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Kishore Kumar: One Legend for 10 Stars 

On his 93rd birth anniversary, we look at how Kishore elevated the persona of 10 legendary actors

Arpito Gope Aug 04, 2022

Kishore Kumar 2016 postcard of India

What does one say about the greatness of Kishore Kumar that hasn’t already been said? That he was a genius? A maverick? An irreverent artist? Or, that he was the man who arguably had the greatest ever male voice to have graced the Indian film industry?  

He was all of those, and more. Kishore – as a playback singer – gave life to movie characters in a way that even the actor essaying the role wouldn’t have been able to (and that includes superstars like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna). The irreverent, maverick genius would have been 93 today. Here’s a look at the top 10 heroes he sang for who owe him as much of a debt of gratitude, if not more, as we do. 

Rajesh Khanna 

Rajesh Khanna had said that his was the body and Kishore was the voice, and he owed a large part of his popularity to that magical voice. From “Mere Sapnon Ki Raani” (Aradhana, 1969) to “Zindagi Ke Safar Mein” (Aap Ki Kasam, 1974), or from “Aate Jaate Khoobsurat” (Anurodh, 1977) to the sublime “Kuchch Toh Log Kahenge” (Amar Prem, 1972), the duo delivered hit after hit. If one were to list down all of them, it would be a long – but delightful – day.  

In all, Kishore sang almost 245 songs for Rajesh Khanna.  

Shashi Kapoor 

Ravindra Jain’s first hit as a music director came with Chor Machaye Shor (1974) and had the sombre “Ghungroo Ki Tarah” that Kishore sang brilliantly. Earlier, Kishore and Shashi Kapoor had scored a hit with the brilliant S.D. Burman composition in Raag Bhimpalasi, “Khilte Hain Gul Yahan,” from Sharmilee (1971). Other Shashi hits in Kishore’s voice were “Ik Raasta Hai” from Kaala Patthar (1979), “Jaaneman Tum Kamaal Karte Ho” from Trishul (1978), “Meri Zingagi Ne Mujhpe,” a beautiful song from Do Aur Do Paanch (1980).  

Photo: Sandeepina, CC BY-SA 4.0/ Wikimedia Commons

Amitabh Bachchan 

Personally, I feel Kishore’s voice fitted Amitabh’s voice the best among all the actors he has sung for. From the stunning “Dilbar mere” from Satte Pe Satta to his entry in the middle of the song “Salaame Ishq Meri Jaan” from Muqaddar ka Sikandar (1978), or the foot-tapping “Apni Toh Jaise Taise” from Laawaris (1981) to the mesmerizing Raag Bhoopali-based “Dekha Ek Khwab” from Silsila in the same year, Kishore was sonorously like Amitabh.  

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Dev Anand 

Dev Anand, thanks in part to S.D. Burman, used Kishore extensively in his movies. The delightful “Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Raahi” from Munimji (1955), “Phoolon Ke Rang Se” from Prem Pujari (1970), “Panna Ki Tamanna Hai” from Heera Panna (1973), “Hum Hain Raahi Pyar Ke” from Nau Do Gyarah (1957) and many more ensured that Kishore regularly appeared in Dev Anand movies. 

Kishore Kumar 

Many overlook the fact that Kishore was a successful actor, too. He acted in 88 Hindi films, quite a few of which were hits. New DelhiAshaChalti Ka Naam GaadiPadosanDilli Ka ThugMr X in Bombay are some of those. His hit songs picturized on himself are “Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi,” the rock ‘n’ roll track, “Ina Mina Deeka,” and the beautiful “Thandi Hawa Yeh Chandni Suhaani.”  

Randhir Kapoor 

Kishore’s unforgettable hits from Randhir Kapoor movies include “Jaane Jaan Dhoondta” from Jawani Diwani (1972) and the superb title track from the same movie. “Gum Hai Kisi Ke Pyar Mein” from Rampur Ka Lakshman (1972), “Bhanware Ki Gunjan” from “Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971)” and “Bachke Rehna Re Baba” from Pukar (1983) are other tracks that exemplify the chemistry they shared.  

Sanjeev Kumar 

Who can forget R.D. Burman’s Hindi adaptation of the 1969 Sachin Bhowmik-written Bengali cult number, “Mone Pore Ruby Roy,” titled “Meri Bheegi Bheegi Si?” Apart from that Anamika (1973) number, Kishore also lent his voice to Sanjeev Kumar in the duet with Hema Malini in Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), “Hawa Ke Saath Saath.” Hi co-singer was Lata Mangeshkar. What a pair they made.  

Photo: abhishek/CC0/Wikimedia Commons

Rishi Kapoor 

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In 1950, under S.D. Burman’s baton, Kishore sang for Raj Kapoor for the first and last time. But that was only the beginning of his tryst with the Kapoor family. He went on to sing for Raj Kapoor’s sons as well as his brothers Shammi and Shashi. Rishi Kapoor benefitted greatly – e.g. “Om Shanti Om” from Karz (1980), “Bachna Ae Haseeno” from Hum kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977), “Ek Main Aur Ek Tu” from Khel Khel Mein (1975), “O Hansini” from Zahreela Insaan (1974) and more.  

Jeetendra 

Wait, before you jump to the more massy hits of Himmatwala (1983) – “Taki O Taki” or “Nainon Mein Sapna” – or the equally unimaginative lyrics of “Ui Amma” from Mawali(1983), please do consider that Kishore had the two lyrically and musically brilliant compositions, “Musafir Hoon Yaaron” from Parichay (1972) or the absolutely beautiful song, “Jaane Kya Soch Kar” from Kinara (1977). Both came from the musical stables of R.D. Burman, again. Anokhi Ada (1973) had a solid qawwali number, “Haal Kya Hai Dilon Ka Na Puchho Sanam.” But then the 80s came along and – at least musically – a new Jeetendra era emerged.  

Dharmendra The year 1973 seems to have been oft-repeated in this list, and I will bring it up again with “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas” from Blackmail (1973), which has a beautifully shot video featuring the handsome Dharmendra romancing Rakhee. Staying with the decade, who can forget the melodious “Hum Bewafa” from Shalimar (1979), the beautiful “Gadi Bula Rahi Hai” from Dost (1974) and “Dreamgirl” from the movie of the same name in 1977?

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