“I’m an actor who sings off-screen for another actor.
Thirty years after his passing, Kishore Kumar remains one of the most popular singers of Indian cinema.
Whether it was peppy tracks, romantic numbers or soft ghazals, he was extremely versatile.
By the mid-1980s, almost every leading male actor in Indian cinema could boast of one thing.
They had at least one song sung for them by playback singer Kishore Kumar.
Many legendary actors including the late Dev Anand and Amitabh Bachchan owe a large part of their success to Kishore Kumar.
In 2013, talking about Kishore Kumar on YouTube, Bachchan said:
“Even now we are alive because of those songs.”
In an interview from the 80s on YouTube, Dev Anand said:
“Kishore meant Dev and vice versa.”
With so many great songs to his name, which ones are the most memorable? DESIblitz lists 25 of his best songs.
Marne Ki Duaen Kyun Maangoon – Ziddi (1948)
‘Marne Ki Duaen Kyun Mangoon’ follows a despondent Dev Anand (Pooran). It was Kishore Kumar’s first ever number in a film.
In his early years, Kishore Ji was an ardent fan of the singer KL Saigal. In this song, he imitates Saigal perfectly.
Underneath the song’s YouTube video, Bhavani Shankar Mishra from India says:
“Beginning of a tremendous singer.”
It was the beginning of a great artist who delighted audiences for nearly four decades.
However, some may find it good that he did not hold on to his Saigal style. The history of Indian film music might have been a lot different if he did.
Savita Shah, an accountant from Birmingham said:
“I’m glad he didn’t carry on with this voice.”
Ziddi also contained the first duet of Kishore Ji and Lata Mangeshkar. The song was ‘Yeh Kaun Aaya’, which focuses on Anand and actress Kamini Kaushal (Asha).
The two singers later went on to deliver countless classic songs together.
Denewala Jab Bhi Deta – Funtoosh (1956)
In the 50s, Kishore Kumar focused mainly on acting. The only people he sang for in films were himself and Dev Anand.
One of the hit numbers from this actor-singer combination was ‘Denewala Jab Bhi Deta’ from the film Funtoosh (1956).
In the song, Ram Lal (Dev Anand) dances merrily at a party. Kishore Ji belts out each lyric in a peppy voice echoing with yodels.
The song was one of his earliest upbeat songs. On August 1, 2011, Dev Anand cited this track as an example of “fun songs,” which were focused on him.
When Dev Saab passed away in 2011, actor Rajesh Khanna talked about the veteran actor:
“The abundance and versatility he displayed whilst lipping the number, ‘Denewala Jab Bhi Deta’, remains a lesson in acting.”
The song would not have been possible if it wasn’t sung as masterfully by the singer.
By this time, the singer had adapted his own vocal style and won thousands of hearts with it.
Eena Meena Deeka – Aasha (1957)
‘Eena Meena Deeka’ surrounds Kishore Kumar (Kishore) dressed as a magician. The chorus of the song is formed with nonsensical yet fun lyrics.
The fast rhythm was an early presentation of how good he was with rock songs.
‘Eena Meena Deeka’ is believed to be one of India’s first songs in this genre.
During a concert, audiences begged him to sing this song. During the last chorus, he rolls around on the floor and the auditorium exploded with joy.
A female version of this song is also included in Aasha. It focuses on actress Vyjayanthimala (Nirmala) and is sung by Asha Bhosle.
The female version by Asha Bhosle was extremely popular, but the rendition by Kishore Ji reigned supreme.
Aake Seedhi Lage – Half Ticket (1962)
‘Aake Seedhi Lage’ is shot on Kishore Kumar (Vijaychand) in drag and Pran (Raja Babu).
Composer Salil Chowdhury originally wanted this song to be a duet, but she was unavailable.
So, Kishore Ji sang both the male and female parts of the song himself. He did remarkably well.
There have since been many stage performances of this song by singers and musicians and was even performed on Indian Idol in 2020.
