A small tribute on his 87th birth anniversary…
Kishore Kumar acted in around 100 films during his career spanning four decades (1946-1987) including a few Bengali films also. He may not have been counted among the so-called suave, dashing and debonair heroes but he had a certain charm of his own which made him extremely popular and he ended up acting opposite almost all the top heroines of that time like Madhubala, Vyjayantimala, Meena Kumari, Mala Sinha, Sadhna,Kum Kum, Shyama,Nimmi etc. He also got to work with great directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy, Phani Majumdar, M V Raman, Satyen Bose, Asit Sen, Mohan Sehgal, etc. Gulzar once said that so impressed was Hrishikesh Mukherjee with his talent that he had been the original choice for the memorable film Anand which could not materialize due to various reasons.
Kishore Kumar was a very natural actor and had a unique body language while acting as well as while dancing which nobody could ape and it is really difficult to imagine anyone else doing any of his roles. He was effortless in front of the camera and merged with his character with ease and his style of dialogue delivery never made it look like he was acting.
It is indeed ironical to note that Kishore Kumar on his own never wanted to be an actor. His passion was singing and he wanted to try his luck as a singer in the industry. However in the absence of any formal training in music it was elder brother Ashok Kumar, twenty years his senior, who insisted that Kishore should only become an actor.
So when Kishore came to Bombay in 1946, Ashok Kumar helped him get bit roles in films like Shikari, Shehnai and Aandolan where he was hardly noticed. The internet also lists a film Sati Vijaya with Kishore as the hero though not much is known about this film. In 1948 came Ziddi under the banner of Bombay Talkies starring Dev Anand and Pran. One day when the actor playing the role of the gardener did not turn up, Ashok Kumar got Kishore to step in for the role. Kishore though in a miniscule role was noticed and the film proved an important starting point for all three actors involved.
He was brilliant at comedy and is best remembered for his roles in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Half-Ticket, Asha, New Delhi, Padosan, Pyar Kiye Ja, Badhti Ka Naam Daadi, etc. However behind the comic face and prankster antics there was an intensity to his persona which came to fore in some of his more serious and ‘typical hero’ roles and especially in the films produced and directed by him in later life. Between 1953 and 1969 on an average he had 4-5 releases every year with as many as nine films being released in 1956 and seven films in 1957. After 1969 the number reduced to a total of four or five releases in the next twenty years.He was an actor-singer for about twenty years after which he concentrated only on his career as a playback singer from 1968-69 till his death.
In this blog I am writing about nine of his films which are not often written about but in which he acts brilliantly displaying myriad emotions and even outclasses elder brother Ashok Kumar in two of them where they play brothers in reel-life also.
This is a 1957 film directed by Satyen Bose and had all three brothers Ashok, Kishore and Anoop coming together before Chalti Ka naam Gaadi (1958). Kishore Kumar as the golden-hearted simpleton gets ample scope to display his histrionics and probably comes up with his career-best performance. Ashok Kumar as his educated elder brother has negative shades to his character. He abandons his wife Shyama (who later dies) and child (who grows up to be Nanda and later falls in love with young Anoop Kumar) and marries another woman, Bina Rai. He is even sent to jail for 15 years for killing an innocent albeit by mistake in a tussle. Kishore Kumar does everything in his power to look after his ‘Bhabhi’ and his niece and becomes a captive or ‘Bandi’- tied down by duties in life. The confrontation scenes between Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar are superb especially in the end when they meet after 16 years .
Directed by Bimal Roy the film,as the title suggests, focuses on the employment problems and frustration faced by the youth of that time. The film has a young Ifthikar playing an unemployed youth staying in the same lodge as Kishore, Mehmood in one scene as a thief and young Jagdeep in one scene as a shoe-polish boy! Like the director’s Do Bhiga Zameen, the film is on the lines of a neorealist cinema and beautifully brings to fore the simplicity of life and vulnerability of the people in that era. Kishore Kumar’s performance in this heart-warming saga is brilliant.
