Kishore Kumar

Kishore Kumar: Bollywood's yodeling King

Kishore Kumar was an iconic figure in Indian cinema, celebrated for his unmatched versatility as a playback singer, actor and director. His charismatic voice and dynamic performances spanned soulful melodies and lively compositions, establishing him as a timeless legend in the realm of Bollywood music and entertainment.
Date of Birth : 4th August 1929
Died : 13th October 1987
Place of Birth : Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India
Father : Kunjalal Ganguly
Mother : Gouri Devi
Spouse/Partner : Ruma Guha, Madhubala, Yogeeta and Leena
Children : Amit, Sumit, Sumeet and Muktika
Professions : Playback Singer, Actor, Lyricist, and Producer and Director


In the vast and diverse landscape of Indian music, Kishore Kumar stands as an iconic figure whose influence transcends generations. Born on August 4, 1929, in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, Kishore Kumar was a multifaceted genius – a playback singer, actor, lyricist, composer, producer, director, and screenwriter. His incredible versatility and unique vocal style have made him a legendary figure in the history of Indian music. This article by Academic Block will shed light on life and career of the iconic Indian singer, Kishore Kumar.

Early Life and Background

Kishore Kumar hailed from a family deeply rooted in the world of entertainment. His father, Kunjalal Ganguly, was a lawyer by profession but had a passion for theater and music. Kishore's elder brother, Ashok Kumar, was a renowned actor in the Indian film industry. The family's artistic environment played a crucial role in shaping Kishore's early interests and talents.

Kishore Kumar started his career as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, a prominent film studio. His initial struggles and setbacks did not deter him from pursuing his dreams. Kishore's perseverance led him to his first break as a playback singer with the film "Ziddi" (1948), where he sang the song "Marne Ki Duayen Kyon Mangu." Although the song did not gain much attention, it marked the beginning of Kishore Kumar's journey in the world of playback singing.

Musical Evolution

Kishore Kumar's early singing career saw him experimenting with various styles and genres. From romantic ballads to peppy numbers, he showcased his versatility even in the initial years. However, it was the influence of legendary singer K.L. Saigal that shaped Kishore's singing style. Saigal's soulful and emotive approach left an indelible mark on Kishore Kumar's musical sensibilities.

The 1960s witnessed a gradual rise in Kishore Kumar's popularity. His collaboration with music director S.D. Burman proved to be a turning point in his career. The songs of movies like "Guide" (1965) and "Aradhana" (1969) became chartbusters, catapulting Kishore Kumar to the forefront of playback singing. The soul-stirring rendition of "Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein" and the timeless "Roop Tera Mastana" showcased his ability to infuse emotions into every note.

The Magic of Kishore-R.D. Burman Duo

The 1970s marked the golden era of Kishore Kumar's career, primarily due to his collaboration with music director R.D. Burman. The duo created timeless classics that continue to resonate with audiences today. Songs like "Musafir Hoon Yaaron" (Parichay, 1972), "Chookar mere man ko" (Yaarana, 1981), and "Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai" (Kati Patang, 1971) exemplify the magic they conjured together.

R.D. Burman's experimental and innovative compositions found a perfect match in Kishore Kumar's versatile voice. The duo not only dominated the playback music scene but also explored new genres and sounds. Kishore Kumar effortlessly adapted to Burman's eclectic style, delivering soulful renditions that left an indelible mark on the hearts of listeners.

The Actor in Kishore Kumar

Apart from his prowess as a playback singer, Kishore Kumar's foray into acting further showcased his multifaceted talent. He starred in numerous films, with "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958) being one of the most memorable. The film, which also featured his brothers Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar, was a comedy classic that highlighted Kishore's impeccable comic timing.

His acting career reached new heights with films like "Padosan" (1968) and "Aashirwad" (1968), where he played pivotal roles. Kishore Kumar's on-screen presence and natural flair for comedy endeared him to audiences, solidifying his status as an entertainer beyond the realm of music.

Lyricism and Composition

Kishore Kumar's creative genius extended beyond singing and acting; he also tried his hand at lyricism and composition. His soul-stirring compositions like "Musafir Hoon Yaaron" and "Pyar Deewana Hota Hai" showcased his ability to create magic not just with his voice but also with his pen and musical sensibilities.