In 2019, talking about this song, Lata tweeted:
“Only Kishore-da could have done this miracle.”
It also must be noted how the amazing singer modulates his singing to match the actor Pran Sahab’s voice.
Dev from India shared similar sentiments on YouTube:
“He imitates Pran’s voice so perfectly that it seems as if Pran himself is singing the song.”
He is still famous for his almost uncanny ability to imitate the actors he sang for.
Gaata Rahe Mera Dil – Guide (1965)
‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ is a duet with Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. It focuses on Dev Anand (Raju) and Waheeda Rehman (Rosie Marco).
Both voices fuse very well for the song. This results in a timeless track that is argued as one of SD Burman’s finest works.
It is believed that during the production of Guide, Kishore Ji was busy caring for his then-ailing wife, Madhubala.
However, he agreed to sing this song out of respect for Dev Saab and composer SD Burman.
It became a classic and helped in making the film as successful as it is.
Suhasini Krishnan from The Quint reviewed the film in 2017, over five decades after its original release. Speaking of the music, she asked:
“Can the music be the soundtrack to my life?”
Suhasini also added:
“The soundtrack triggered a range of emotions in me.”
Dev Saab cites the song’s title on the last page of his book Romancing with Life (2007), explaining his attitude towards life.
Maybe, that message is what viewers most admire.
Mere Sapno Ki Rani – Aradhana (1969)
‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ is filmed on Rajesh Khanna (Arun Varma), Sujit Kumar (Madan) and Sharmila Tagore (Vandana Tripathi).
In the song, Arun and Madan are wooing Vandana in a jeep. She is giggling as she watches them from a train.
In the late 60s, Kishore Kumar’s acting career had slumped and he decided to sing full-time.
This meant he needed to abandon his policy of only singing for himself or Dev Anand. SD Burman signed him up for the voice of the then relative newcomer Rajesh Khanna.
Aradhana turned Rajesh into a superstar and it marked the resurgence of Kishore Kumar.
Talking about Kishore Ji singing this song, Rajesh said:
“When I heard that song, it seemed as if Rajesh Khanna himself is singing…it seemed as if two bodies became one life or two lives merged into one body.”
Rajesh was perhaps hinting at the singing genius in modulating his voice.
It cannot be denied that this song won the hearts of millions of audiences across the world. When Rajesh Khanna died in 2012, this song was heard the most.
Roop Tera Mastana - Aradhana (1969)
‘Roop Tera Mastana’ is a sensuous number showcasing the intimacy of Rajesh Khanna (Arun Varma) and Sharmila Tagore (Vandhana Tripathi).
In the song, Arun romances a smitten Vandhana in front of a flickering fire.
Kishore Kumar stresses the last syllable of the lyrics, adding to the mood of the song.
This song became a sensation as the singer won his first Filmfare Award for ‘Best Male Playback Singer’ in 1970.
Complimenting the vocalist, Abdul writes on YouTube:
“The way Kishore Kumar sang felt like he was also in full mood. What a versatile singer!”
In 1985, during an interview with Sumit Mitra, the singer highlights singing for other actors, reflecting their mindset:
“I’m an actor who sings off-screen for another actor. Songs should follow the state of mind of the actor on screen.”
Becoming the actor onscreen was already a knack for Kishore Ji but this song proved he could also imbibe the mood of the composition.
Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai – Kati Patang (1971)
‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai’ is a sultry number that follows a tipsy Rajesh Khanna (Kamal Sinha).
He sings about the pains of love and the hurt one can go through while experiencing it.
Kishore Kumar does a wonderful job stretching his vocals at the end of the chorus.
No Fear on YouTube commented on the fantastic combination between the actor and singer:
“Great jodi (pair) – Rajesh Khanna and my favourite singer Kishore Kumar.”
Rajesh also makes enticing facial expressions, proving that he is capable of presenting himself as a superstar.
