Lucky To Have Been Born In Kishore Kumar’s Golden Period

Those were the days of a transforming India. A country with myriad problems, and which was struggling to cope with the stark contrast of the great ideals of the Independence movement, which culminated in India’s freedom from the British rule in 1947, and the reality of the political class and its deeds a quarter century later.

While the Nehruvian socialist way of economic and governance approach might have contributed to India’s stabilization post-Independence, when a vast country of 33 crore people was given self-rule with little governmental infrastructure to start building its future, its inability to provide justice to its full potential had started becoming very obvious by the end of the 1960s.

And thus arrived the 1970s – a decade of wars, mass protests, social upheavals and political crises. The war for Bangladesh’s creation, the imposition of emergency, the deepening of the left inspired violence (naxalism) in certain pockets of the country, and an ever-growing chasm between various classes and haves and have nots seemed to have taken over that decade.

Incidentally, there also seemed to be lots of churning going on in Mumbai’s film industry (then known as Bombay film industry) at that time. Hindi cinema, famous for its commercial works all over the world, had also started witnessing an upsurge in middle and parallel cinema, with the names like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Sai Paranjpye joining the league of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Bimal Roy in their offbeat cinematic works. The commercial cinema itself started being more and more action-oriented, and influence by cinematic techniques and some flavor of music adapted from the Western countries.

Although the decade had started with the rise of a romantic Superstar Rajesh Khanna, it quickly got mesmerised by the intensity of a lanky angry young man, Amitabh Bachchan, who went on to win the epithet of a one-man-industry in the subsequent years. The decade also saw the biggest celluloid success in the Hindi cinema’s history Sholay – a la western spaghetti depicting two petty yet brave thieves as its protagonists. Furthermore, the movie’s biggest draw proved out to be its negative character, played by Amjad Khan. In short, this was an era which had started redefining how we saw good from bad and the ethos of morality, itself.

It was this transitional phase, which also saw the emergence of two all-time greats in the Hindi cinema music, viz. Kishore Kumar and RD Burman. At a the time when composers like Shankar Jaikishan, SD Burman, Naushad and their other contemporaries apart from the two male playback greats, Rafi and Mukesh, used to call shots in the musical world, the sudden emergence of Kishore Kumar and RD Burman transformed the manner in which music was being created in the Hindi cine world till then. This in result, caused a decline of the careers of the classically trained virtuosos from the 40s, 50s and 60s, since they were unable to fulfill the demands and aspirations of a changing society and its cinecraft by the arrival of 70s.

Although, it was probably a complete decline of Kishore Kumar’s acting career, which had compelled him to take up fulltime playback singing as the 70s came by him, his entry proved to be very timely, given the way he was able to capture the playback field and the sentiments of a changing society and its cinecraft with an immensely intense and masterly singing after the release of Aradhana in 1969, the year this author was also born in.

Kishore Kumar was completely different from what was perceived to be the eligibility of a leading playback singer till then. He had never been trained in music, classically or otherwise. Whatever he had acquired was through a projection of inherent talent and self-training. He never shied of accepting his lack of understanding about the classical approach to music. Yet he sang with a greater depth than any classically or differently trained singer could have come up with in the ever-expanding Canvas for the Hindi cinema back in the 70s.

(More to follow)