The Unforgettable "Kishore Da" Voice

Kishore Kumar's voice had a distinctive quality that set him apart from his contemporaries. His ability to convey a wide range of emotions – from joy and love to melancholy and heartbreak – made him the voice of every actor on the silver screen. Kishore Kumar's voice was not just a tool for singing; it was a vehicle for storytelling, an instrument that could evoke the deepest of emotions.

The Emotional Resonance

One of the reasons Kishore Kumar's songs remain timeless is their emotional resonance. His ability to connect with listeners on a profound level made him the go-to playback singer for actors who wanted their characters to come alive through the power of music. Whether it was the joyous celebration of love in "Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai" or the heart-wrenching agony of separation in "Chookar mere man ko," Kishore Kumar's voice had the unparalleled ability to tug at the heartstrings.

Last Years

The last years of Kishore Kumar's life were marked by both personal and professional challenges, yet they also witnessed his unwavering commitment to his craft and a continued contribution to the world of music and cinema.

Personal Life Struggles: Kishore Kumar's personal life faced turbulence, particularly in his relationships. His marriage to actress Madhubala, marked by love and turmoil, ended with her tragic demise in 1969. Kishore Kumar's subsequent marriages, including the one with actress Yogeeta Bali, also faced ups and downs. The personal struggles and failed relationships seemed to cast a shadow on his personal happiness.

Despite the challenges in his personal life, Kishore Kumar's commitment to his work remained unscathed. His ability to channel his emotions into his singing added depth and authenticity to his renditions, making his music resonate with listeners on a profound level.

Professional Resilience: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kishore Kumar faced a temporary setback in his playback singing career. The emergence of new voices and changing trends in the music industry led to a brief decline in demand for his services. However, Kishore Kumar's resilience and his undying passion for music drove him to adapt to the evolving landscape.

During this period, Kishore Kumar ventured into producing and directing films, displaying his versatility in the realm of filmmaking. His directorial ventures, such as "Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin" (1980) and "Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi" (1982), showcased his creativity beyond singing and acting.

Despite the challenges, Kishore Kumar's association with music director R.D. Burman continued to yield remarkable compositions. The 1980s saw the release of iconic songs like "Agar Tum Na Hote" (Agar Tum Na Hote, 1983) and "Manzilein Apni Jagah Hain" (Sharaabi, 1984), reaffirming his status as the undisputed king of playback singing.

Return to Prominence: Kishore Kumar's return to prominence in the mid-1980s marked a triumphant phase in his career. His songs for the film "Saagar" (1985), composed by R.D. Burman, not only catapulted the movie to success but also showcased Kishore Kumar's timeless appeal. Tracks like "Saagar Kinare Dil Yeh Pukare" and "O Maria" became chartbusters, reaffirming his irreplaceable position in the Indian music industry.

The 1980s also saw Kishore Kumar collaborating with a new generation of filmmakers and actors. His songs for films like "Sharaabi" (1984), "Namak Halaal" (1982), and "Shaukeen" (1982) showcased his ability to adapt to changing cinematic sensibilities while retaining his signature style.

Final Days and Legacy: Tragically, Kishore Kumar's illustrious journey came to an abrupt end on October 13, 1987. He succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 58, leaving behind a legacy that continues to reverberate through the corridors of Indian music.

Kishore Kumar's legacy extends far beyond the challenges and triumphs of his last years. His contributions to Indian cinema and music remain unparalleled, and his influence is palpable in the works of contemporary artists who draw inspiration from his timeless melodies. The emotional depth and sheer artistry embedded in his songs ensure that he is remembered not only as a playback singer but as an immortal maestro whose voice transcends the boundaries of time.

Final Words

In the grand tapestry of Indian music, Kishore Kumar's contribution is nothing short of legendary. His journey from a struggling artist to the voice of a nation is a testament to his talent, resilience, and passion for the art form. Kishore Kumar's ability to emote through his voice, his knack for experimentation, and his ceaseless pursuit of excellence have secured his place as an immortal icon in the annals of Indian music history.

As we continue to cherish and celebrate the magic of Kishore Kumar's melodies, it is clear that his legacy will endure for generations to come. The timeless quality of his songs, the emotional depth in his voice, and the sheer brilliance of his artistry make Kishore Kumar an everlasting maestro in the world of Indian cinema and music. Please provide your views in comment section to make this article better. Thanks for Reading!

