Movies and posts on this blog

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My ten favorite Kishore Kumar songs

Kishore KumarKishore Kumar, the singer, is more often identified with the 70s and 80s when he ruled supreme in Hindi film music. Most of us, myself included, tend to forget that he was singing much before that and had tons of great songs in the 50s and 60s. It was Dustedoff’s awesome post on SD Burman songs that reminded me of how many lovely songs Kishore Kumar sang under SD’s direction in the B/W era. And it wasnt just SD Burman, Kishore sang for a lot of other music directors too, and also composed some beautiful music of his own. As I mused on my favorite Kishore numbers, I couldnt resist drawing up a list of them.
Weeding out only 10 from his vast array of songs was a long and hard process. To begin with, I decided to stick to his songs from 50s and 60s B/W films - decades that tend to have more of my favorite songs and also where I like Kishore da’s voice better. That still left a few hundred songs! Enter condition number two - they couldnt be the wacky numbers full of verbal acrobatics that he was famous for. So, romantic, pensive, serious, sad and philosophical songs were called for. When even that didnt help, I had to add a further condition – they had to be the first 10 songs I could recall and which fit the limits I had set myself. Voila! I had myself a list, and here it is, in no particular order (also in a youtube playlist):

1. Aa chal ke tujhe main leke chaloon (Door Gaga Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964) This one is unusual in that it comes from a film that Kishore da not only produced, directed and acted in, he wrote the lyrics for this and composed the music too! He certainly was an all-rounder in the entertainment field. But its novelty value apart, I just love the song for its beautiful lyrics and Kishore da’s rich baritone. He sings the entire song at the same low pitch and in a simple tune, and yet, the voice is music all over! And the lyrics are lovely – come let me take you to a land where there are no sorrows and tears, and where love reigns supreme. It leaves behind such a feeling of serenity and quite happiness…
2. Yeh raatein yeh mausam (Dilli Ka Thug, 1958) with Asha Bhosle. Music director: Ravi, lyricist: Shailendra.
A favorite of mine from late night Chhaya Geet on All India Radio, its a soft romantic number, picturised on Nutan and Kishore. Nutan’s luminous beauty would prompt anyone to burst into, “These nights, this weather, the river side, this lovely breeze.” and Kishore is no exception. Of course, he is lucky enough to have her sing back to him that her heart is pledged to him. Way to go, Kishore da! The song’s pull is such that even on a cold night in Canada’s Arctic winter, I have no problem humming joyfully along with Kishore-Asha about the lovely weather and the beautiful breeze!
3. Ami chini go chini tomaare (Charulata, 1964) Music director: Satyajit Ray, lyricist: Rabindranath Tagore.
One thing you can never take out of a true Bengali, and that is Rabindra sangeet (songs written and composed by Rabindra Nath Tagore) – as Kishore da demonstrates in this Bangla song written by Tagore and set to music by Satyajit Ray. Though I cant follow the lyrics without the subtitles, the simplicity of the composition and Kishore’s deep voice always gets to me. And I love the way it starts out, with Soumitra Chatterji carelessly humming while he strikes a few chords on the piano - it just showcases Kishore’s voice beautifully without embellishment from a whole orchestra.
4. Meri neendon mein tum (Naya Andaz, 1956) with Shamshad Begum. Music director: OP Nayyar, lyricist: Jan Nisar Akhtar
This one surprised me when I heard it first, years ago. For one thing, Kishore’s voice has a subtle nasal twang to it that matches very well with Shamshad’s earthier voice. I was even more surprised to see it picturised on a happy Meena Kumari (those of you more familiar with her tragic roles and 60s films might share my surprise, too). Its not a song that lends itself to the waltzing that Meena-Kishore seem to be indulging in onstage, though. But hey – if Meena keeps seeing Kishore in her sleep, in her dreams, and is lost in her love for him, (thats what she’s singing) she is entitled to waltz with him, when awake!
5. Thandi hawa yeh chandni (Jhumroo, 1961) with Asha Bhosle. Music director and lyricist - Kishore Kumar.
Another example of Kishore Kumar’s jack-of-all-trades-entertaining, this one is picturised on him as well as written and set to music by him. And its yet another “night song” – this one has Kishore exhorting his heart to tell a story in the wake of the cool breeze and pleasant moonlight. Huh! Come to Canada Kishore da, and I’ll show you cool breezes!! In the meantime, croon on. Even if your heart doesnt respond with a story, Madhubala is intrigued.
6. O nigahen mastana (Paying Guest, 1957) with Asha Bhosle. Music director: SD Burman, lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri.
A lovely, romantic number, picturised on Dev Anand and Nutan, who seem to be flirting on a rooftop terrace AT NIGHT. Hmm… I am beginning to believe that Kishore does all his wooing at night! Also, please note Nutan’s reaction – she is dumbstruck by the combination of Dev Saab’s beauty and Kishore’s intoxicating voice, and can do no more than hum in time with him!
7. Chhota sa ghar hoga (Naukri, 1954) with Usha Mangeshkar. Music director: Salil Chowdhury, lyricist: Shailendra.
This has lovely lyrics, “We’ll have a small house in the shade of the clouds, this mad hope keeps singing within me.” The lyrics then go on to describe the modest hopes of the singer in loving detail and gentle humor. Kishore sings it with touching sincerity and playfulness. And the icing on the cake is Salil Chowdhury’s lovely music that somehow manages to be simple and complicated at the same time – simple melodies with complicated orchestration (does that even make sense?).
8. Ek nazar kisine dekha (Rangoli, 1962) with Lata Mangeshkar. Music director: Shankar-Jaikishan, lyricist: Shailendra.
One of his few duets with Lata in the B/W days, this one is a lilting dance number with the singing accompanied (most appropriately) by Vyjayanthimala’s excellent dancing. Kishore claims that she saw him once and his heart went mad, a simple thing that became a big story. Well, Kishore da, Vyjayanthimala’s glances seem more like glares to me, and I dont blame her. You’re interrupting her divine dance with your prancing - just stick to singing and she will come around, eventually!
9. Yeh char din bahar ke (Rukhsana, 1955) with Asha Bhosle. Music director: Sajjad
A lovely romantic number that I came across recently in a collection of rare Kishore duets, its become a big favorite. Its clearly an earlier example of Kishore’s singing as you can detect a nasal quality to his singing. Asha Bhosle (I think its picturised on Meena Kumari, but cant find the video) and he are urging each other to forget life’s sorrows, and spend the few days of spring in happiness and laughter. I am game for it. Are you?
10. Aankhon mein kya ji (Nau Do Gyarah, 1957), with Asha Bhosle. Music director: SD Burman, lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri.
Picturised on Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik, this lilting romantic number puts lover’s questions and answers to such good use:
“Whats there in your eyes? A shining cloud. Whats there in the cloud? Somebody’s aanchal (a draped saree’s free end). Whats there in the aanchal? A strange disturbance.”
I love it for the peppy and flirty lyrics, Kishore-Asha’s joyful voices and the lilting score. The picturisation is also very pretty with Kalpana-Dev running around in a bucolic setting. It would, I think, take a lot of resolution to dislike this song!


