As a child, when I first heard Kishore Kumar’s songs on radio, television and old cassettes bought by my father, I got instantly drawn to his voice. Around the same time, I had started reading books and magazines kept at home and the stories about Kishore Kumar being an eccentric genius didn’t go unnoticed. I have faint memories of watching ‘Zindagi Ek Safar’, a documentary on the late singer (calling him a multi-faceted artist, perhaps, would be fair) some 12-15 years back.
Over the years, I came across episodes written on Kishore in books that were based on other film personalities and watched interviews of people who had worked with him closely in the past. However, there was always a desire to read a book that would offer me a good insight into one of the most celebrated artists in the Hindi film industry (again, restricting him to just one particular industry might not be a good idea). When ‘Kishore Kumar The Ultimate Biography, authored by Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Parthiv Dhar, was launched a couple of weeks back, I lapped it up immediately, read it twice over the next couple of days and was then, ready to share my thoughts on it.
“Kishore Kumar: The Ultimate Biography celebrates the music, the films and the genius of Kishore in the most definitive way for a new generation of readers….” – reads the last paragraph on the back cover of this 555-page long biography of Kishore Kumar. The authors are huge admirers of the phenomena that Kishore was and this book, indeed, celebrates the wonderful work he did as an artist. However, as you go through the many pages of the book, you realize it celebrates the genius of Kishore Kumar but does not put him on a pedestal. While his achievements are mentioned, several incidents, which bring his flaws to the fore, have been discussed as well.
One of the things that you admire about this book is the amount of research that has gone into it. A lot of the material that has been presented here is the kind that you will not find archived in any magazine, newspaper or online portal. The journey (both figuratively and literally) the authors embarked upon to offer fans of Kishore Kumar and those who don’t know much about him with a book that chronicles his childhood in Mandwa to the moment he left for his heavenly abode has been truly remarkable. You get a glimpse of that journey while reading the book and can’t help but admire the hard work that has gone into putting it together.
While a lot has been written and spoken about Kishore’s journey as a singer, not many have chronicled the kind of career he had as an actor. The authors have written about his acting career in detail. In fact, after going through the kind of information offered here, you can’t help but wonder why his achievements as an actor don’t get mentioned enough. Apart from giving you a good amount of information on his most celebrated films as an artist, the book also offers a lot of interesting trivia about many of his films that remained unreleased or got shelved. You also feel sad about the fact that some of his released films, including one in which he was paired opposite Waheeda Rehman, are not available anywhere today.
Those who pick up a book on a celebrity expecting some details about their personal lives wouldn’t be disappointed either. In a very dignified manner, the biography offers one a good glimpse of the romantic relationships and the marriages he had. The anecdotes about his childhood and the time he spent in college are equally interesting.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that this book serves as a well-researched, mini-encyclopaedia on Kishore Kumar. Once you finish reading the book, you would want to preserve it carefully in a corner of your bookshelf. The book also strengthens the belief that the life of an artist like Kishore deserves a representation on celluloid. Anurag Basu attempted something in this direction a few years ago but abandoned the idea because of legal issues and other problems. Hopefully, we will get to see a film about this fascinating artist someday. Meanwhile, if you wish to know more about his work and the kind of person, reading this book would be a very good idea.