Today is the birth anniversary of Kishore Kumar. Were he alive today, he would be 89 and probably as hearty as he was all his life. While many consider him as India’s greatest playback singer (there could be some who would disagree), there is no doubt that his repertoire is bejewelled with superhit tracks from the early 1950s to his death in 1987. That is indeed a massive database of songs! Some of them are so timelessly popular that they feature in playlists of everyone from 18 to 80 year olds.
Every year on his birth and death anniversaries (he passed away on 13 October 1987), songs sung by the iconic singer start doing the rounds of radio, music and TV stations. His name captures the top trends of social media, and tributes are paid by everyone from politicians to illustrious names from the entertainment industry.
At the same time, music lovers, who listen to Kishore Kumar every day, make it a point to listen to the most popular numbers sung by the voice extraordinaire. But there are some songs which are equally beautiful, mellifluous, enchanting and unforgettable as those that became chartbusters in their time and continue to enthrall us to this day.
They didn’t reach the pinnacle of glory neither because of the voice (that is unquestionable) nor because of the music. If they entered the ‘lesser-known’ category, it was because the film in which the songs were featured didn’t do well at the box office. Then there are a few that were never released.
Here are five of those gems which are part of Kishore Kumar’s chest:
1. “Ye Mehfil Yoon Hi Sajegi” – Aaj Ki Radha (1973)
You won’t be able to find the name of the film on IMDB. It is that unknown. The name that the movie database throws up is “Aaj Ki Dhara” of 1979. Starring Mahendra Sandhu, who is best remembered for the 1977 flop ‘Agent Vinod’, the slow number is filmed in a ‘70s club on Sandhu, who chronicles the pain of the character through the song.
2. “Aaj Rona Pada To Samjhe” – Girl Friend (1960)
We remember Kishore for his yodelling and the cherubic songs he performed. We also remember him as a comic actor who delivered more than a few hits in the mid 1950s to early 1960s. But, as Javed Akhtar once said, it was a “mask” he wore. Kishore Kumar had the depth of pain in his voice, probably because of the tumult in his real life. “Aaj Rona Pada To Samjhe” from the 1960 movie starring Kishore and Waheeda Rehman captures that pain.
3. “Pyar Ajnabi Hai” – Unreleased
Kishore Kumar is at his powerful best in this song of a lover longing for love. It is reminiscent of the singer’s more popular songs on heartbreak and sad romantic numbers but the music and the voice in this song have their own charm.
4. “Kachchi Pakki Sadkon Pe Meri Tamtam” – Pyar (1950)
Any list of Kishore Kumar’s songs, even if it be of the lesser-known ones, will be incomplete without a single of his happy-go-lucky numbers. After all, Kishore Kumar became Kishore Kumar because of that distinctive style of his singing which included making all sorts of noises while he sang. Remember “Chil Chil Chilla Ke” from the 1962 movie ‘Half Ticket’? “Kachchi Pakki Sadkon Pe Meri Tamtam” is somewhat similar, but the difference is that it was sung in 1950 and in a KL Saigal-style, which Kishore used to follow in the early part of his career.
5. “Akela Hoon Main” – Unreleased
Not to be confused with the popular song sung by Mohammed Rafi in the superhit 1962 film ‘Baat Ek Raat Ki’, “Akela Hoon Main” was written and composed by Kishore Kumar. It is perhaps Kishore’s autobiography in a song. This dreamy number is smooth and has Kishore apparently reflecting on his life. The uniqueness of the song is that Kishore’s voice and the lyrics will continue to echo in the listener’s head once the song is over.
Note: A previous version of this article had erroneously listed “Ye Mehfil Yoon Hi Sajegi” as a song from ‘Agent Vinod’ instead of ‘Aaj Ki Raadha’. The error has been rectified.