  1. Kishore's top 10! Wow every Indian must have a different list of Kishore's top 10 and this sort of thing could start a war here. :-) but ur list is good too. ;-)

  2. I saw Charulata years ago, much before I even knew who Kishore was----didn't realize he had sung in that!

    How could you leave out his verbal acrobatics :( His song "Gana Na Aaya" from Miss Mary is one of my all-time favorites and so hilarious. Also I'd find it hard to leave out "Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si" from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, it's so sensuous I think.

    Lovely list though, and a daunting task for sure!

  3. Oooh lovely songs!! How do you manage to remember them together to make up such a list? Whenever I start to think of different songs/movies I have liked and would like to listen on YouTube my mind just goes blank!

  4. Anonymous, I have the feeling that everybody else's Kishore top 10 would include most of his 70s songs that are also lovely, but not [in my opinion] nearly as good as his earlier work.

    memsaab, Kishore's verbal acrobatics have been saved for another list - the kind that would cheer me up on a dull day. Guess Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si should have been on this list, but I had earlier ruled out Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi as too full of his verbal acrobatics, and then forgot about Ek ladki. And Gaana na aaya, though great fun, isnt the only one of his wacky, fun numbers - I have a ton of those, and each is a gem! He had a genius for wackadoo.

    Ruchi, it takes determination, perseverance and hard work, usually - though in my case, I must admit to natural talent! ;-)

  5. Very nice selection! I have featured your article on the Official Salil Chowdhury Facebook Page; thanks!!

  6. Man, I've no idea how you all come up with these great lists so easily. I like the parameters of your list, bollyviewer and totally agree that Kishore sounded his best in the 50s & 60s.

    One of my favorite Kishore duets is "kashti ka khamosh safar hai" from Girlfriend. I would give anything to see this movie - Kishore with Waheeda - what a combo!

  7. This such a nice list, and the Charulata song i loved he sounds soo silky and lovely on that, though i do prefer the out n out crazy songs he did in the 70's, his early beginnings were just as magical!

  8. Lovely songs, bollyviewer - and Aa chal ke tujhe is one of my favourites too! Another of my Kishore favourites from the B/W era, and picturised on Kishore, is Agar sun le toh ek naghma, from Ek Raaz. I haven't seen the film, but I love that song.

  9. Nikolai, thanks! I love Salil Chowdhury's music. Its wonderful how you hear some new effects in the score every time you listen to it.

    Shalini, coming from you, thats high praise indeed! Thanks so much.

    I have never come across Kashti ka khamosh safar, before. Trust you to come up with such an unknown gem! And it has Waheeda with him - this I'd love to see too. Wonder if its a full on comedy and whether she does wackadoo too, or just plays it straight to his zaniness.

