MUMBAI — October 13 was a black date 34 years ago when Kishore Kumar died on his elder brother Ashok Kumar’s birthday. Ashok Kumar was born on this date 110 years ago and passed away almost 20 years ago in Dec. 2001.
The two brothers shared a very loving relationship and were professionally associated as well. Incidentally, both shared a huge rapport with the late composer S.D. Burman, who incidentally, died Oct. 31 (the reverse of 13!) and was ALSO an October born—he was born Oct. 1!
Here are 10 piquant examples of their sibling revelry:
- Kishore Kumar’s dream, as per son Amit Kumar, was to become a “chhota-mota” (ordinary) schoolmaster in hometown Khandwa. But a rare fact is that elder brother Ashok Kumar actually forced him to come to Mumbai and become an actor like him! Then typically of his quirky nature and humongous talent, Kishore became Hindi cinema’s greatest all-rounder—singer, composer, actor, producer, director, writer, editor and even lyricist!
- But Ashok Kumar did not want Kishore to be a singer only because he felt that he was not trained in music and singers like Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and Talat Mahmood were around. However, Kishore was adamant and had also impressed S.D. Burman when the latter had visited their house and Kishore was yodeling in the bathroom!
- When Ashok Kumar was already a top hero by the late 1930s, younger brother Kishore Kumar would be the in-house entertainer at parties thrown by his brother. He would sing hit film songs and his rate was 1 anna (6 paise) for singing his elder brother’s songs, 25 paise for other singers’ numbers and an entire rupee (16 annas!) for his self-appointed guru, K.L. Saigal’s melodies! Ashok Kumar would love Kishore singing the last! The young man would then go and sleep outside the house as the parties would end very late and he actually hated them! And interestingly, in those days, a middle-class family of four could live comfortably in Rs 20 a month!
- Kishore Kumar loved to do sketches and was inspired in this by Ashok Kumar and his friend and actor, Iftekhar.
- Kishore Kumar’s debut was as a chorus singer in brother Ashok Kumar’s productions “Eight Days” and “Shikari” with music by S.D. Burman, who was also introduced by him as a composer in these two 1946 films. “Banka Sipahiya” from the former film was his first ensemble song. Kishore also made a cameo in “Shikari.”
- Ashok Kumar also requested Kishore to do a cameo as a gardener who abuses the hero Dev Anand in a sequence in his production “Ziddi” in 1948, which also marked Kishore’s debut as a full-fledged playback singer. Kishore was reluctant, and Ashok told him, “All you have to do is abuse Dev.”
Kishore finally agreed. But when the cameras rolled and Dev came in, Kishore began to mouth unprintable abuses obviously not written on the dialogues sheets. “Cut! Cut!” screamed a frantic Ashok. But Kishore refused to re-shoot with the original lines!
This one incident made Kishore bond so well with Dev Anand that for almost 15 years after that Kishore sang only for him apart from himself, and their association went on to last for almost four decades till Kishore’s death.
And yes, Kishore did shoot the scene some days later.
- When a song was needed for his “Jhumroo” in the early 1960s, Kishore remembered his brother’s rendition, “Koi Humdum Na Raha” from Ashok Kumar’s 1936 debut “Jeevan Naiya,” that he had loved as a kid of 7. He reworked it musically and, needless to say, improved upon it drastically. The original music director was Saraswati Devi.
- Similarly, a situation arose in “Padosan,” for which another Ashok Kumar number, “Ek Chatur Naar” from Saraswati Devi’s “Jhoola” (1941) was reworked into an ensemble fun song sung by Kishore himself with Manna Dey and Mehmood. The new film had music by R.D. Burman.
- Kishore was to co-star with his brother in several films, notably their home production “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi” and also sang for Ashok Kumar in several films, including his own production “Door Ka Rahi” for which he also scored music (“Bekaraar Dil Tu Gaaye Jaa”). Apart from the chartbuster “Do Bechare” under Kalyanji-Anandji in “Victoria No. 203” there were also other songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Rajesh Roshan.
- Finally, their bond was so deep that after Kishore passed away on his birthday, Ashok Kumar never celebrated it for the rest of his life.