Lata Mangeshkar interviews Kishore KumarOct 13
Kishore is always “Kishor”….let many such 13th Octobers come and go…the spark that he had ignited in the form of his acting, songs and personality, will never die in the minds of his dear fans. This is an opportunity to pay tributes and at the same time celebrate the spirit.
In what better way one can remember the man, while we read his own thoughts ? What can be a better fact that the person who is withdrawing these thoughts from his mind, the interviewer, is none other one of his oldest colleagues in the industry ? Yesssssss…this is the translated version (by Punita ji) of the interview of Kishore Kumar , taken by Lata Mangeshkar !!
This famous interview was taken at the famous Watergate Hotel in Washington DC. Both the greats were on a concert tour of 9 cities in the USA/Canada ( they left India on 21st May 1985 , for the month long tour ). People went mad about the tour and tickets were booked as soon as they were announced. The frenzy was such that people from far and near rushed to the venues, some of them came even by chartered planes !
This interview took place on the day after the Washington concert. Lata ji agreed for the interview with the New York based TV show ( forgot the name , with whom I had corresponded many years back ), and her interview was taken by Kiran ji. Kishoreda tried to avoid the media attention. When he walked into the hotel suite, and saw the lights and cameras, he rushed to the backside of the suite’s kitchenette ! Refused to come out ! “I will come out for the interview only if Lata interviews me” ! LLo kallo baat ! Lata ji, in the fun mood, agreed to the condition ! With the yellow rose in his hand, here comes Kishoreda out into the suite and sits for the interview….
LM – Kishoreda, you and I did a show together in London in 1983, but this is our first tour in America. How do you feel about it?
KK – This is not my first tour in America, Lata.
LM – I meant with me.
KK – Yes, this is the first time I’ve come here with you. The truth is, every time I come to this country, I experience an excitement. The audience here have an enthusiasm that is contagious. The response, the excitement, the applause, begins from the moment I first appear on stage. I find that very moving. We don’t see much of this back home.
LM – Maybe because the public in India get to hear us more often. Kishoreda, we’ve done five shows so far on this tour. Which one did you like the most?
KK – As such, all shows were nice, but last night I really got carried away, which I shouldn’t be doing, of course. The enthusiasm of the audience was infectious. You must have noticed, how I slipped and fell while I was singing…
LM – Yes I saw that from backstage.
KK – I jumped to my feet again, but the way they were looking at me! I was really exhausted then, but oh, I was so very happy at that time.
LM – You are a director, producer, writer, music director..
KK – Yes, I do all that but not in a commercial way.
LM – In our family, we call you the Danny Kaye of India. Like him you are multi-talented. But what do you like doing best? Singing? Composing music? Acting?
KK – Lata, ever since I was a boy I loved singing. My greatest encouragement, the man I consider my guru to this day, was the late Kundanlal Saigal ( LM: Me too ). So you know what I am saying…Music takes my foremost preference, acting came later. I wasn’t interested in acting, but my elder brother, that is, Ashok Kumar ji, suggested I try it. I told him, “Look Dadamuni, I don’t suggest me acting.” Acting is false and then I believe that music comes straight from the heart, therefore it is capable of reaching the hearts of others. That’s why I have a preference for music.
LM – Tomorrow we leave for the charity in Toronto. Then we have two others. After that is the very big one in New York. What songs will you be singing there?
KK – Let that be a surprise. Else they might not come at all. However, I have heard rumours that I may not perform (in New York). One has well-wishers, but there are also some who can’t be called as well-wishers. I have no enmity with anyone so I don’t understand why such rumours are spread. But I want to say this emphatically that I will be there ( in New York) to entertain the people. They should not think that I would not come to entertain them.
LM – But why would people say such things?
KK – In my opinion, Lata – and now let me become “normal” ( recites ) “Duniyaa kehtii mujhko paagal, Main kehtaa duniyaa ko paagal”. All I can say is I am not as crazy as I am made out to be.
LM – I know that very well.
KK – You do, don’t you ( both laugh )? ! I think I enjoy the whole thing too. If I am already believed to be crazy, then why not live up to the reputation.
LM – Kishoreda, what hobbies do you have ?
KK – I have never really thought about hobbies, Lata. I never imagined I would act in films, that I would sing, that I would get to singing duets with you. I don’t have any hobbies. Since childhood the only hobby I have had is escaping to solitude. Back home in that small, dilapidated house of ours, not this Bombay home, I used to escape on the roof of the house. My mother would call out to me, “Kishore beta, come down quickly, I have made purii-tarkaarii for you.” You see I love food, purii and aloo-gobii ki tarkaarii.
LM – Do you cook ?
KK – No, I don’t cook. I just enjoy eating ! However since my heart attack even that is severely curtailed. I cheat occasionally and then pray for God’s forgiveness ! As for hobbies, I enjoy English pictures…
LM – I was just going to say that.
KK – Yes, I love watching movies on video. I collect them avidly, wherever and whomever I can get them from. I like the old English classics. Not Indian films. As you know, good films in our country are so rare. I have one other hobby – to sit alone quietly. I like solitude, shaantii.
LM – You have been singing for so many years now. Which music directors you enjoyed working with?
KK – When I first entered the industry – you remember, Lata, how you and I first met? We happened to be travelling in the same train one day; you looked at me, I looked at you; you got off, I got off; you got into a tongaa, I got into a tongaa you reached Bombay Talkies doorsteps, so did I; and you were convinced I was following you. You had come for a song recording, and so had I. The film was ‘Ziddi’, with music director Khemchand Prakash. You had singing songs for film Mahal with him.