    Rum, he didnt do as many and as "crazy" songs in the 70s as he did in the 50s and 60s, all of which are priceless. I guess he was hampered by singing for the heroes (as opposed to singing for himself) in the 70s - most of whom happened to be angry and macho and not prone to be wacky.

    dustedoff, thanks for inspiring this list! I'd not have thought of it, if it hadnt been for your SD Burman list. I love Agar sun le to ek nagma, too, just didnt remember it in time for the list!

  10. Aah, Fantastic.Loved that all of them are B/w. the rather colorless songs holds such a charm in them that makes me drool over them. The 'chandni' Never looked so beautiful in color movies.

    Kishore da 's most songs I like are from the era you've mentioned. Also, later whatever he sang for Dev saab and Kaka, were 'mast'. But the Bachchan songs were earworm for me. :|

  11. "Every Indian must have a list of Kishore top 10"... And strangely enough, some other people might as well. ;)

    This is a good list, and I would agree with several of the choices. And then, I might have my own...

    A few of my own favorite Kishore Kumar black and white songs come from two films he made with Vyjayanthimala in the mid '50s, Aasha and New Delhi. But I'm hoping some of those will be on the acrobatics list...

  12. Don't know much about him from the B& w era but if i had to choose one my faves from him in the b&w era it would be 'Haal Kaisa Hai Janab Ka' from Chalti ka naam gaadi

  13. Lovely list. I look forward to listening to your thoughtful choices. All the best!

  14. Darshit, you are so right - chandni was never so lovely or so romantic in colored films! lol at Kishore's Bachchan songs being "ear worms". I think Kishore did best in romantic and wacky numbers, and for Bachchan, he did very few of either. Plus, I think his voice had changed and lost a lot of its earlier sweetness by the mid 70s - when AB ruled. However, I do like the two AB songs from Mili - Badi sooni sooni hai and Aaye tum yaad mujhe - while I HATE Amar Prem songs.

    Richard, Eena meena deeka (from Asha) has to be the best of Kishore's wacky numbers and will definitely figure in his verbal acrobatics list (if I can ever make a list with just 10 of them!).

    bollywooddeewana, the songs from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi are ALL superb and such fun. My personal favorites there are Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si and Hum the woh thi aur sama rangeen - Kishore sounds like he is having a lot fun singing them!

    Sita ji, hope you enjoy them!

  15. As always, I am educated everytime I visit! I can't imagine how hard it would be to pick a top 10 from any of the great playback artists! Even though I'm not familiar with Bollywood classics, I have heard some of Kishore's stuff. Going against popular opinion, I absolutely love Om Shanti Om from Karz (as I posted here:
    I can't wait to go through and listen to all of your favs!

  16. One of my all-time favorites is Shaadi ... Kismat ki baat hai from Ladki (1953).

  17. shell, 80s Hindi disco is a lot of fun! I love Om shanti om, too, as well as this one (Kya naam hai tera - more Kishore on Rishi). Hmm... I should probably compile a list of good sparkly suit disco songs! ;-)

    Nivedita, one more wacky number added to the verbal acrobatics list! Shaadiii... kismat ki baat hai is such a fun song. At this rate, I wont ever be able to compile a list of 10 favorite Kishore wacky numbers!

  18. A great list!
    Thanks for not including any of his yodelling songs! ;-) The list is really full of sublime songs. They also remind me of Chayya Geet on radio and some of Chayya Geet on TV as well. Good to know that you were also an avid listener of Chayya Geet on VB.

    I was jsut thinking what would people think of "chotta sa ghar hoga badalon ki chanw mein" in N & Middle Europe or for that matter in Canada, where clouds are synonymous with bad weather and leading to bad luck!

    A brave list and one with which I'm totally satisfied/content. :-)

  19. harvey, thanks! You're not a fan of his yodelling? He does do some in Thandi hawa, too. I kind of like it.

    And thats a great point about how badalon ki chhaaon mein would be regarded in colder climes. My decided preference for cloudy days in summer prompted a Canadian colleague to enquire if I had vampire blood in me! So, ya, that song wouldnt be apreciated in colder countries. :-)

  20. "vampire blood"

    I have to listen to similiar words quite often as well! I'm always a damp spirit for the locals here, cause I love the cool weather and rejoice when it rains, while they are all murmuring about the shit weather!

  21. harvey, you and I obviously share the same blood! :-D Cant believe people talk about "fine" weather when the sun is shining bright enough to blind you AND scorch you - if you are brave enough to go out in it.

  22. At last a weather soul mate!
    just imagine, people lie around in scorching sun naked or half-naked (nothing against the nudity), while I just jump from one shade to the other!
    Strange people!

  23. We are definitely siblings separated at birth! Even I keep a sharp look out for shade whenever I am out doors. :-D

  24. Don't tell me, our mom is Nirupa Roy!

  25. Of course! And we were separated at the Kumbh mela. :-)

  26. I always knew that I didn't belong to my family, they in fact told me all the time, that they found me under a bridge, but I didn't want to believe!

  27. Now you know! Sadly, no wealthy families seem to be around to claim us. :-(

  28. i loved the songs here. please repair the songs here which we cant here

  29. in today songs their is less meaning and more background music so i liked kishore kumar songs please continue to collecting of such type of intresting songs