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

August 4, 2019 | By

The mention of Kishore Kumar typically conjures up the singer in our minds. We rarely recollect the actor in him instantly. In his career of 40 years in cinema, Kishore sang over 2900 songs as a playback voice for Dev Anand and later for Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and almost every other hero/actor.

Kishore also acted as a lead actor/hero in 72 films. In seven other films he had parallel major roles. He did three Bengali language films as a hero. In 11 more films, he had minor roles and 9 films remained incomplete. Thus he acted in 102 films in all. Quite a large number.

This Silhouette tribute is in memory of Kishore Kumar, the actor.


As a music director, Kishore Kumar directed music in 16 films. Except for Zameen Aasman, 1972, AV Films, Chennai, produced by AV Meiyappan, all 15 were his own productions.

It may come as a surprise to most that he directed 12 films, wrote stories for 15, and screenplay for 5; while penning lyrics for 24 songs and composing music for over 140 songs, officially. Some of these are immortal classics. Examples in case are songs from Jhumroo, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, Door Ka Rahi, and others.


Kishore Kumar debuted as a singer in Shikari (1946)

Kishore always desired to be a singer with KL Saigal being his ideal. But his reputation of not being trained, that too with classical music, became a deterrent. I recollect that our seniors from that generation that frequented the cinemas in the ‘40s and ‘50s, would out rightly reject Kishore, saying that he was no singer. He had no knowledge of classical gayaki or sur and taal, as he was never trained. I have heard this numerous times. This probably was the reason that forced Kishore to become an actor in films. It is also documented that brother Ashok Kumar insisted he become an actor rather than a singer. All of it leading to the reality that people never took him seriously as a singer.

The Beginning

His first master in the craft, and Kishore referred to him as Masterji, was legendary music composer, Khemchand Prakash. Prakash introduced Kishore as a lead singer for Dev Anand in Bombay Talkies’ Ziddi in 1948. But Prakash died at a young age, soon after.

The other music composer who had seen the sparks of a singer in Kishore was SD Burman, who gave Kishore songs right from his first film in Bombay, Shikari, in 1946. So grounded was the confidence that SD had in Kishore, that he literally moulded and fabricated Kishore into a singer. So much so, that he used Kishore as the voice of Raj Kapoor in Pyar, 1950, then for Dev Anand in Baazi, 1951, for Premnath in Naujawan, 1951, and Gope in Ek Nazar, 1951. He reaffirmed this faith again, using him as Dev’s voice with Jaal in 1952, and finally even using him as playback for Dilip Kumar in Sagina in 1974.

Khali pili kahe ko akkha din baith ke bom marta hai (Tamasha, 1952) Manna Dey / Bharat Vyas/ Kishore.

Young Kishore Kumar in Andolan (Pic: Hamara Photos)

Kishore was at his best right from the very beginning, as one can see in this song. The film Tamasha, produced by Bombay Talkies and directed by Phani Mazumdar, was to be musically directed by Khemchand Prakash. When he died, it was handed over to his brother, Basant Prakash, and assistant, Manna Dey. This song, thus, is credited to Manna. Also, this was the only time when Kishore shared major screen space as an actor with Dev Anand. He had a very small, insignificant role in Ziddi, 1948, where Dev was the hero.

After doing small screen roles in Shikari (1946) and Shehnai (1947), his first major acting role as leading man came to him via M&K Productions’ Sati Vijay in 1948, directed by KJ Parmar opposite Ratnamala. In 1950, he was cast opposite Nalini Jaywant in Bombay Talkies’ Muqaddar directed by Aravind Sen. Next year with Phani Mazumdar’s Andolan Kishore was a hero, as also in consecutive years with Pyarelal Santoshi’s Chham Chhama Chham, 1952, Shahid Lateef’s Fareb, 1953, MV Ramen’s Ladki and HS Rawail’s Lehren, both in 1953.

Shaadi, shaadi, shaadi, kismat ki baat hai (Ladki, 1953) R Sudarshanam and Dhaniram / Rajinder Krishan / Kishore

By 1954 he was an established name at the box office. He had 7 releases during this year and that too with well-reputed directors and heroines of the era:

  • Adhikar, directed by Mohan Sehgal, Usha Kiran was his heroine.
  • Dhobi Doctor Phani Mazumdar/ Usha Kiran
  • Ilzam RC Talwar/ Meena Kumari
  • Miss Mala Jayant Desai/ Vyjayanthimala
  • Teen Tasveerein SS Solanki/ Sharda as his partner in romance
  • Pehli Jhalak MV Raman/ Vyjayanthimala and
  • Naukri Bimal Roy/ Sheila Ramani

Kamata hoon bahut kuch (Adhikar, 1954) Avinash Vyas / Raja Mehdi Ali Khan / Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt

The diversity of his roles gave him a large canvas to display his acting capabilities. Adhikar was a light role, Miss Mala was the cinema regular as of heroes of the time, Ilzam was a serious role and Bimal Roy’s Naukri was a difficult and extremely serious role. He had come of age as an actor now. He was singing his own songs in all his films, of course.