APNA HAATH JAGANNATH (1960)
Another excellent performance from Kishore Kumar in this film directed by Mohan Sehgal which has a nice moral-‘One must value physical labour as much as academic degree and office work’. In the film Kishore Kumar’s ‘Dhobi’(washerman) teaches him the dignity of physical labour and when he does not get any job after passing B.A. (in those days the degree had a lot of value), he also decides to become a ‘Dhobi’. He is thrown out of the house by his father for not getting an office-job. He shifts to Bombay and because of his hard work and talent, he ends up becoming the head of a big ‘printing, dyeing and washing’ laundry. Meanwhile his father is caught embezzling money to get his daughter married. Of course! it is a happy ending after all this rigmarole.
The film has direction, story and screenplay by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and brings out beautifully the simple philosophy that-Life has both ups and downs. The film has a different concept as it deals with three stories within the film. There is a house owned by David and from time to time different tenants come to occupy it and the story then focuses on the joys and sorrows during their stay. Kishore Kumar is part of the second story where he comes to live with his widowed sister-in-law and father. He even attempts suicide due to frustration but is saved because of adulteration in poison! Ultimately he sees reason and they leave happily after his nephew is born. Though the role is small, Kishore manages to leave a stamp.
MAN MAUJI (1962)
This is a family entertainer made under the banner of AVM Productions and also includes a murder. When Kishore Kumar is young, he steals to buy medicines for his mother but is caught by the police. His mother dies, he goes to jail and when he comes out his sister is in an orphanage. Since he has no money he steals again and tells lies effortlessly. He is also accused of murdering Om Prakash, a crime actually committed by Pran. So his character in the film is not that of a straight-forward good-hearted hero but one who lies, steals and goes to jail. Sadhna is his heroine who tries to reform him and once again a superb performance from Kishore Kumar makes this film worth seeing.
DOOR GAGAN KI CHAON MEIN (1964)
This film is considered to be one of Kishore Kumar’s masterpieces with the maverick genius handling the story, production, direction, music as well as acting departments. The film also has his real son Amit Kumar playing his reel son. It is a heart-warming saga which traces the journey of a father and son and proves how a simple storyline can be turned into a powerful and entertaining narrative. Kishore on his return from his stint in the Army is shocked to find his wonderful world torn apart- his wife and father die in an accidental fire and witnessing this incident sends his 7-year old son into a state of shock and he becomes mute. Thereafter the film dwells on their adventures and his efforts to get treatment for his son. Supriya Choudhary is his love-interest and looks beautiful. Kishoreda’s heartening performance can be rated as one of his best. This song in particular has a haunting quality to it…
This family social directed by M V Raman pitted the two brothers Ashok and Kishore once again playing brothers in the film also. The younger brother Kishore Kumar runs away from home as a kid when he is caught stealing, goes to city , changes his name and earns his living as a pickpocket, befriends a petty thief Nimmi and starts living with her and her dad. Meanwhile elder brother Ashok Kumar now married with a kid falls for the charms of a seductress played by Shyama (remember the super-hit song-Ae dil mujhe bata de…), abandons his family and starts living with her in the city. Ashok Kumar’s wife comes to city in search of her husband, meets Kishore who offers shelter. Initially they don’t recognize each other but finally everything is sorted after some melodrama. Kishore comes up with yet another sterling performance.
DO DOONI CHAAR (1968)
This film produced by Bimal Roy and directed by Debu Sen has Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen in double roles. It is a remake of the Bengali film Branthibilas and which in turn is based on a play written by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in 1869.The play was loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and was later remade as Angoor by Gulzar, who incidentally was the assistant director in this film. A banker and his assistant in a town are confused with a merchant and his assistant as both happen to be their look-alikes respectively and what follows is a hilarious journey of misunderstanding and chaos. Though the direction was not up to the mark and the supporting cast and music also not that good except for one song, the film is worth seeing just for Kishore Kumar’s acting.
Written by Rajinder Sinh Bedi and directed by Amar Kumar this is a fun-filled family social where there are the usual ingredients of romance, comedy, family issues, misunderstandings and a typical villain. Kishore Kumar gets plenty of scope show his natural breezy self as well as his serious side. A goof-up in the cement packets which had been mixed with adulterants leads to a building collapse and Kishore is arrested. Here Kishore Kumar is ably assisted by good performances from heroine Vyjayantimala and the supporting cast of Nazir Hussain, Jeevan, Dhumal and Durga Khote