west, quite a few classics from the world, Baba had a huge collection.”

Amit Kumar and Kishore Kumar

1971, during the press show of his “ambitious” film Door Ka Rahi at Apsara cinema Mumbai. The film ran for 15 weeks on merit . There were no buyers so he released it himself adding another feather in his cap by becoming a “Distributor”. (Pic and caption: Amit Kumar)

What did they usually talk about at home, I asked Amit.  “Like all households, normal stuff,” replied Amit. “Food was his favourite topic as also he would practice his songs with religious regularity almost all day long. Sometimes, he would call on us, me (Amit) or Leena ji and sing the song claiming that listen to this, it will become a popular landmark song of his. Most of the time he was right about it.”

I asked Amit how did his father react to his first popular song from Balika Badhu, ‘Bade ache lagte hain’? Amit started to laugh. When I came home after recording it, Baba asked me to sing it, I did. He was not at all impressed. He asked (referring RD Burman and Shakti Samanta), they liked it? I said it was Okayed. He thought over it for a few minutes and commented, Pancham is a genius, he will make it sound exceptional, just wait and see.”

Bade achchhe lagte hain (Balika Badhu, 1976)
Singer: Amit Kumar

Pancham and Kishore Kumar

RD Burman and Kishore Kumar (Pic courtesy: Pancham Unmixed)

So how was the real thing between Pancham and Kishore Kumar? “Oh, they had the best of relationship,” said Amit. “There was so much mutual trust, understanding, love and faith, as if they were twins of some sort. They understood the instinct of each other, they were in sync totally, even without expressively saying a word, one knew what the other wanted. It was a unique relationship. Their rehearsals, recordings, practice sessions were all fun riots, even serious songs were handled thus till recording time. They discussed everything under the sun and would sit together in an ‘adda’ for hours. They shared a real adorable relationship.”

“Did that good vibe carry on with you, Amit?” I asked. Amit explained, “Pancham Da was like a senior, a father figure. He would always care for me and give advice where ever he could. But I could not talk at the same level as Baba did, owing to his (R D Burman’s) seniority. But he is the second person after Baba who has made me what I am as a singer. He would provide extensive guidance and training and advice. Hats off to that man.”

“After so many years of Baba’s death, I feel he is somewhere around watching everything and smiling to himself. I feel his presence all the time,” Amit remarked wistfully, as our day drew to a close.

More to read in Retrospectives

The Pathbreaking Non-conformist – The Music of RD Burman

Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya – Evergreen Dev Anand

‘The Music Director Knows which Voice would do Full Justice to his Composition’ – In Conversation with Hemant Kumar

The Incomparable Music Of S D Burman Transcends Generations

Madan Mohan: The Composer of the Classes

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6 thoughts on “Kishore Kumar, The Master of his Craft – Amit Kumar Remembers his ‘Baba’

  • Moti Lalwani

    “You must sound unique and different, so adopt the song in a way as if it is your own and shape it, mould it, deliver it in your unique style. That is what will leave a lasting impression,” SD Burman used to emphasize to Kishore Kumar.

    It does not come out completely, what all Burman Dada did to bring out the best in KK’s voice. KK in his tribute on Dada’s death, has spoken on it to some extent.

    *****

    “Just like all children who watch their father go to work each morning and return home, but know very little about their father’s work, so was it with Amit Kumar. Many a questions I had about Kishore, the singer, the actor, the music and movie maker and its’ history, found no answers with Amit. Apparently, Kishore as a father, did not discuss his work at home.”

    Here, Amit admits he did not gather first hand from his father, and whatever he knows is from others after his death.

    *****

    “On a question as to whom did Kishore Kumar hold in highest esteem, Amit said, there were three personalities that he had the highest ‘shraddha’ (reverence) for. He used to regard them as God literally. About one everyone knows – Kundan Lal Saigal. The second person was Masterji (Khemchand Prakash). Baba used to say he made me a singer. And the next one was Sachin Dev Burman.”

    I don’t think KK would have said that. Because we know that it was SDB who weaned KK away from Saigal’s voice and sing in his own voice, it was SDB who took KK to Arey Colony jungles to sing with him and improve his voice, it was SDB who kept on nudging him ‘Jyada murkiyaan mat maar, etc, etc. It is all there in books, and in Ameen Sayani’s interview with me.

    It was also SDB whom KK gave the best tribute on his death. KK did not give any tribute to other two on their deaths.

    *****

    “While we were on Kishore Kumar–SD Burman, I asked Amit if he knew what had gone wrong between the years 1958/59 to 1965 that Kishore Kumar did not record with SD Burman. Amit said he had no knowledge of it and that his father never spoke about it either.”

    I think I know what went wrong during those years. I am planning a book on Old Monk, and I am going to discuss that.

