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Subject: Kishore Kumar - In his Own Words - Some Interviews.
Posted: "Rajan P. Parrikar" (parrikar@mimicad.Colorado.EDU)
Source: Filmfare(November 1-15, 1987).
Kishore, in his own words:
"My father Kunjalal Ganguli, was a pleader (advocate) who
earned Rs 30 a month. My mama, Dhananjay Banerjee, a classical
singer, was the only family link I had with music. But I was
never trained to be a singer. It was my brother Dadamoni who
learnt music from the well-known Saraswati Devi."
"Very early in life I was fascinated by K.L. Saigal. I used to
save my pocket money to buy his records. He's my real guru."
"In Padosan, I mimicked my mama - long hair, kajal in the eyes,
constant paan-chewing and the works. My performance was so
perfect that shooting was halted after two days. Both Mehmood
and Sunil felt that I was stealing every scene from them, and
they got down to working on their get-ups. That's how Mehmood
and Sunil got to wearing wigs etc."
"When I married Leena I didn't expect to be a father again.
After all, I was in my fifties then. But Sumeet has been a
source of immense joy to me. Leena, Amit, Sumeet and I today
make a well-adjusted foursome. I had always longed for a
secure, happy family. It remained just a dream until Leena
came along. With her, for the first time, I have achieved
"I was surprised when "Lata agreed to do stage shows with me
in London. Though I was thrilled, I was worried about one
thing - her discipline. She would never go on stage without
proper rehearsal. But I like to take things easy. We had to
sing five duets: Chai pe bulaya hain (Souten), Gata rahe mera
dil (Guide), Jai jai shiv shankar (Aap ki Kasam), Accha to hum
chalte hain (Aan Milo Sajana) and Kora kagaz tha yeh man
mera (Aradhana). The problem arose when it was time for us to
go on stage. We couldn't decide who should go first. I
suggested that Lata sing first because she was my senior. But
she didn't. Instead she went on stage to introduce me. She
praised me a lot, but made it a point to add, "I call him Da
because he is older to me". Yes, I'm one month and 24 days
older than her! We did three shows in Wembley. During the
first one there was a problem because organizer had publicised
that we'd be singing "Angrezi mein kehte hain I love
you"(Khuddar). But Lata refused to sing the song because it
contained the word 'idiot' in it. Again she put her foot
down against "Pag ghungroo" (Namak Halal) because she said
it belittled Meerabai. Instead, she said, I should sing a
bhajan. I was nonplussed because I couldn't remember any.
Finally, I managed to sing one - Hari naam ka pyaala -
rendered originally by S.D. Burman. It was received with
"I am a crazy fan of Topol's. When we were in London, I saw
an advertisement of "Fiddler on the Roof" in the drama
section of a newspaper. I thought they'd made a mistake.
When I checked, I was told that there WAS a stage show of
"Fiddler...". I can't tell you how thrilled I was. I had
seen the film at least a hundred times and now I had an
opportunity to see my favourite actor perform right in front
of me. Would you believe it, I attended all the four
consecutive shows. I went backstage to introduce myself
to Topol and even took his autograph. I still remember the
date - September 9, 1983. He presented me a copy of his
autobiography, Topol by Topol, and I presented him the
records and cassettes of my songs. In 1960, he was only
48-49 but still he played the old man so beautifully. I
think nobody, just nobody, can perform the way Topol did
in Fiddler. He actually sings through the whole film.
Neither Dilip Kumar nor Ashok Kumar can match him."
More from the same issue:
"My brother Ashok discouraged Anoop and me from joining films.
You are a pair of donkeys, he said", Kishore Kumar gleefully
narrated to Filmfare in 1955.
When Ashok Kumar became a favourite Bombay Talkies hero, Kishore
was still at college "trying to get through examinations".
"I could do little else besides sing" Kishore said frankly.
"I was never good at studies so I used to compose different tunes
for different subjects. For instance I composed a tune for a
paragraph on the Malthusian theory of population."
The Gangulys used to visit Bombay once a year. During one of
these visits Kishore was asked by the music director, Khemchand
Prakash to sing for Dev Anand in Ziddi. Kishore became very popular
as a playback singer and got many assignments, but even then he
was not very serious about a film career.
In a diary he wrote for Filmfare in 1957, Kishore talked of
Ashok. "I'm in fifth form and I'm very proud of my brother.
Hasn't Ashok Kumar Ganguly of Khandwa become a film star?"
Jeevan Naiya, Ashok's first film, comes to Khandwa. Kishore
and a few friends of his, all fans of Master Vithal and other
action heroes of stunt films, eagerly go to see "Big brother
laying low a dozen villains", but are disappointed. It's a soft
sentimental film - and Ashok Kumar even puts up with a slap
from another character.
"That very night," said Kishore, "I write Dadamoni a letter,
telling him he had better swing his fists around a bit in his
next film or he will lose a number of fans in Khandwa."
In the same diary, Kishore recalled attending a night shooting
of Mahal, starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala, at Filmistan
Studios in Bombay. During a break in shooting, Kishore gave
Madhubala a big fright putting on "a grotesque mask with a
drooping moustache" which he had taken along with him. Years
later, he was to marry her.