In 2014, Yasser Usman wrote an official biography of Rajesh Khanna called The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar.
He describes ‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai’ as a “signature Rajesh Khanna number.”
Other famous numbers from this film include ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’ and ‘Pyaar Deewana Hota Hai’.
Kishore JI always seemed to give his best to Khanna. In 1985, Khanna turned producer for the film Alag Alag. The singer did not charge anything for the playback.
Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana – Andaz (1971)
Andaz (1971) marked the directorial debut of Ramesh Sippy, who later helmed the classic Sholay (1975).
‘Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana’ focuses on Rajesh Khanna (Raj) and Hema Malini (Sheetal).
They are riding on a motorbike and running down beaches exuding optimism and positivity.
One of the things that made this song famous was Kishore Kumar’s yodelling at the end of the chorus.
Although Andaz starred Shammi Kapoor in the lead, a special appearance by Rajesh made the movie a huge success.
Rajesh was the reigning star of that time and Kishore Ji sang most his numbers.
Yasser Usman talks about this hit number in detail, mentioning:
“People flocked to the theatres just to watch Rajesh Khanna…lip-syncing to Kishore Kumar’s full-throttle crooning and yodelling.”
Also, there are two other versions of this song in the film. They are respectively sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi.
However, it is Kishore’s version that is the most recognised and remembered.
In the 1970s, Mukesh was somewhat typecast as the voice of actor Raj Kapoor, with Rafi Ji recovering from a throat infection.
This meant that Kishore Ji was the most sought-after singer. If he didn’t become that after Aradhana, then he definitely did after this.
Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas – Blackmail (1973)
On August 4, 2018, actress Preity Zinta remembered Kishore Kumar on his death anniversary. She tweeted:
“His song ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas’ is woven in my strongest childhood memory of my father.”
Preity added that her father was Kishore Kumar’s “biggest fan.” This romantic song hones in on Dharmendra (Kailash Gupta) and Raakhee (Asha Mehta).
Kishore Ji excelled at peppy tracks but this song is a prime example of his unique talent for romantic numbers.
Raju Patel was speechless on YouTube, writing:
“Kishore Da – No words for him.”
During a tribute concert to composers Kalyanji-Anandji, Kishore Da sang this song and people loved the way he sang it.
The lyrics by Anand Bakshi also stay in peoples’ minds. Like many classic songs, this number has been remixed and remade to suit modern times.
However, the consensus is that Kishore’s original version is the best.
Saala Main Toh Sahab Ban Gaya – Sagina (1974)
‘Saala Main Toh Sahab Ban Gaya’ is a duet between Kishore Kumar and Pankaj Mitra.
In the song, a drunk Sagina Mahato (Dilip Kumar) is dancing and giving out food, as a hysterical Guru (Om Prakash) helps him.
Sagina marked the first and only time Kishore Ji sang for actor Dilip Kumar.
He modulates his voice for the actor perfectly. One cannot help but wonder why this actor-singer combination could not be seen more often.
Meanwhile, Pankaj voices Prakash Ji as the actor guffaws to Dilip Kumar’s antics onscreen.
Under the YouTube video, Sanjeeb emphasises the liveliness of the singer:
“Kishore in his boisterous style. Unmatched.”
Nine years after the singer’s death, this song was replayed in the film Raja Hindustani (1996), which retained the original vocals.
Perhaps no other singer could have performed this song as well as Kishore Da.
Yeh Dosti – Sholay (1975)
‘Yeh Dosti’ is a duet between Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar.
This song appears early in Sholay when Jai (Dharmendra) and Veeru (Amitabh Bachchan) sing about their undying friendship.
It is focused on the two as they ride through the village on a motorbike and a sidecar.
In this track, Manna Ji provides the playback for Bachchan, while Kishore Ji sings for Dharmendra.
Kishore Da sings this number with ultimate gusto and audiences can feel the happiness echoing in his voice.