Khemchandji was the man who gave me considerable encouragement. My brother (Ashok Kumar) discouraged me, saying my voice lacked modulation. You know how he sang ( breaks into song with an imitation of Ashok Kumar singing in the olden style of Indian cinema ), “main ban kaa panchhii ban ke sang sang doloon re.” I used to keep my mouth shut, after all he was my elder brother!
Anyway, so it was Khemchand ji who encouraged me gave me love. He said to Dadamuni, “Look Ashok, leave this boy with me. I’ll train him.” He gave me songs, some with you, too. He played an important role in getting me started.
Then, there is Sachin Dev Burman. He was always very sensitive to a singer’s problems. He’d say to me, “Is this too difficult for you? Should I change it?” “Yes Sachin da, please change it”
LM – He was also a singer himself so he could understand what difficulties a singer was experiencing.
KK – Music directors today, sorry, I shouldn’t say so, but then do cause problems for a singer. These “difficulties”, the strain caused by music, goes straight from the brain to the heart. That’s when I want to run away. You may have heard I do this often. Its because there is too much exertion involved in today’s music. It’s not like the music of the earlier days. You were also in the olden times…I came much later than you in the industry…
I am nothing….You are aware Lata, that I’m not musically trained. I do not know the Sa re ga ma of music….I know nothing, The public will not believe this, but you know how ignorant I am.
LM – I agree that the basics of music have to be learnt and even though you are untutored you sing…
KK – Learinig by observation.
LM – God has blessed you with talent. Tell me, how do you like performing on stage with me? Only the truth, please !
KK – I love it ! I just worry about one thing. You are so reserved and I tend to clown around a lot on the stage, so I wonder if I am offending you.
LM – No I am not offended at all. You see, I have a difficulty too. I can’t run around all over the place and sing.
KK – No no Lata, your style is perfect for you. Since I was an actor before, I became a full-time singer, because good movies started to be made (sarcastic) …Then God said “Go and sing for the world”….the audience expects me to move around and dance, and I try to give then double pleasure !
LM – Yes, people prefer you that way. When Mukeshj sang with me in stage shows, he used to do it standing still at the mike. Well, Kishoreda, can you tell me which three or four songs of your own you are fond of?
KK – I’d really have to think about that, but off the top of my head – one I like very much is Sachinda’s “Dukhi man mere, sun mera kehna” ( Funtoosh )
Then one by his son, Pancham, “Chingaarii koii bhadke ( Amar Prem ).
Then there is Kalyanji Anandji. It is a rare song they compose when in mood, most of the time it’s simply a ta-tattee-tattee-ho-ta. I can’t figure them out. But, once in a while they come up with a rare gem, like “Zindagii kaa safar hai ye kaisaa safar” ( Safar ) .
So one day I said to Kalyanji bhai, you have me sing so many songs these days, but not any good ones. Why? So he tells me (Kishore lowers his voice and imitates Kalyanji), “You see, this is what the public wants. We, too, are in a bind. Don’t understand what to compose anymore. Sa-re-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa and sa-ni-dha-pa-ma-ga-re-sa – these are the surs. How far can we get with them?”
So I said, at least compose something that doesn’t scare us away ! I guess they try.
LM – There’s one I’d like to mention, a song composed by you, “Koii lautaa de mere beete hue din” ( Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein ).
KK – I don’t sing my own songs on stage. I feel maybe the public won’t like them.
LM – You may not sing them, but that song is really very beautiful and your composition is beautiful, too.
KK – When I made comedies they failed, whereas a serious film like ‘Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein” was well received. There was this pain concealed in the heart of a comedian.
LM – You’ve announced your retirement recently, and a lot of people are wondering if it’s really true.
KK – Let me explain, Lata. I have seen so many ups and downs in life. With the grace of God, I’m in demand today. I have attained a certain position and I should leave while I am still on the top. Why wait for the day when one slips when one may be discarded? I also miss my home. I long for my roots. I have done it all.
LM – You can give up the film industry, the singing and acting, etc. but can you renounce the most precious thing in your life, your music?
KK – No, I would like to perform for charitable causes the way you do. If you ever invite me I will always be ready….
LM – We can do them together.
KK – Definitely. As long as I’m alive, I’d like to perform on stage, especially for good causes.
LM – We talked about doing something for the Bhopal tragedy.
KK – Yes, yes, why not. Of what use is this music otherwise?
LM – Can you remember a moment in your life when you experienced very great happiness, when you felt nothing could surpass that?
KK – I can’t think of any right now. Such moments in life are indeed very rare. Yes, one would like life to be free of conflict and turbulence, one hopes for peace, as expressed in one of my songs :
“aa chal ke tujhe main le ke chaloon
ek aise gagan ke tale
(sings) jahaan Gum bhii na ho, aansoo bhii na ho
bas pyaar hii pyaar pale
ek aise gagan ke tale”
So I don’t know if there are precise moments of pristine happiness. I am happy wherever I find happiness. When I am unhappy I simply withdraw, say nothing.
LM – Do you feel that you are happy now?
KK – I am quite happy. With the grace of God, I want for nothing. If there is anything I do want, then it is to return back home. I hear it calling to me :
“chal re musaafir chal re
ab apne ghar ko chal re
desh videsh ke teerath ghoome
dekhe jungle, parbat chashme
haath uthaa kar bulaa rahaa ghar
chal re, ab apne ghar ko chal re”
That is my last wish. K L Saigal had the same desire, and he, too, returned to his native place. Did you know, he often used to sit in a smashaan (cemetery)? When asked why, he replied, “This, after all, is my final destination. This is my mandir, this is my masjid.”
So, it is my fervent wish that should something happen to me that it happen in my home, my native place, not in Bombay.