It is widely reported that SD Burman had a special fondness for Kishore Kumar. In my earlier posts some statistics has also been discussed regarding SD Burman’s number of songs with different singers. Kishore Kumar has more than any other male singer – beating his nearest rival Rafi by 53 solos to 46 (115 to 94 taking solos and duets together), and others by a wide margin. Hans has given excellent analysis by breaking these numbers into three phases – the initial phase of 1946-56, the middle period of 1957-65 and the last phase of 1966-75. So to the extent these numbers convey a message, Kishore Kumar, besides being a lovable lad, was also SD Burman’s most preferred singer.
If we look beyond SD Burman at the music scene as a whole, in the 1950s and 60s Kishore Kumar was nowhere close to being a competitor to Rafi. He also came behind Mukesh, Talat Mahmood and Hemant Kumar in popular reckoning. As Rafi and Mukesh became associated with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar respectively, Kishore Kumar was lucky that his association with SD Burman made him one of the main voices of Dev Anand, the third part of the Great Trinity. But here also given Rafi’s versatility, Kishore Kumar had to contend with him as the voice of Dev Anand. Jury is still out on the SD Burman-Rafi-Kishore Kumar question – even in SD Burman’s scheme of things there were songs where Rafi was the ultimate.
Then something happened in 1969, which has no parallel in the history of Hindi film music, and probably anywhere else. After two decades of trailing behind his great contemporaries, with Aradhana he became the new Rafi and a little more, becoming the voice of all the heroes and all the composers. SD Burman was the conductor of this Black Swan event (Mr Asshok Vaishnav introduced us to this term). Kishore Kumar was miles ahead of others in the last phase of SD Burman’s composing career, giving outstanding songs till his end.
With such strong Dev Anand-SD Burman connection, curiously Kishore Kumar’s first song with SD Burman was for Raj Kapoor in Pyar (1950). This was when he already had a very successful playback debut for Dev Anand with Khemchand Prakash in Ziddi (1948). While I took all this as well settled and accepted, I have just come across the transcript of a purported radio interview of Kishore Kumar on SD Burman conduced by Ameen Sayani, at Anmol Fankaar, in which he said that his first song for SD Burman was Qusoor aapka huzoor aapka from Bahaar. Since this film came in 1951, how do we reconcile it to Pyar songs? That is why I generally look at the major trends rather than ‘precise’ facts, which coming from even the horse’s mouth may create more doubts. Then there are some more nuggets for trivia buffs – that he sang a few lines in chorus in Aath Din (1946) in the song Banka sipahiya ghar jaiyo. Somewhere else I read that his very first singing was for Saraswati Devi (and RC Pal) in Bandhan (1940) in the chorus Chal chal re naujawan.
To cut a long story short, SD Burman was the most important composer and influence for Kishore Kumar. In my series on SD Burman’s songs for great singers Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Lata Mangehskar, Asha Bholse and Geeta Dutt, I present what I consider the best of Kishore Kumar songs for SD Burman as my tribute on the former’s death anniversary, October 13 (4 August 1929 – 13 October 1987).
1. Qusoor aapka huzoor aapka from Bahaar (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
As I have mentioned earlier, Kishore Kumar in his radio interview claimed this to be his first song with SD Burman, but there is some doubt on this because Pyar came in 1950 and its songs are available on YT. This also had a twin version in the voice of Shamshad Begum. As it happens with twin songs in general, Kishore Kumar’s version is more popular. Here is this delightful comedy song picturised on Karan Dewan, who was no mean singer in his own right, who sang some immortal songs for Naushad in Rattan (1944).
2. Mere labon pe dekho aaj bhi tarane hain from Baazi (1951), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
Baazi was a path breaking film from Navketan which catapulted Dev Anand to the big league in the company of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. This new persona of a handsome youth, eking out an existence in the urban underbelly living on the margins of law, made Dev Anand an instant rage as a romantic star. This carefree song beautifully captures the essence of this personality – the first SD Burman-Kishore Kumar song on Dev Anand which would be followed by many more.