Manna Dey also does a terrific job, but his fellow singer was the bigger name.
Perhaps that’s why he sings for Dharmendra, as Bachchan only became a legend after the film’s release.
Sholay follows two rogue convicts in their quest to help Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) in a remote village.
He wants to get revenge against Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), a bandit chief, for ruining his life.
In 2019, The Economic Times listed this song as one of Kishore Ji’s best friendship songs.
They described it as “India’s introduction to the ‘brother-from-another-mother’ concept.”
Khaike Paan Banaraswala – Don (1978)
It was after adding ‘Khaike Paan Banaraswala’ that the film’s fortunes changed.
The song follows a dancing Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Roma (Zeenat Aman). Director Chandra Barot showed the first cut of the film to Manoj Kumar.
The veteran actor had recommended this song to be added to the movie, giving the audience a breather.
This song was originally supposed to be a part of another film starring Dev Anand in the lead.
However, Dev Saab had it removed from the album. Therefore, ‘Khaike Paan’ made Don a thundering success.
In 2013, Krishna Gopalan wrote a book called The Making of Don.
According to the book, Kishore Kumar began chewing paans (betel leaves) before recording the song to make the situation feel authentic. Gopalan writes:
“As Kishore began singing, Chandra realised what the man was made of.
“There was no question he was sounding like Amitabh. This was the master of modulation at work.”
He also adds:
“Khaike was a big hit in the West Indies.”
Many years later, the song was recreated for the 2006 remake of Don. This version was sung by Udit Narayan and filmed on Vijay (Shah Rukh Khan) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra).
Although arguably Kishore’s version resonates with the audience more.
In 1979, Kishore Da won the ‘Best Male Playback Singer’ Filmfare Award for this song.
O Saathi Re – Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar was a massive success and Kishore Kumar’s ‘O Saathi Re’ made it even more memorable.
Sikandar (Amitabh Bachchan) sings this song to a packed hall while Kaamna (Rakhee) and Vishal Anand (Vinod Khanna) look on.
The singer once again deepens his tone to suit Bachchan’s baritone voice. In 2006, Patobiero appreciated the song and the voice behind it on IMDb:
“‘O Saathi Re’ is a wonderful song and is sung beautifully by Kishore Kumar.”
Twenty-five years after the film’s release, the song continues to be remembered. Kishore Ji received a Filmfare Award nomination for this song in 1979.
Om Shanti Om – Karz (1980)
In Karz, Monty Oberoi (Rishi Kapoor) sings this song in a bustling auditorium.
This song required Kishore Kumar to hit some very high notes but he does it with ultimate passion.
When Rishi Kapoor passed away in 2020, this song was posted all over Twitter to remember the late actor.
Rishi and his son Ranbir did a dance performance to this song. As Kishore’s vocals reverberated through the stadium, the place echoed with applause.
This song is regarded as a chartbuster. The energy of Kishore Ji is infectious.
After performing this song during a concert in 1983 at Wembley Arena, Kumar jokingly said:
“I think I need an ambulance.”
In 1981, composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal won the ‘Best Music Director’ Filmfare Award for Karz.
The same year, Kishore Da was nominated for a Filmfare Award as well.
Chookar Mere Mann Ko – Yaarana (1981)
Yaarana (1981) stars Amitabh Bachchan and Neetu Singh in the lead roles. In the movie, Kishore Kumar sang all of Bachchan’s numbers.
However, something is interesting about ‘Chookar Mere Mann Ko’.
Something makes it different in comparison to the other tracks including ‘Saara Zamana’ and ‘Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan.’
This difference also applies to Kishore’s songs for Bachchan in other films where he does not deepen his voice for the actor.
It is quite soft, which is a change. The song showcases Kishan (Amitabh Bachchan) and Komal (Neetu Singh) softly singing and dancing in a hall.