This Article will answer your questions like:

+ What was the real name of Kishore Kumar? >

Kishore Kumar's real name was Abhas Kumar Ganguly. He adopted the stage name "Kishore Kumar" when he entered the film industry.

+ What is the story behind Kishore Kumar’s stage name change? >

Kishore Kumar changed his name to give himself a fresh identity in Bollywood. His elder brother, Ashok Kumar, suggested "Kishore" as it was his favorite character in the movie "Andolan."

+ Name some of Kishore Kumar's famous playback songs. >

Kishore Kumar sang numerous iconic songs including "Roop Tera Mastana," "Ek Ladki Bhigi Bhagi Si," and "Mere Sapno Ki Rani." His versatility and unique voice made him a favorite among music lovers.

+ Why is Kishore Kumar considered a legendary playback singer? >

Kishore Kumar's ability to modulate his voice according to the actor's persona and the situation in the movie, along with his improvisation skills, made him an unparalleled singer in Bollywood. His songs are timeless classics that continue to resonate with audiences.

+ In which languages did Kishore Kumar sing? >

Kishore Kumar sang in several languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, and Oriya.

+ Which film marked Kishore Kumar's debut as a playback singer? >

Kishore Kumar debuted as a playback singer with the film "Ziddi" (1948), starring Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal.

+ Tell me about Kishore Kumar’s acting career and notable films. >

Kishore Kumar was not only a renowned playback singer but also a versatile actor known for his comic timing and eccentric characters in films like "Padosan," "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi," and "Half Ticket." His comedic genius and spontaneity made him a beloved figure in Indian cinema.

+ What awards did Kishore Kumar win for his singing? >

Kishore Kumar won several awards, including 8 Filmfare Awards for Best Male Playback Singer.

+ How many National Film Awards did Kishore Kumar win? >

Kishore Kumar won 4 National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer.

+ Did Kishore Kumar face any controversies during his career? >

Kishore Kumar was known for his eccentricities and outspoken nature, which occasionally landed him in controversies, especially with film producers and directors.

+ What was Kishore Kumar's versatility in the entertainment industry? >

Kishore Kumar excelled not only as a playback singer and actor but also as a director, producer, lyricist, composer, and screenwriter. His multifaceted talents made him a unique figure in Bollywood.

+ Tell me about Kishore Kumar’s personal life and relationships. >

Kishore Kumar had a colorful personal life with multiple marriages, including his marriage to prominent actresses such as Ruma Guha Thakurta and Madhubala. His personal relationships often made headlines in the media.

Controversies revolving around Kishore Kumar

Personal Relationships: One of the most talked-about aspects of Kishore Kumar’s life was his tumultuous personal relationships. His marriage to actress Madhubala was marked by intense love but also significant turmoil. Their union faced societal and familial opposition, and Madhubala’s tragic demise in 1969 left a profound impact on Kishore Kumar. His subsequent marriages, including those with actresses Yogeeta Bali and Leena Chandavarkar, were also subjected to public scrutiny, contributing to the media’s fascination with his personal life.

Non-Cooperation with Filmmakers: Kishore Kumar was known for his quirky and unpredictable behavior, especially when it came to dealing with filmmakers and producers. There were instances where he refused to work with certain directors or producers due to personal disagreements or professional disputes. This non-cooperative stance sometimes led to strained relationships within the film industry.

Financial Issues: Despite being one of the highest-paid playback singers of his time, Kishore Kumar faced financial troubles. His extravagant lifestyle and business ventures, coupled with occasional non-payment for his work, contributed to financial challenges. Reports suggest that Kishore Kumar, at times, struggled to manage his finances, leading to controversies surrounding his monetary affairs.

Ban from All India Radio (AIR): In the 1970s, Kishore Kumar faced a temporary ban from All India Radio (AIR). The ban reportedly stemmed from his refusal to perform at a political event. Kishore’s reluctance to comply with the government’s request led to repercussions in the form of the AIR ban. However, this ban was eventually lifted after Kishore Kumar apologized to the then Prime Minister.