    *****

    I could go on and on, but this much is enough. Old Monk does not get due credit from son Amit Kumar for what Burman Dada did for KK. It was no joke to lift KK from oblivion to ‘one of the best’ singers in India, with fans fighting regularly that he was better than any other male singer. And, when Dada dropped him from 1957 to 1965, KK had even thought of going back to home town Khandwa.

  • Peeyush Sharma

    First point ; don’t we all music lovers know how Dada impacted each singer to bring out his/her best in any song they delivered under his music and the lasting impact it left. While all others did that in each Dada song, Kishore extended it as a norm for all his renditions, all his working life, no matter who the MD was.

    Second: Very wrongly interpreted. It simply means that all the work discussion and gossip and stories were not always brought home to share. This was specially during Amit’s growing up and frequent visits to Bombay and not having become a singer himself, there was no reason for Kishore to share with anyone during that phase.

    Third: Yes, SD Burman was a factor of influence that made Kishore shed the heavy load of sounding like KLS. This has been stated to me by Anil Biswas also. But that does not mean Kishore could not at home sing and practice KLS songs for his own grounding? He did it all his life. Much later, in late seventies or early eighties, Kishore recorded a version of 15 KLS songs asking HMV to issue it. I have heard the tape at HMV’s Dumdum studio. But since one of the recording technician compared and said t was better than KLS himself, Kishore asked to have it cancelled and never to be issued.

    The tributes to KLS and Khemchand Prakash would have been in forties and early fifties. I was not born then to keep any paper clipping or read about it. There was no reason for Kishore to keep paying tributes later in life to make a record of it in later life.

    Four; The gap in recording period, this subject I have spoken about to many personalities, like Vijay Anand, Anil Biswas, Amit and many more. I have a fair idea and will pen my thoughts some day for all to share. I don’t believe there was a Khandwa angle to it at that time.

    Finally; Amit was not involved in any way with SDB, he is on record with an interview with Rajya Sabha TV in his interactions with Dada. Manna Dey had openly expressed his disappointment that had Dada tried, like Kishore, Manna could have become the top bracketed singer, thus blaming Dada for it. We do not need Amit to emphasise this factor. Today, Lata, Asha, Dev Anand, RD Burman are on record saying that Kishore was the best male singer we had, all of it Amit says that his father credits to Dada and his guidance and trust in Kishore. What more credit do you want from him.

  • Silhouette Magazine

    Comments and discussions on this article on Facebook:

    Debasish Bhattacharya Loved to read this at one go……. lots of anecdotes….. nicely integrated. Loved to remember KK on his birthday this way.

    Krishnamurthy KV: Very nice presentation. The pic.is complete with Dev’saheb’s roles..!

    Anu Krishnan: Awesome! Love reading this!
    People often do not remember some of his really good songs because the movies did not do well…Anurodh was one such, where his songs went unnoticed I think…

    Antara Anu… Anurodh was a direct copy of a Bengali hit film Deya Neya… that was an outright winner because of its star cast Uttam Kumar and Tanuja and out of this world music by Shyamal Mitra. Compare ‘Aami cheye cheye dekhi shaaradin’ with ‘Aate jaate khoobsurat awara sadkon pe’. In comparison the Hindi Anurodh was not even a pale shadow, it was nowhere… the film sank and took with it its great music… this was a regular problem in those days when the music used to get released with the film… and would sink with it or become a hit… nowadays the music sometimes carries even an average film along.

    Anu Krishnan Wow, did not realise it was a remake of a Bangla movie…No match!!! The Bangla one is fabulous! Does’nt help that Rajesh Khanna does not have the same charm as Uttam Kumar! The music from some of the older movies deserved so much more attention, they were standalone classics, I esp felt that the Guru Dutt movies, all had stellar music and when you think that Kagaz ke Phool tanked in the box office, driving him over the edge, the music of that film alone could have launched many a career….

    Antara: Yes… as I said, the music released along with the film… Kaagaz Ke Phool is now a classic… so is its music… but at that point of time it drove the makers to the edge as you said….

    Sundeep Pahwa: I don’t agree that great music is tanked with a movie Prem Pujari was one film which sank when released but Dada music is remembered till today.

    Antara : Sundeep ji… I agree with you… not all of them but some of them did drown their music with them on release… Later on the music went to become great hits but at the time of the release both sank.

    Sundeep Pahwa:I cannot recall any film which sank along with the music but later on the songs became a hit. Any film you can recollect?

    Suchitra sen starrer Champakali how many of us remember except when making a list of her Hindi films but the song Chup gaya koi re was a hit right from the first day.

    Antara: In other words this means the songs become hit right on their release and are not connected with the fate of the films in any way… Sundeep ji?