Writing on YouTube, Harendra Pratap believed the vocalist in unmatchable:
“Nobody can sing as beautifully or as perfectly as the legendary Kishore.”
The track displays Kishore Ji’s ability to balance modulating his voice for the performer and the mood.
Humein Tumse – Kudrat (1981)
‘Humein Tumse’ follows Mohan Kapoor/Madhav (Rajesh Khanna) and Chandramukhi/Paro (Hema Malini).
Love and sadness echo in Kishore Kumar’s voice as Rajesh sings for Hema.
During a concert, just before he presented ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’, Kishore Ji described Rajesh as “fun and energetic.”
This song proves that whenever the singer sang a romantic number for Rajesh, it became evergreen.
A female version by Parveen Sultana appears in Kudrat too. Kishore Ji received a Filmfare Award nomination for his rendition in 1982.
Doston Ko Salaam – Rocky (1981)
Filmed on Rakesh D’Souza (Sanjay Dutt) speeding on a motorbike, ‘Doston Ko Salaam’ sets the tone for the character.
It does not seem as if Kishore Kumar was thirty years older than Sanjay as his voice personifies youth.
This song remains one of his most enjoyable tracks. He cleverly adjusts his voice to sound like that of a twenty-year-old.
The infectious melody of his voice never showed signs of fading even when he was nearing his late fifties.
Rocky started the trend of Kishore Ji singing for a younger crop of actors. These included Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Sunny Deol and Govinda.
Kishor Da may have been old enough to be the father of these actors, but the songs proved otherwise.
In 2018, a biopic of Sanjay Dutt called Sanju was released. This was the only song of the actor, which was played in the film.
Ke Pag Ghungroo Bandh – Namak Halaal (1982)
‘Ke Pag Ghungroo Bandh’ showcases a bright Arjun Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) and Poonam (Smita Patil).
Arjun is dancing merrily at a wedding. Once again, Kishore Kumar compliments Amitabh’s onscreen persona uncannily.
MovieTalkies reviewed the film in 2012, commenting:
“The songs represent the nostalgia and the rebelliousness of the 80s and continue to remain popular.”
“The music of the film is a big reason why the film is a ‘more than one-time’ watch.”
The review also states that Kishore Ji has sung songs that are remembered and listened to all these years later.
In Gurinder Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham (2002), this song is shown while one of the characters watches television.
In 1983, Kishore won a ‘Best Male Playback Singer’ Filmfare Award for this track.
Shayad Meri Shaadi Ka Khayal – Souten (1983)
‘Shayad Meri Shaadi Ka Khayal’ is a duet between Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
Souten (1983) was an Indian film that swapped the bustling streets of Bombay for the exotic locales of Mauritius.
According to Usman’s biography of Rajesh Khanna, ‘Shayad Meri Shaadi Ka Khayal’ was the most famous song of Souten.
It is focused on Shyam Mohit (Rajesh Khanna) and Rukmini Mohit (Tina Munim) celebrating their engagement.
This song has a fast rhythm and a beat that still vibrates in the minds of the audience.
Kishore Ji enjoys this song and one can feel the bond between his voice as well as Rajesh’s acting.
In the early 80s, Kishore Da and Lata Ji performed this song several times in their hit concerts together.
The YouTube video has been viewed over a monumental 100 million times, signalling Kishor’s eternal legacy.
Rote Rote Hansna Seekho – Andhaa Kanoon (1983)
Along with peppy and romantic songs, Kishore Kumar also sang several optimistic numbers.
One of these was ‘Rote Rote Hasna Seekho’ from the film Andhaa Kanoon.
Jan Nissar Akhtar Khan (Amitabh Bachchan) sings this song to his daughter in a special appearance. This song was popular for its message of hope and positivity.
One cannot deny Kishore Ji’s supreme voice in this song as Manjeet Sen commented on YouTube:
“Great song of Kishore Da – he takes a simple song to another level.”
Kishore Da and Bachchan had gone through a brief altercation in the early 80s.