Political Standoff: Kishore Kumar’s involvement in politics also stirred controversy. During the Emergency imposed by the Indian government in the mid-1970s, Kishore Kumar’s song “Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein” was banned from the radio because he refused to perform at a Congress party function. This incident further fueled the perception of Kishore Kumar as a non-conformist.

Association with the Burmans: While the collaboration between Kishore Kumar and music director R.D. Burman produced timeless classics, their association was not always smooth. There were reports of creative differences and occasional rifts between the two, leading to speculations about the dynamics of their professional relationship.

Refusal of Filmfare Awards: Kishore Kumar’s nonchalant attitude towards awards was well known. He was reported to have declined the prestigious Filmfare Awards on multiple occasions, citing his disinterest in such recognitions. His refusal to conform to the established norms of the film industry added to his enigmatic image.

Alleged Paranormal Experiences: Kishore Kumar was known for his belief in the supernatural, and there were reports of him claiming to have experienced paranormal activities. Stories circulated about him refusing to sing certain songs or enter specific recording studios due to his belief in ghosts. These eccentricities added a mystique to his personality, with some viewing him as an artist with a unique connection to the ethereal.

Legal Battles: Kishore Kumar was involved in various legal disputes throughout his career. One notable instance was his legal battle with music director Khayyam over the rights to the song “Bhavra Bada Naadan Hai” from the film “Chitralekha” (1964). The prolonged legal proceedings shed light on the complexities of copyright issues in the entertainment industry.

Unconventional Singing Style: Kishore Kumar’s singing style was unconventional, and his refusal to adhere to traditional norms occasionally raised eyebrows. He was known for incorporating yodeling into his songs, a Western vocal technique rarely seen in Indian music. While this added a distinct flavor to his renditions, it also sparked debates and discussions about the evolving nature of playback singing in the Indian film industry.

Boycott by Music Labels: There were instances when Kishore Kumar faced a temporary boycott by music labels due to his insistence on receiving full payment before recording a song. His uncompromising stance on financial matters led to conflicts with recording companies, resulting in a hiatus from playback singing. However, his undeniable popularity and demand eventually led to a resolution of these disputes, highlighting the power he wielded in the industry.

Scrapping of Unfinished Films: As Kishore Kumar ventured into film direction, some of his projects faced challenges. He started and abandoned several films, leading to financial losses for producers and strained relationships within the industry. The unpredictability surrounding his directorial ventures added to the perception of Kishore Kumar as a maverick with an unconventional approach to filmmaking.

Posthumous Legal Issues: After Kishore Kumar’s death, there were legal battles over his assets and properties. Disputes arose among family members, leading to prolonged court cases to settle inheritance matters. These posthumous legal issues highlighted the complexities surrounding the distribution of his estate and the challenges faced by his surviving family members.

Awards won by Kishore Kumar

National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer:

  • “Roop tera mastana” from the movie “Aradhana” (1969)
  • “Dil aisa kisi ne mera toda” from the movie “Amanush” (1975)
  • “Kahin door jab din dhal jaye” from the movie “Anand” (1972)
  • “Hazaar raahen mud ke dekheen” from the movie “Thodisi Bewafaii” (1980)

Filmfare Awards for Best Male Playback Singer:

  • “Roop tera mastana” from the movie “Aradhana” (1969)
  • “Chookar mere man ko” from the movie “Yaarana” (1982)
  • “Dil kya kare” from the movie “Julie” (1975)
  • “Zindagi ke safar mein” from the movie “Aap Ki Kasam” (1974)
  • “Yeh jo mohabbat hai” from the movie “Kati Patang” (1971)
  • “Mere samne wali khidki mein” from the movie “Padosan” (1969)
  • “Musafir hoon yaaron” from the movie “Parichay” (1972)
  • “Agar tum na hote” from the movie “Agar Tum Na Hote” (1984)

Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards:

  • Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Musafir hoon yaaron” from the movie “Parichay” (1972)

Lata Mangeshkar Award:

  • Kishore Kumar was honored with the Lata Mangeshkar Award in 1985-86 by the Madhya Pradesh government.

Other Recognitions:

  • Kishore Kumar received numerous other accolades and honors from various organizations and film festivals for his exceptional contributions to the field of music.

Quotes by Kishore Kumar

“I have no enemies. I have no time to waste on them.”

“If you desire to live, you have to die each moment.”

“I like being myself. Whatever I am, it’s the way I am.”