    Sundeep Pahwa: Atleast that is my view of the golden era. To give you another example, how many of friends remember anything about Abhilasha except Pancham’s lovely songs They were a hit right from the word Go.

    Antara: Yes… interestingly both the tributes to Rafi, one by Peeyush ji and the other by Balaji Vittal which we carried in Silhouette on July 31 had ‘Waadiyan mera daaman’ on top of their list of songs…. though most of us don’t remember Abhilasha which we saw probably on DD years ago…. so if the songs were such hits from the word go (aided by Binanca Geet Mala and Jhumritalaiyya radio clubs) then why did they not carry the film on their shoulders Sundeep ji?

    Sundeep Pahwa: Because of a weak script and not so good direction. That was the time when good songs were an integral part of most of Hindi films. It was the screenplay/dialogue and the overall presentation by the director which made an impact, though also the stars but not that much as in today times. Today any trash made for a Khan ensures a 100 crore collection.

    Antara: Did the songs release before the films did or together with them?

    Sundeep Pahwa: A few weeks before the Film Records/Cassette used to be released. Very interesting subject. Requires an in depth analysis by the experts.

    Antara : Ok… so that means even the song becoming hit before the film’s release did not drive audiences to propell the film’s box office success if the film was badly made? In other words, you go to see a film because you like the songs and find that it is below average and thanks to word of mouth review and media reviews, the film tanks while the songs rage on. Am I right, Sundeep ji?

    Sundeep Pahwa: I went to see the films during the 60s/70s after seeing the lead pair, Director and my favourite Rajendernath/Johny Walker if they were acting. Like I said earlier, good songs were an integral part of Hindi cinema. This brings me to think about a Hit Hindi film but poor songs. Let me see if I remember. Friends, do try to remember a hit silver jubilee film which had not so good songs.

    Prem Pujari is the biggest example of a badly made film but what songs.

    Antara : This is becoming very interesting Sundeep ji… Prem Pujari is the perfect example… there are more. Lovely songs trapped in obscure films – Shankar Hussain is another I guess. No one remembers the film but we all know the song ‘Aap yun faaslon se’ just as no one remembers Sweekar Kiya Maine but we remember ‘Ajnabee kaun ho tum’…. and now to think of great films with mediocre songs!

    Peeyush Sharma:: Good discussion. I believe there is no set fixed theory. It could happen any which way. Remember music surely is a personal liking, I may love a song that another person detests.

    Abhilasha was not a flop. I saw it in Calcutta in its 16th week run, only for its songs. Some records were issued in the market way ahead of film release and they helped films do better as people went to see the film to see the songs. Gyarah Hazaar Ladkiyan (N. Dutta) had good songs, Dil ki tamanna thi masti mein manzil se bhi door nikalte, or e.g. So the film had an opening, but could not stay beyond 3rd week.

    Some records were out in market just when movies were being released, a week earlier and had no time to gain on their own, thus the film business affected their fate. Also, in earlier days there was no promotion like today. A friend of my father, made Tower House ( Ravi) only because he wanted to spend a few months with the heroine, never cared if the film made money or not. But came to visit Calcutta to collect royalties on music frequently. All theories are OK. For they all will find an example. We as a society have not promoted our music the way it should have been and many a gems have sank. It is sad, even now the companies with rights can work on this ‘gold’ but they don’t have the vision. More so next time.

    Antara, I spoke about Deya Neya with Shakti Samanta, will pen down the conversation some day. But Anurodh, though had couple of good songs was no match music wise or film wise to Deya Neya. Also, casting of ‘Saali’ with Rajesh was rejected by the audience. Its music did not have the appeal of usual Samanta film nor the quality. Can any one compare Anurodh music with Aradhana, Amar Prem, Kati Patang, Ajnabi?

    Antara : Shakti Samanta’s films owe a lot to their music too for the box-office success but compared to the originals they are on a different scale – Amar Prem has its own charm and the original Nishipadma its own…. Kati Patang I found was no match for the power-packed original Suryatapa (1965) that actually takes a woman’s eternal struggle for self respect and dignity to a different level where as Kati Patang is another great romantic film. Peeyush ji, will await your story on Shakti Samanta eagerly!

    Tower House reminds me of that extremely evocative song “Aye mere dil-e-nadan tu gum se na ghabrana”…. What you said effectively means that some of the films did pull down their music with them if the music did not have enough time and space to gain on its own and some others which got released well in advance pulled the films along to a respectable degree… The distribution and release in those days were very different from what we have now I guess. And you are so very right in saying companies nowadays do not have the vision to market this gold well and truly….

    Peeyush Sharma:: Both Kati Patang and Amar Prem, without comparison to originals had good story line, performances and direction with excellent music. That contributed a lot.

    Not enough is being done yet and we have not given its due to our classics at all. I remember Hemant Kumar telling me, on my question that I could not get the EP record of his Faraar or Biwi aur Makaan, that HMV would issue a shocking small number.