This resulted in the singer refusing to give playback for Bachchan in several films of this period.
The song refreshingly proves that whenever this combination appears, it leaves behind timeless classics.
Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Main – Mashaal (1984)
Continuing with the theme of optimism, ‘Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Main’ is also a Kishore Kumar classic.
Mashaal was one of Anil Kapoor’s earlier leading role. This song is pictured on Raja (Anil Kapoor) as he matures from a poorly mannered street boy into a budding journalist.
Kishore Ji invests hard-hitting energy into this song as it leaves the viewer emerging from a wave of positivity.
Narendra from India feels the healing power of this song as he expresses on YouTube:
“This song always brings me up from all the pains.”
Although Dilip Kumar overshadows Anil Kapoor in the film, the junior actor of the time still had an important part.
In Bollywood, music decorates the movies and Kishore Da definitely does that for Mashaal.
Saagar Kinaare – Saagar (1985)
‘Sagaar Kinaare’ is a duet by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. Saagar marked actress Dimple Kapadia’s reentry into Indian cinema after twelve years.
The song focuses on Ravi (Rishi Kapoor and Mona D’Silva) (Dimple Kapadia) on a beach, romantically swooning over each other.
At the age of 56, Kishore’s voice still did not lose its boyish charm.
If he was famous for deepening his voice for Amitabh Bachchan, he expertly softened it for Rishi Kapoor.
When Rishi passed away in 2020, Bachchan praised his lip-syncing skills.
Rishi accurately synchronises Kishore Ji’s words with his mouth. All the expressions, combined with Kishore’s voice, make for a classic in Indian music.
He holds his own against an intoxicating Lata Ji. In 1986, Kishore Da won a Filmfare Award for his vocals with this number.
Main Dil Tu Dhadkan – Adhikar (1986)
‘Main Dil Tu Dhadkan’ is one of the last times that Kishore Kumar sang for Rajesh Khanna.
It hones in on Vishal (Rajesh Khanna) looking after his onscreen son Lucky (the character was named after the actor).
This touching number accurately and poignantly shows a father-son bond.
Although the film flopped in 1986, this song is evidently a hit and should be remembered as being one of the final offerings from the Kishore-Rajesh duo.
Adhikar follows the story of a couple struggling to live together and raising their young son. The film opens with this song.
Kishore Ji was truly ruling the roost of Indian playback singing.
Guru Guru – Waqt Ki Awaz (1988)
‘Guru Guru’ depicts the relationship between Mithun Chakraborty (Vishwa Pratap) and Sridevi (Lata).
It is a duet by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar. At the time of recording, Kishore Ji was 58 but viewers felt his voice was much younger.
In the mid-80s, he announced that he was planning retirement and going back to his hometown Khandwa, India.
The singer had become unhappy with the quality of the songs that were being produced. Nevertheless, he continued working until his last breath.
This song was recorded on October 12, 1987, a day before Kishore Da passed away.
5 Interesting Facts about Kishore Kumar
- He charged a minimum of Rs. 1 Lakh per song.
- He had never sung for Raaj Kumar or Manoj Kumar.
- He briefly stopped singing for Mithun Chakraborty after Yogeeta Bali married the latter after divorcing Kishore.
- He sung over 2,600 songs in his career.
- He won 8 Filmfare Awards for his songs.
Listening to the energy and enthusiasm in Kishore’s voice, nobody could have guessed that this would be his last song.
The music composer of the film was Bappi Lahiri. He gave an interview to Cinestaan, saying:
“I have been working for 48 years because of Kishore Kumar’s blessings.
“A versatile singer like him will never emerge ever.”
At the time of his death, Kishore was working on a film with Shammi Kapoor but it remained unfinished.
Shami once said:
“He was a genius…he sang some of the most beautiful numbers.”
Kishore Kumar was a multi-faceted genius. He was a good actor but will always be remembered as one of India’s most talented singers.