I’m the average Indian, baptised by Bollywood, living for the dream spun by their dreamweavers: Itni shiddat tujhe maanga hai… that the entire universe conspires to make that happen. But when I watch a young man on a motorbike on Marine Drive, from the smelly black and yellow cab, I smile at the world and become special when I sing along with the orchestra in my head, ‘Rote huye aate hain sab, hansta hua jo jayega…’
Kishore Kumar left us the magic of his voice on October 13, 1987. And am not chronicling his great gift or the eccentricities he was famous for. I grew up listening to the radio crackling his ‘Khush hai zamana aaj pehli tareekh hai’ and laughing at his mad yodelling that challenges every autocorrect function, ‘baka yo ka baka! hey tiririri tiririri yo delo ooh!’
They say when you’re happy, you enjoy the music, and understand the lyrics when you’re sad. Am grateful that I have Kishore Kumar’s voice to accompany the rollercoaster of my misery now that I’m rapidly falling down the spiral of heartbreak.
Someone already wrote the songs for what I was going to experience. If this heartbreak was written in the stars, who am I to protest? So I ask Google home to connect me to Kishore’s mellow miserable voice, lights dimmed, and I hope some Mili is watching my shadow loom over windows with a cup of tea while the Legacy speakers play what I’m feeling, ‘Badi sooni sooni si hai, zindagi ye zindagi…’
I drag my feet around the house, the baked Philly cheesecake untouched (who does that!) and ask Google to play, ‘Koi humdum na raha’ again and again until it protests, ‘Choose another song!’ and shuts down in exasperation. I’m happy to wallow (if that could be a thing!) in Majrooh’s lyrics in the golden pool of Kishore’s, ‘Shaam tanhaai ki hai, aayegi manzil kaise, jo mujhe raah dikhaaye wohi taara na raha!’
Now logic dictates that wallowing never got anyone anywhere, and that I hated watching Master Mayur clutching the doll he bought for ‘memsaab’ when I watched the film, but a grown-up Amitabh Bachchan singing, ‘O saathi re, tere bina bhi kya jeena!’ still gives this cynical heart, now broken, hiccups. A friend helpfully adds, you need Kishore Kumar’s voice to sing, ‘Mere mehboob qayamat hogi, aaj ruswa teri galiyon mein mohobbat hogi…’
It does not matter whether Anjaan wrote the songs, Majrooh Sultanpuri or Gulzar, as long as the voice is Kishore Kumar’s, then the song becomes memorable. Gulzar wrote one my most favourite songs that makes me turn the airconditioning down to so low my tears freeze as Kishore Kumar sings, ‘Tum akele hi nahi sab yahaan akele hain, yeh akela safar nahi guzra, jaane kya soch kar nahi guzra…’ Kinara, the film written and directed by Gulzar, had too many coincidences and Hema Malini wandering around like a tragic ghost living in the past, which make one roll one’s eyes, but the only Kishore Kumar song in the film sets the film apart.
Friends let me brood, but insist they’re going to join me in the pity party, and we’re taking shelter in what Bacchus has to offer, and soon, I’m passing on the misery, ‘Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi, yeh shaam bhi ajeeb hai…’, ‘Meri bheegi bheegi si,’ ‘Kiska rasta dekhe ai dil ai saudaai…’ and then someone gets Google home to play, ‘Aa chal ke tujhe, main leke chaloon, ek aise gagan ke tale, jahan gham bhi na ho aansoo bhi na ho, bas pyaar hi pyaar pale…’
That song remains such a promise of dreams to be fulfilled that we don’t dare look directly into each other’s eyes. The fairy lights are the only witness to a roomful of people of different ages, friends all, turning into sigh-ra-banos. ‘Kabhi dhoop khile, kabhi chhanv mile, lambi si dagar na khale…’ is something everyone in the room was wishing for. The tears were flowing because every person in the room knew that everyday ordinary lives were living with the hope promised in the song: chanda ki kiran se dhul kar ghanghor andhera bhaage…’
Of course, the gentleness of Kishore’s voice comes through in a less popular but beautiful song, ‘Panthi hoon main us path ka’ from Door Ka Rahi. Shades of ‘Miles to go before I sleep’ there, but the song with Ashok Kumar on a wheelchair listening to Kishore Kumar (in an odd beard) literally pointing to a road disappearing into the hills is shot simply. If only they didn’t try to literally interpret the words, I’d be happy to hear the unhappy, ‘Khiza ke phool mein aati kabhi bahar nahi, mere naseeb mein ai dost, tera pyaar nahi…’ When you see bouquets of flowers in planters droop miserably and shiver as Rajesh Khanna begins to sing the song, you tend to laugh, and not wallow in misery. So you fall back on the favourite song of the heartbroken: Dukhi man mere, sun mera kehna…
Did Kishore Kumar die of a broken heart? His life has been well chronicled, whether it is the famous interviews with Pritish Nandy or his biography, and the many tales of his very public life. Setting all that aside, when the poet wrote, ‘Dil aaj shayar hai, gham aaj nagma hai, shab ye gazal hai sanam, gairon ke sheron ko ai sunnewalon, ho is taraf bhi karam’, it could only be sung by Kishore Kumar. You can easily forgive Dev Anand’s odd choice of moustache in the film Joshilay when you hear this song.
So many songs to nurse a broken heart in the month that we lost Kishore Kumar, but I’m listening to, ‘Tu jo nahi toh mera koi nahi, sagar kinare…’ , ‘Hame aur jeene ki chahat na hoti, agar tum na hote,’ and also channeling my inner Uttam Kumar, ‘Dil aisa kisine mera toda…’ But of all the sad songs in all the albums there’s one that holds a special place, a song that brings out the ache of loneliness, with music by Salil Choudhary and lyrics by Gulzar: Koi hota jisko apna, hum apna keh lete yaaron, paas nahi toh door hee hota, lekin koi mera apna...
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.