(Last Updated on : 19-09-2014)
Regardless of the number of hits and flops in the career of Kishore Kumar, he was without doubt one of the unique filmmakers and entertainers Indian cinema has produced. As an actor too, he was hugely popular and successful and as a singer, he was enormously gifted. But when he passed away, dozens of imitators sprouted out of nowhere and began singing like him. In one spectrum though, he was beyond compare and that was as a stage performer. There was never anybody like Kishore Kumar, who could galvanize a live audience into singing and dancing along with his tune for hours on end and still, not have enough. The many stage shows or concerts film stars host these days are just meager attempts at recreating the magic of the famous "Kishore Kumar Nites" of the seventies and eighties. He was the original-the ultimate entertainer and often called as the Emperor of the stage.
Kishore Kumar had an unusual stage presence-an amalgam of a clumsy buffoon and a fascinating impresario. In his immaculate white kurta and trousers, white cap and white shoes, he could be said as a diamond merchant, if not a typical Hindi film goon. The transformation came about at the moment he went in to the stage with his trademark "Hey hey hey" line. His audience would be on its feet, cheering lustily and he settled down with his opening number, Pyare bandhuo, sangeet premiyon, mere nana naniyon, mere dada dadiyon... A variation of the same song, while events in Bengali, ran thus:
Babara mayera, dadara dadira, dadura ebong premi premikara, apnader sathe amaar ei prothom dekha. According to the linguistic composition of his audience, he habitually opened his shows with either of these songs. In those days, there were no fancy stage props, special lighting effects or any technical method of entertainment that the audiences are accustomed to now. At the most, there would be a revolving stage and a couple of fog machines. Within these limitations, singers like Kishore Kumar effortlessly kept the audience enthralled purely on the strength of their voice quality and performance.
Kishore Kumar was different from his contemporaries because he had an extraordinary ability to enact songs and dance his way into the audience's hearts. However, most of the other performers confined themselves to a corner of the stage with a harmonium and a standing mike. Kishore Kumar moved across all over the place, setting the night on fire with an electrifying mix of melody, mimicry, yodelling and fascinating songs. Songs like Eena Meena Deeka (Asha) and Dinjawani ke chaar yaarpyar kiyeja (Pyar Kiye Jaa) brought out the best performer in him. Even during the saddest of songs, there was never a tedious moment in his shows. Once, after a concert in Pune, Asha Bhosle said that even if Kishore Kumar were not to utter a single note, his very presence on the stage was enough to send the audience crazy. While to attain the similar kind of reaction from audience, other performers would have to sing with such pain and emotion for hours.
Once upon a time, Kishore Kumar was a man who used to once suffer from stage fright. Even for his recordings, he would tell his composers to keep the studio clear of all idle bystanders and hangers-on because he could not tolerate people staring at him. Often in stage functions, her used to sing backstage, while a distinguished actor would do lip-syncing with him.
It was necessary to have proper arrangements for a stage and Kishore had to sing standing with body shielding him from public view. But slowly, Kishore Kumar overcame this fear and he became a genuine entertainer, seeing him, the crowd burst into applause. He sang on and on, till he was exhausted. That was the beginning of his stage shows.
One of Kishore Kumar's earliest programmes was conducted at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium in Calcutta and that show has never been repeated. All the giants of the time were present there, including Manna Dey
, Hemant Kumar
, Mohammad Rafi
, Talat Mehmood, Mukesh
. When Kishore Kumar entered the stage, everything was drowned in a roar of applause, screams and whistles. In almost all such stage shows by Kishore Kumar, nothing could be heard for the first fifteen minutes but screams and shrieks. Seeing him in person for the first time, the audience simply went delirious.
With growing popularity, Kishore's confidence as a stage performer grew and he started to experiment with newer items for every show. No two shows were ever the same, as he hated repeating himself. At one time, he was the highest-paid star performer in the Indian entertainment industry. Basu Manohari was his saxophonist, Arun Paudwal played the accordion and Marutirao Keer gave the rhythm. Together, they managed the orchestra for Kishore Kumar and had become so familiar with his style of performing that at short notice they could put up a show without even a rehearsal. The audience was given full liberty to demand any song and the orchestra started to play without hesitation. And the songs presented on stage by the stalwart sounded no different from a studio recording.
There are many singers in India, who actually learnt to sing well as well as make one presentable and a great performer. Kishore Kumar had this amazing charisma to connect with the audience the moment he stepped on to the stage and no hero or heroine could be compared to perform alongside, it was entirely up to him how he started off a show. He would jump and dance a roll about while performing, but he never sounded discordant or out of tune. When other singers who sounded off-key the moment they shift a bit from the mike, he effortlessly managed all this so well and in such a style that the three hours he was on stage, would fly off in a wink for the audience.
Kishore Kumar always insisted upon spontaneity. Often he would start singing and let the orchestra catch up with him. Unlike other singers, he expected the musicians to play a chord before singing.
Kishore Kumar's songs would go very well with the audiences and since he was also a good actor he would gesticulate and dance while singing. People used to enjoy watching this little game show. Such exuberance was not good for his health and in his later years, after he suffered a heart stroke, doctors advised him not exert himself on stage. His wife Leena was particularly worried and always kept him under check during the shows. A Kishore Kumar show always had joy and fun and energy. The audience simply spilled on to the stage, joining him in all his antics, dancing and jumping about in a Canadian show that is one of the biggest successes in Kishore Kumar's life as an entertainer.