Bollywood— Lost&Found Movies

Kishore Kumar’s unsung ventures

Kishore Kumar  

Singer-actor-composer-filmmaker-lyricist Kishore Kumar’s 89th birth anniversary was celebrated world over on August 4. In terms of sheer diversity of talent Kishore Kumar may compare favourably with Charlie Chaplin. As an actor, his comedy capers like Chalti ka naam gaadi, Half Ticket, Jhumroo, Padosan, Pyar Kiye Jaa left us gasping for breath at the mere sight of his inexhaustible on-screen energy. But there are stories of his career as a film-maker and actor that have been lost in the winds of the decades.

Ambitious venture

Fifty-eight years ago, on his birthday (August 4, 1960), Kishore Kumar launched an ambitious venture, Suhana Geet. Unlike his previous production Chalti ka naam gaadi (1958), he decided to use purely Indian music (rather than Indian classical music) as the base for all the songs of Suhana Geet. Owing to his wife and the film’s heroine Madhubala’s illness, Suhana Geet, under the direction of Phani Majumdar who had returned to India after a stint with Malay films, was shelved after a few reels of shooting. Nine songs, all written by Shailendra, and composed by Kishore Kumar, never made it to the shellac or vinyl, though Mera geet adhura hai was re-recorded by him some 20 years later for his last produced film, Mamta ki chaon mein (1989). Courtesy Sandip Ray’s documentary on Kishore Kumar, Zindagi ek safar (1988).Almost around the same time as Suhana Geet, Kishore had begun work on another of his unfinished ventures. Neela Aasmaan, as it was called, never saw the light of day, but the title song later made it to the non-film album Dui Kishore, which was released after his death. Here, the melody had little to do with Indian classical music. Inspired mostly from Victor Young’s theme of Shane (1953), this was one of the earliest instances of retrofitting a Western theme to an Indian ambience, where one could enjoy the best of both worlds. It was also the first song which he probably wrote for the screen. “But what about Mai hoon jhum jhum Jhumroo (1961)?”, analysts may argue. Mai hoon jhum jhum Jhumroo preceded Neela Aasmaan – it was a poem he wrote during his days as a student of Intermediate Arts at Indore Christian College.

Lost in time

These were some of Kishore Kumar’s compositions which were lost in time which enthusiastic fans and filmmakers, and later collectors, decided to unearth. But unfortunately, the films themselves, rather whatever was left of them – a total of seven which were shelved and many more which remained only on paper – were never recovered.

Kishore Kumar’s Hum do daaku (1967) was probably the first signal of wild imagination charting its own path. Brothers on a mission to unearth the lost cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro looked good on paper. But given the difficulty in logistics (the site of Indus valley civilization now being in Pakistan) which Kumar never gave a thought, and the complete absence of logic, this attempted road film was doomed. Not a patch on the Bob Hope - Bing Crosby films it was inspired from. But the songs became hugely popular with collectors and fans. Like his own dialogue in Door wadiyon mein kahin (1980) – Quaid ka ek din ho, ya ek pal, dam ghutta hai sahib, he was, by nature, a drifter, who loved to dabble in whatever occupied his mind at the spur of the moment. He was a man on the move and thus, quickly moved from one idea to another. Apart from the musically superlative Door gagan ki chaon mein (1964) — a take-off from Michael Curtiz’s The Proud Rebel (1958) — and Door wadiyon mein kahin (1980), a film with no songs or music (only natural sounding sounds were used), which even got the nod from Satyajit Ray, none of the films he directed were really worth a watch, frankly.

Especially with Door wadiyon ...., Kishore’s evolution as a filmmaker reached a high point, a not-too-lofty pinnacle from where he plunged several furlongs with a film as nonsensical and nondescript as Chalti ka naam zindagi (1982

Thankfully, Door ka rahi came at a time when Kishore was ensconced as the top singer in Hindi cinema by a very wide margin.He was like a messiah to film producers as well. So swayed were they by his alluring voice and the subsequent hold over market behaviour, that Kishore Kumar Ganguly upstaged the rest of the cast including the heroine and the dance director, which forced many producers to include his songs as the starting point in the film. Else, the success of stars like Navin Nischol, Randhir Kapoor, or Anil Dhawan, or even the superstar of Indian cinema, Rajesh Khanna, could be debated. Kishore was in a sense the Western ‘musical’ hero who took the story forward.

Incidentally, Door ka rahi was the nearest thing to a Western he ever made. And Suhana Geet the musical (not to be confused with the “musical” as applicable to Hollwood) he could never make. A mix of the two might have been there in Pyar ajnabi hai, where a rugged, middle-aged Kishore Kumar does look like a retired sheriff in search of love. The film was never made, except for two absolutely brilliant songs which were partly picturised rather glamorously for a Kishore Kumar production. Pyar ajnabi hai and Hamari zid hai continue to mesmerise listeners even today, the 2nd, with a mere 47 second existence on video.

Kishore Kumar’s legacy as a filmmaker was outlived by the composer- singer’s musical legacy, many times over.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 6:20:40 PM |

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