"Zindagi ko bahut pyar humne diya, Maut se bhi mohabbat
nibhayenge hum" he sang. You bet he is doing just that, keeping
everyone up there spellbound with his songs of life - and death, or in
stitches with his comic antics.
A couple of years ago, he declared he was planning to return to
Khandwa, his hometown. No one expected him to keep his word. The
way he did - his last journey.
Did he really hate the world or the film industry? Not likely.
For hating is sustained, moronic hard work - of a kind Kishore
Kumar never relished. Not that he was the easy going kind - he
put an immense amount of work in his films. They had titles like
"Door Ka Rahi", "Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein", "Door Waadiyon Mein
Kahin". They were about the pain of living, not belonging, going
away. He was producer, director, actor, singer, composer,
lyricist, and, very nearly, cinematographer as well.
More likely, he was running away from himself. No one can really
say why. A sensitive man, he probably couldn't take the
ruthlessness, the nitty-gritty of the work-a-day world. A sentence from
one of his early interviews to Filmfare is still fresh in our
minds: "Money, money, that's all that matters." He was of course
to make plenty of it! He was full of contradictions.
After a performance tour of the US with Lata Mangeshkar, he told
us, "I'll never sing with Lata again." Some little peeve. Of
course he went on singing with Lata. He sent her a placatory
letter declaring how full of brotherly love he was for her.
He took pride in not smoking or drinking but he indulged other-wise.
He didn't seem the marrying kind, but he married four times. If
you wondered how the women stood him, he would surely have said
he wondered himself. Often, he gave the impression of a man who
couldn't stand himself.
He disliked crowds but loved his audience. When they warmed up to
him, he would go all out to entertain them. He went all out at
our own award shows. Once he occupied the stage for a good hour
and a half. Later, we learnt he had a video recording made for
his own purpose. But never mind, that was Kishore.
A seeming recluse and misanthrope, he put show into stage shows.
He started them apparently to earn money to pay his income tax
arrears. He made Kishore Kumar live by prancing around the
stage, fooling around. But as Filmfare once said of him, it takes
brains to be a fool.
He could have had a marvellous career as an actor. When other ac-
tors were busy trying to be serious, he succeeded in being
seriously funny. But he virtually threw away his acting career,
building up a notoriety for late coming or bunking shootings.
Then Aradhana brought him back as a singer.
They say he was always difficult. It was tough to get him to come
to recordings, but no playback singer took more pains over his
songs. He was the first singer to sing not only for his audience
but for the star on screen - he could be a Dev Anand, a Rajesh
Khanna, a Sanjeev Kumar, an Amitabh Bachchan.
He wanted people to keep a distance from him, but his songs
brought people close to him. When you are very happy or very sad,
you want to listen to Kishore Kumar.
On the very evening he died, with mourners still paying their
last respects to him at home, Doordarshan telecast a Kishore
Kumar- Kalyanji- Anandji show. In the midst of it, Kishore said,
"Kalyanjibhai, gaate gaate mar gaye."
Goodbye friend and stranger, always so near and so far away,
exasperatingly difficult yet lovable, full of guile yet
transparent. And so abundantly talented.