Writing an interview with Kishore in 1970, a Filmfare staffer
noted that it added to "that well-known Kishore Kumar mystique
of lack of continuity and endless little puzzles." Though
Kishore didn't appear from or disappear into any cupboards
during the interview, he did exit, for no particular reason,
through a rear door of the room and re-entered through the
front door enjoying immensely the journalist's momentary
The room had photographs of Rabindranath Tagore, Ashok Kumar
and Dev Anand and a painting of "The Last Supper". The interview
recorded that Kishore's dislikes were telephone calls, tax
problems, cigarette smoke, alcohol and the studio routine.
Again from the same issue of PhillumFare. Preeti Ganguly, KK's
niece and Ashok Kumar's daughter, reminisces.
It's impossible to believe that Kishore Kaka is dead. How could
a man who breathed life into everything around him die? He was
my favourite uncle - it seems so strange to say 'was'. Not that
we saw him very frequently or were extremely close. But he was
very childlike and innocent. There was always a sense of wonder
His eccentric ways weren't just for outsiders. If others
complained that they weren't allowed past his gate, his
behaviour was not any different with us. He'd do it with
us too. There were times when he would himself invite our
family over for lunch, we'd go up all the way to Juhu and end
up waiting at the gate. There, right within our view, Kishore
Kaka would ask his man to tell us he wasn't in, if he wasn't in
the mood to receive us. Mummy would get irritated, then hand
over what she had carried for him, and say to the man, "I've
brought him some of his favourite food. The least he can do is
eat it." And we'd all have to return without getting past those
We had a house in Bangalore, a huge sprawling one on an acre of
land near the army establishment. It had always been drilled into
our young minds that the land was once a burial ground. We went
there for our holidays once. Amit must've been about 5 years old.
While I was between three and four. The place was spooky, the
atmosphere eerie - and we were very scared. So much so, that we
would accompany each other to the bathroom too. And Kaka would
insist on telling us a story - a ghost story, at the dead of
night. He'd take us to a certain room from where you could see
willow trees swaying outside in the wind. Kaka would insist that
we sit with our back to the window and we'd obediently do that.
Then he would point to a tree under which a Colonel had supposedly
committed suicide and start narrating a spooky tale. That wasn't
all. He would deliberately provide eerie sound effects to go
with that story: tan tan, thak thak thak. And he'd even jump
at us suddenly. All this was most nerve-racking - Amit and I
would literally be quaking with fear. If we turned our heads to
look at the trees, he'd say,"Peechhe se haath aaya", and then add
"Colonel abhi nahi aayegaa, baad mein aayegaa." Which made it
worse. There was one particular story (one of the many cooked
up by Kaka) called The Golden Hand, which was the worst. Whenever
I heard that one, I wet my pants. Literally.
Like Dad, Kaka was quite paranoid about money, and about not
being paid. But Kaka's eccentricities made him do funny things.
.................At another time when he discovered his dues
hadn't been fully paid, Kaka landed up for shooting with make-up
on only one side of his face. No one really noticed, until all
the lights were switched on. "What's this?" asked the shocked
director. Kaka nonchalently replied, "Aadha paisa to aadha
make-up. Pura paisa to pura make-up.".........
Kaka's mad ways could take other forms too. Once, when his car
was caught in a traffic jam, he happened to be outside a grocer's
shop. "Yeh laal laal kya hain?", he asked his driver Abdul.
"Masur ki daal hain", Abdul replied. In a flash Kaka was
reminded of Mussoorie and he told Abdul, "Chalo Mussoorie
chalen." And then he took off for Mussoorie right from there
When I was at FTII, I was exposed to a lot of his films. Half
Ticket, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi and all the rest. I marvelled at
his sense of timing. Some of his films were totally mad but
he had a terrific feel for the absurd. During the shooting of
Badti Ka Naam Daadi, some clothes, without which the continuity
of the scene would be affected, had been inadvertantly left
behind. It would have been too much of an effort and expense to
fetch them. Kaka improvised and introduced a new scene right
in the middle of the first. The scene showed him sitting on a
chair in the middle of nowhere, saying, "I'm the director,
I'll do anything I want". The next scene had everybody continuing
with the earlier scene - in different clothes!........
What an actor he was...Occasionally when he'd come home, I would
ask him, "Kaka, why don't you act anymore? You're so brilliant."
He'd reply firmly. "No. I'll never act for other producers
again." He hated to collect payment from people, to chase them
for his money........
Kaka was also very fond of food, especially of amangshor jhol,
a thin Bengali-style mutton curry, with maida puris. He loved
the way Mummy cooked it, and she'd prepare it for him everytime
he came here. When he came here after Mummy died, I had it
especially made for him. He was very touched and said, "You
remembered, Pallu." He also loved tiny bits of gobi (cauliflower).
He'd say, "Cover me with mounds of fried gobi. I'll lie under them
and keep eating the gobi. Even after I've finished it all, I'm
sure I won't be satisfied!"
Just two months ago I'd finished writing a script on Dad and
another on Kaka. Thought it would be good for a documentary
film. When I told Kaka about it, he asked me to call him on a
certain date. When I did, he put Amit on the line, instead of
speaking to me himself. I was quite exasperated because I was
quite serious about it. It was a script written to show the
sensitivity of the man. Now it is too late.....
When I saw Kaka lying dead, covered with flowers, I couldn't
think of it as real. The feeling I got was that he would
suddenly get up, and true to his nature, stick his tongue
out, cocking a snook at all of us, and say, "See what I've
done to you guys!" I wish it had happened.
KK's Page | My Home Page | Interviews