Marne ki duayein kyun mangu in 1948 to start with and Mere sapno ki rani in 1969 to superstardom; 21 years in between were mixed bag for Kishore Kumar. He saw success as an actor between 1955-1960, saw decline in all fields in the 60s majorly due to personal turmoil before he finally decided to make playback singing his career in the late 60s, and one film was good enough to take him where he should have reached much before.
But were those 20 years in between (1949-1969) so insignificant for the singer Kishore Kumar? Because, when I started revisiting Kishore around 10 years back, I discovered some of his best songs in that period. Kishore himself, when asked to choose his own Top 10 by Pritish Nandy, selected as many as 6 songs from that period. Really, you cant overlook them entirely, can you?
In those 21 years, singer Kishore did much more than doing part time playback for friend Dev Anand and full time playback for himself, as the hero, as often been believed. Revisiting those 21 years would show, he had done playback for many other actors and there was indeed a period, in the early 50s, when he was “Quite Regular” to playback singing. Interesting, isn’t it? Lets take a relook, year wise, as to see, except Dev Anand, who were the other significant actors who got Kishore’s voice as playback singer. Kindly note, this is not a database and many songs will not be covered as well, but we will try to see the significant songs only in terms of quality or popularity.
1949: Rimjhim had an absolutely brilliant Kishore Kumar solo “Jagmag jagmag karta nikla” composed by Khemchand Prakash and picturized on Kishore Sahu. No video is available of that song to anyone that I know. The movie had another song of Kishore, his first duet with Shamshad Begum- “ Mere Ghar aage hai”, assumingly picturized on Kishore Sahu only.
1950: S D Burman gave as many as 5 songs to Kishore to sing for Raj Kapoor in Pyar. That was the only instance when Kishore sang for Raj Kapoor on screen(later, he did sing in some movies where Raj Kapoor was there, like Aashiyana, Kal aaj aur Kal, Dharam Karam , but the songs were not for the showman). Neither S D Burman nor Kishore Kumar, later on, had too much to talk about in RK movies. Also, there was a Bengali film “Samar” in the same year, where SD again gave Kishore an ensemble number with Geeta Dutt and Arun Kumar. I am not sure on whom the Kishore part was picturized, but that was without doubt a playback service. Also, in the same year, Hansraj Behl gave Kishore a song in Khiladi- “O phool chunnewali tu khud hi gulab hai”. Again, no video is available, but since Ashok Kumar was the hero in that movie, perhaps that was the first song Kishore playbacked for his elder brother.
1951: Madan Mohan had debuted in 1950 as an independent music director, and in his second film- “Ada”- he gave 2 songs to Kishore Kumar for playback service on Shekhar. But the winner that year was S D Burman composed “Qusoor aapka huzoor aapka” picturized on Karan Dewan from Bahar. S D Burman that year, gave Kishore three actors to playback for- Karan Dewan in Bahar, Premnath in Naujawan and Gope in Ek Nazar. Kishore also sang his only male duet with Talat Mehmood that year- “Damri damri paisa paisa” composed by Chitragupta, again a playback assignment, in "Humari Shaan".
1952: Making a niche for himself by that time, in 1952, Kishore got playback assignment from quite a few MDs- albeit mainly for comedy songs. Some examples were Madan Mohan’s “O madam ek se hum ho gaye” in Aashiyana (picturized on Agha) and Roshan’s “ Dil ho gaya senti flat” in Sheesham (picturized on Gope); S K Pal’s “Jiyo jiyo mere laal” in Maa(picturized on Bharat Bhushan, yes, “Tum bin jaaoon kaha” was decade and a half later) and “Baiyan chhodo balam” by Chic Chocolate in Rangili(picturized on Mumtaz Ali- Mehmood’s father). But the song of the year for Kishore was “Woh meri taraf yun chale aa rahe hai” composed by Husnlal Bhagatram and picturized on Ashok Kumar from the movie Kaafila. The song is an absolute stunner. Other playback songs worth mentionable from the same year is “ Kaun hai aesa mehfil mein jo na tera deewana ho” composed by C Ramchandra in the movie “Sin sinaki babla boo”, supposedly picturized on Ranjan and "Yeh kaali ghata" composed by Bhola Shreshtha from Nazariya. Another song for Bhagwan happened in Sindabad the Sailor under composer Chitragupta.Kishore also sang that year in Shrimatiji for the music director Jimmy- 3 comedy songs, again playback assignment.( Info Courtesy: Mr. Sanjay Sengupta- RCAB, Kolkata).