3. Dukhi man mere sun mera kahna from Funtoosh (1956), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
This film had a typical Dev Anand-Kishore Kumar light-hearted song Ae meri topi palat ke aa, and one of the best soft, romantic duets with Asha Bholse, Wo dekhen to unki inayat. And you have a complete contrast of an extremely poignant, sad song. Many were sceptical whether Kishore Kumar would be able to carry it off, but SD Burman had no doubt about his capability.
4. Hum hai rahi pyar ke from Nau Do Gyarah (1957), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
SD Burman-Kishore Kumar-Dev Anand for Navketan banner create another classic which consolidates the image of Dev Anand as the quintessential romantic. Typical of SD Burman, he creates not one but several songs in the same film which are regarded as landmarks – you also have a great KK-Asha Bhosle duet Ankhon mein kya ji, and a superb Asha Bhosle solo Dhalti jaye chunariya hamari ho Ram.
5. Ek ladki bheegi bhagi si from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
Kishore Kumar was now the hero in this laugh riot. SD Burman’s music was one of its great strengths. Among several outstanding songs in the film, Ek ladki bheegi bhagi si is very unusual. Its mukhada is slightly off-meter, the lyrics are more like prose sung in staccato style, but Kishore Kumar’s acting or antics with the car mechanic’s tools and SD Burman’s music make it an all-time classic.
6. Khwab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat from Teen Deviyan (1965), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
This film had two Rafi solos to this Kishore Kumar solo (two versions), and his three duets. So who was SD Burman’s first choice? More important than this debate is SD Burman’s genius who could give such wide-ranging variety. Dev Anand could have melted not only three deviyans but thousands of them.
7. Ye dil na hota bechara from Jewel Thief (1967), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
The only solo on Dev Anand was in the voice of Kishore Kumar. He had another great duet with Lata Mangeshkar, Aasman ke neeche hum aaj apne peechhe. Compared to this Rafi had only a duet with Lata, Dil pukare aa ja re aa ja re. Hans had commented that from this film SD Burman had relegated Rafi from his scheme, and Kishore Kumar’s ascendancy in Aradhana two years later was its natural corollary. (The argument further goes that the story that KK’s arrival was because of fortuitous circumstances of SD Burman’s illness, and a stop-gap RD Burman jettisoning Rafi in favour of his friend KK, has no basis.) Let us enjoy the quintessential Dev Anand song – a carefree romantic in the befitting voice of Kishore Kumar.
8. Mere sapnon ki rani kab ayegi tu from Aradhna (1969), lyrics Anad Bakshi
I am aware the words ‘path-breaking’, ‘landmark’ start sounding like clichés, but how do you describe Mere sapno ki rani kab ayegi tu which overturned the pecking order, created a new Kishore Kumar, made Rajesh Khanna ‘a phenomenon’, ‘the first superstar’, the likes of which Hindi Film had not seen before.
9. Dil aaj shayar hai gham aaj naghma hai from Gambler (1971), lyrics Neeraj
With the new Kishore Kumar, SD Burman had a renewed wave of creativity. While his great peers fell by the wayside, he continued unabated. Neeraj was known for his pure Hindi lyrics, but he writes an elegant Urdu nazm here. The King of Folk from Bengal is Master of everything. So enjoy this youthful ghazal sung in recital style by the evergreen Dev Anand on the screen in the voice of the new Kishore Kumar.
10. Badi sooni sooni hai zindagi ye zindagi from Milli (1975), lyrics Yogesh
Effectively this was SD Burman’s last film, though Barood which he had done earlier got released later in 1976 because of some delays. Shows SD Burman’s relevance and virtuosity till the very end when he was in a very poor health. Milli, which was kind of Anand with a female protagonist, gave scope for many mood songs. Kishore Kumar, right from his earliest days till the end, could yodel, dance, act crazy, and also bring tears to your eyes.