    Sounak Gupta : Antara – One could, for instance, consider Geeta Roy’s songs from ‘Do Bhai’. The film didn’t do well at the box office. On the contrary, the songs were big hits. What I’ve known, the ‘Do Bhai’ records were released before the film saw the light of the day. Also, the date of release of the film got postponed (for a considerable period) for some cause. One might say, listeners got ample chance to listen to the songs ‘independently’ (without keeping in mind the situation, or the film as a whole) – that could be true.

    In the earlier days (at least as far as Bengali films are concerned), most often film-songs were released on records only after they became considerably popular (i.e. after the film saw the light of the day) – that’s how perhaps thousands of songs never got released on discs! I would hence opine, the success of film-songs, to quite some extent, do depend on the success of the film.

    Antara: Peeyush ji… Sounak ‘s reply corroborates what you said… that many songs never got released on discs!!! this is really new information for us who know very little about how records got released… fantastic…! This is the reason why music archivists are leaving no stone unturned to hunt out sample discs and rare songs… but will the music companies wake up to the untapped market? that is the question.

    Sundeep ji, So now we have another angle to this discussion – about songs that were lost forever because the films sank and the record labels never brought out those songs in discs… !!!

    Anu Krishnan: Films with people like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet primarily did well because of hit music. While some of their films were good, many were ordinary but with stellar music.

    Trying to think of some of the hit movies with ordinary music, the only one that comes to mind to quickly is Sadhna, where the movie was pretty good, but the songs not too popular, maybe because they were too classical?? Not sure.

    Sundeep Pahwa: Yes interesting angle, but to add another angle to the same – How many people in the 50s/60s had Radio Gram to play a record or later on a cassette player It was only in the 80s that cassette became a household product, anyway the quality of music had also declined by then Radio was the only source of listening to songs for the people of Jhumri talaiya, Chindwara and so many small towns. Did the songs really get lost I doubt even if the film tanked?

    Anu Krishnan, I dont recall about Sadhna film as a hit or not but i am sure it had some good songs Aurat ne janam diya, Kahonji tum kya kya khareedoge and the lovely Geeta dutt song Tora manva kyoon. Maybe Peeyushji can say better.

  • Peeyush Sharma

    Other than Radio, the only way people would enjoy a song was by watching it in the film. I have personally known many such persons who would see a film multiple times only to watch the songs (or a song). Some would even walk out after the song/s.

    Thus when the film tanked, their chance to enjoy the song/s went down and gradually the demand faded even on radio as new ones kept coming in. Not all records were released prior to the film, for various reasons, and then many records came and film took a long time to come.

    All the dynamics have changed many times, after KL Saigal appeared music companies realised the strength of record selling. With Rattan, they found out that record sales could yield more profits than the movie itself. The small tea shops and restaurants bought gramophones and kept updating records to attract clients.

    The 78rpm became an industry on its own with norms of publish and republish and rights and royalties.
    The dynamics changed again when 45rpm and the long playing 33.1/3rd rpm were introduced. New product. new market penetration. Things changed drastically with cassettes being introduced, cropping up duplicates and infringement of rights that created a totally new in demand market. All of this impacting the fate of the movie in diverse manners.

    One can not detach the fates of music and movie, there are all types on instances of movie tanking with its music or becoming a hit owing to its music and vise-versa.

    Today too, when the movies are there on vcd/dvd there are song collections that sell, the cds, mp3, all have a defined market. No collective effort, concentrated one has ever been made. That would yield a totally different grand result. But, things are as they are sadly.

  • Srirams

    There is no doubt that SD Burman was responsible for shaping Kishore Kumar’s career. SD taught KK how to become a singer par excellence and helped KK attain stardom.

    A rocket has to reach an escape velocity in order to escape the gravitational attraction of a particular planet. In the same way

    In order to maintain a stardom, one needs enough lift to be able to maintain it.

    This lift was given by RD/Rajesh Khanna. It is even said that KK had a soft corner for Kaka and he was even prepared to do free playback for Kaka films.

    KK was very good in mimicking others and this quality gave him an edge. He could easily modulate his voice to sing like the actor he was play backing for.
    A Great quality of KK was that he could convert even an ordinary song into an exceptional one with his improvisation.

    For example, Aake Seedhi Lagi from Half Ticket is still a very popular song. This song would not have been that popular, had KK not sung in a female voice. Voice modulation for Pran was simply brilliant

    Another song that I thought was ordinary was Chala Jaatha Hoon Kisi Ki from Mere Jeevan Saathi, had it not been for KK’s yodelling

    KK’s tribute has been nicely summarized in this article. We have got to thank Mr. Peeyush for it.
    Sir, please continue to delight us with your well-researched articles.

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