1953: Many people won’t believe today, Kishore’s most productive association that year was with music director Roshan. Roshan used Kishore for 6 songs in three films in 1953, all playback assignments, namely Maalkin, Maashooqa and Aagosh. Roshan stopped working altogether with Kishore from 1954 onwards and did not live long enough to see the release of Aradhana, otherwise, some gems surely would have been made together by them. Roshan’s son Rajesh Roshan used Kishore to the maximum in the 70s when his father was gone.
Maashooqa song- a gem of a duet with Meena Kapoor- “Yeh sama hum tum jawan” was picturized on Agha. Maashooqa was a Mukesh-Suraiya starrer film. Maalkin had as many as 4 songs of Kishore picturized on Sajjan. Aagosh, the launching movie of Nutan as heroine, had a Kishore-Lata duet picturized on Agha again. .
Another mentionable playback assignment that year , although for Dev Anand, was Humsafar whose music was composed by Ali Akbar Khan. Alongwith Pandit Panna Lal Ghosh, Pandit Hrudaynath Mangeshkar and Pandit Shiv Hari, this was another Kishore association with a classical maestro.
1954: The most famous background song of those days, “Din hai suhana aaj pehli tarikh hai” was sung by Kishore for the composer Sudheer Phadke in “Pehli Taarikh”. Also, under S D Burman, Kishore sang for Jeevan in Angaarey- “Gori ke nainon mein nindiya bhare”. . S D Burman gave another playback song to Kishore in “Chalis Baba Ek Chor”- “O meri guiyan goo dulha dulhaniya”, a Kishore-Lata duet. I am not sure on whom the song was picturized. Another mentionable playback song that year was “Ae bandi tum begum bano” from Parineeta(1954) composed by Arun Kumar. Madan Mohan used Kishore for Gope that year in "Mastana" in 2 songs.
1955: Actor Kishore Kumar catching up fast in the earlier year with Ilzaam, Miss Mala and Naukri, actor Kishore started getting busier and busier and the singer Kishore taking a backseat slowly. Kishore did give playback jobs that year like “Meethi narangi lana” in Raj Durbar for Chitragupta and three songs for composer Jaidev’s debut film “Joru Ka Bhai” for Balraj Sahani, but his acting was more in demand and slowly eating away more of his time.
Between 1956 to 1964, I can hardly remember any Kishore Kumar song other than him as the hero or Dev Anand. There was a unreleased movie in 1962- “Ramdoot Hanuman” by composer Dakshinamohan Tagore, where Kishore did sing a song. I assume that was a playback service. Also, in 1956, there was a Salil Chowdhury number “Araram tararum duniya ke kaise kaise gham”(which is again a super song and only Kishore could have pulled that off) on Anwar Hussain in Awaaz. Also, you can consider that famous song of Half Ticket for Pran. And in Bengali, the beautiful Rabindrasangeet on Soumitra Chatterjee in Satyajit Ray's "Charulata".
Kishore gave his first playback service to comedian Mehmood in 1965 with Johar Mehmood in Goa and Bhoot Bangla. Later in the 70s, Kishore successfully became the voice of Mehmood with Mastana(1970), Humjoli(1970), Albela(1971), Laakhon mein Ek(1971), Kunawara Baap(1974), Ujala hi Ujala(1974) and many more Mehmood flicks. Before Aradhana happened in 1969, some other successful playback assignments by Kishore between 1966-1969 were- Abhilasha-1968(Sanjay Khan), Farishta-1968(Sudhir), Teen Bahuraniyan-1968(Rajendra Nath), Bhai Bahen-1969, Aansoo ban gaye phool -1969(Dev Mukherjee), Pyar ka Mausam-1969(Bharat Bhushan), Khamoshi-1969(Rajesh Khanna), Rahagir-1969(Biswajeet), Sabarmati(Bangla)-1969(Uttam Kumar) and Suhaag Raat-1968, background singing.
And then of course, gradually building good association with S D Burman, R D Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji, Kishore gave the ultimate punch on 29th November, 1969 when Aradhana was released. All the 400 songs put together on one side in the last 21 years, Kishore Kumar became the busiest playback singer in the industry by 1971 and remained so till his death in 1987.