Ek chhoti si naukri ka talabgaar hun main (Naukri, 1954) Salil Chowdhury / Shailendra / Kishore, Shyamal Mitra, Shankar Dasgupta

Kishore in this Naukri song is job-searching and is joined from the next dormitory room by Iftekhar (in Shyamal Mitra’s voice) and Sunil Dasgupta (in Shankar Dasgupta’s voice). Six lovely antaras packed within 3 minutes and six seconds. Delightful lyrics by Shailendra with master craftsmanship of Salil.

Bina Rai and Kishore Kumar

Bina Rai and Kishore Kumar in Mad Bhare Nain (Pic: Bharatdiscovery)

Director RC Talwar directed Kishore in 3 films in 3 consecutive years. After Ilzam in 1954, he had Kishore in Rukhsana in 1955 and Mem Sahib in 1956. Meena Kumari was his heroine in all the films. While Ilzam and Mem Sahib had music by Madan Mohan, Rukhsana had music by Sajjad Husain. The song, Tere jahan se chal diye dete huye duayein hum, became popular and appreciated, as it was believed that singing a Sajjad tune was not easy for any singer.

Director Hem Chander’s Mad Bhare Nain (with Bina Rai) in 1955 was the first film where Kishore Kumar was the lead actor with his favourite SD Burman as composer. He had just one song in the film, Pehli, na doosri, teesri pasand hai.

1955 saw four Kishore releases, with AR Kardar’s Baap Re Baap being the biggest hit. It had Chand Usmani as his heroine and famous songs such as Piya piya piya mera jiya pukare (Kishore/Asha) under the baton of OP Nayyar. This duet was, for a very long time, the single most popular Indian song in west African countries like Ghana, Cameroon and Gold Coast, that too among the local populace.

Piya, piya, piya mera jiya pukaare (Baap re Baap, 1955) O P Nayyar / Jaan Nisar Akhtar / Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle

Continued to Part 2

Don’t miss the other 3 parts:

Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 2

Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 3

Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 4

Creative Writing

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Consulting Editor Learning and Creativity and Silhouette Magazine. To talk of a few passions of Peeyush, one must start with music. He is known to be a collector of music and information pertaining to Indian cinema (majorly Hindi) spanning a period from early 1930s to 1980s. He has a large collection of Bengali and Punjabi music and material as well. He also boasts of a huge library of related material. Peeyush has delivered talks and lectures on music appreciation, contributed write ups in numerous news papers and magazines. He has co-authored a tribute publication on Anil Biswas. He has co-hosted radio talk shows on music and met and interviewed a number of personalities. Occasionally, he delivers talks even now. Peeyush has been the founder secretary of the prestigious, Vintage Hindi Music Lovers Association in Bangalore that honored Anil Biswas in 1985. He is known as a storehouse of old Hindi music and information regarding music and movies. Peeyush is well read in Vedic culture and literature and is invited in various centers to deliver enlightening lectures on Vedic values. His range spans from four Vedas to Upanishads and Darshans as well as Bhagvad Gita. He has delivered talks on Yog Darshan in Yoga schools and large gatherings. He currently lives in Oshawa, Ontario in Canada.
All Posts of Peeyush Sharma

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2 thoughts on “Kishore Kumar The Actor: A Legend’s Journey Down the Years Part 1

  • A Bharat

    Welcome back Peeyush! And the subject you have chosen is also close to my heart. He was one of my favorite actors. Our mutual friend Bhakta used to say that Kishore was one of the most watchable actors; like Johnny Walker. He was always his delightful self. Unlike his more distinguished brother who went through innumerable movies with hardly a change of expression. Except in that scene in Chalti ka naam Gadi where Madhubala barges into their quarters. THEN he is eminently watchable. One has to see the sparkling encounters between the brothers in BHAI BHAI to note the difference.

    Kishore was also exceptional in the 50s in having separate series of movies with different heroines like Vyjayanthimala, Madhubala, Shakila, Meena Kumari, Nutan and Mala Sinha all running concurrently. The article, only half way through makes us look forward to the rest.

    One small point: Kishore also sings along with Asha in the climactic song of MADH BHARE NAIN -“Deewane armanonke”. I remember him, face concealed, running around the dancing girls on the stage to avoid the villains, muttering,”Bacho Bacho Bacho”.

  • Peeyush Sharma

    Wow, thanks Bharat . Your input and comments are always most pointed and valuable. I rate Kishore very high as an actor. This Mad Bhare Nain song is such a delight.
    I am eagerly awaiting your comments on the balance 3 parts.

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