“I don’t believe in formalities. It’s not the truth. It’s not my style.”

“I am a workaholic. I never say no to work. I have no time.”

“I have no music lessons. I am completely untrained.”

“The more you get to know me, the less I change.”

“If someone truly loves you, they won’t tell you love stories; they will make a love story with you.”

“I have lost in my life. The one who never loses, never learns.”

“Life is a game, play it.”

“I am a loner, though I am always surrounded by people.”

“I only talk sense. I don’t talk nonsense.”

“Music is the soul of every artist, and it can only be felt.”

“Artists don’t have colors; they only have shades.”

“I’m a madman. That’s my secret.”

Most famous Songs of Kishore Kumar

“Roop tera mastana”

“Mere samne wali khidki mein”

“Yeh jo mohabbat hai”

“Chookar mere man ko”

“Zindagi ke safar mein”

“Musafir hoon yaaron”

“Agar tum na hote”

“O mere dil ke chain”

“Chookar mere man ko”

“Yeh shaam mastani”

“Zindagi pyar ka geet hai”

“Khaike paan Banaraswala”

“Pyar deewana hota hai”

Facts on Kishore Kumar

Early Life and Name Change: Kishore Kumar was born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly on August 4, 1929, in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India. His family had a strong connection to the world of entertainment. Interestingly, Kishore Kumar changed his name from Abhas Kumar Ganguly to Kishore Kumar after entering the film industry.

Multifaceted Talent: Kishore Kumar was not only a playback singer but also a highly talented actor, lyricist, composer, producer, director, and screenwriter. His versatility allowed him to make significant contributions to various facets of the Indian entertainment industry.

Family of Artists: Kishore Kumar belonged to a family of artists. His elder brother, Ashok Kumar, was a legendary actor in the Indian film industry. His other siblings, Anoop Kumar and Sati Devi, were also associated with the world of entertainment.

Initiation into the Film Industry: Kishore Kumar’s entry into the film industry was through his elder brother, Ashok Kumar. He initially worked as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, a leading film studio.

Inspiration from K.L. Saigal: Kishore Kumar was greatly influenced by the legendary singer K.L. Saigal. Saigal’s soulful and emotive singing style left a lasting impact on Kishore Kumar, shaping his own vocal approach.

First Break as a Playback Singer: Kishore Kumar’s first break as a playback singer came with the film “Ziddi” (1948), where he sang the song “Marne Ki Duayen Kyon Mangu.” Although the song did not gain much attention, it marked the beginning of his journey as a playback singer.

Golden Era with S.D. Burman: The collaboration between Kishore Kumar and music director S.D. Burman in the 1960s proved to be a turning point in his career. Songs from films like “Aradhana” (1969) and “Guide” (1965) became chartbusters, establishing Kishore Kumar as a leading playback singer.

Iconic Duo with R.D. Burman: Kishore Kumar’s collaboration with music director R.D. Burman in the 1970s and 1980s produced some of the most memorable and iconic songs in Indian cinema. The duo created magic with compositions like “Roop Tera Mastana” and “Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai.”

Acting Career: Kishore Kumar was a successful actor and starred in numerous films, including classics like “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi” (1958), “Padosan” (1968), and “Aashirwad” (1968). His comic timing and natural flair for acting endeared him to audiences.

Unconventional Yodeling: Kishore Kumar introduced yodeling, a Western vocal technique, into Indian playback singing. This unconventional approach added a unique and distinctive quality to his songs.

Four National Film Awards: Kishore Kumar was honored with the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer four times. He received these prestigious awards for his soulful renditions in the films “Sharabi” (1979), “Khubsoorat” (1980), “Agar Tum Na Hote” (1983), and “Saagar” (1985).

Filmfare Awards Record: Kishore Kumar holds the record for winning the most Filmfare Awards for Best Male Playback Singer. He received this coveted award eight times during his illustrious career.

Personal Eccentricities: Kishore Kumar was known for his eccentricities, both on and off-screen. From his refusal to conform to societal norms to his quirky behavior, these traits added to the enigma surrounding his personality.

Fear of Traveling by Air: Kishore Kumar had an aversion to flying and was known for his fear of traveling by air. He preferred long road journeys, and this preference sometimes led to delays in his professional commitments.

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