Can you believe that it has been 25 years since Kishore Kumar left this world? It is hard to believe, mainly because his songs live on even today, through numerous singers who base their styles on him from Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Vinod Rathod to the younger singers of today such as Babul Supriyo or Shaan. Further Kishore Kumar lives in through the regular remixes and renditions of his songs each and every year.
Bollyspice had the privilege to be part of an intimate audience with the sons of Kishore Kumar, Amit and Sumit Kumar. It is hard to cover all of Kishore’s classics in one night, extremely hard, so the best way do it is by selecting themes or a particular era. The promoter Pankaj Sodha shared with the audience that the original plan was a celebration of Kishore Kumar’s music on his 25th death anniversary. However, from the time of conception to the show, Bollywood had lost both Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna, both who had been the faces to numerous Kishore classics, therefore the show focussed on many of the songs picturised on them.
A very local East London audience, a packed house, local musicians used and a stage so close you could walk past and shake hands with Amit Kumar, were all ingredients for an extremely successful evening. Amit Kumar and his younger brother Sumit had only flown in the day before and had only the late night before to practice and rehearse with the band ahead of the show. Bollyspice were amongst the selected few invited to witness the closed jamming and rehearsal session the night before.
Amit Kumar was a successful Bollywood playback singer in his own right, having sung for all the major music directors and leading actors in the 80s and early 90s, even becoming the voice for Anil Kapoor at one stage. What he was able to do on the night was really capture the ‘voice’ of his father, the deep baritone, the huge throw and the small intricacies of certain notes, which always displayed such control and pitching.
Kishore Kumar was not just a singer, but also a fine actor and comedian. To that effect, Amit was animated throughout the night, making the right facial expressions, which reminded so many of us of the sheer talent Kishore Kumar had. His song’s were not simply sung, but also had so much expression within it. At 60 years old, there is one thing that Amit Kumar has not lost and that is a powerful voice.
The highlight of the night were the stories and recollections Amit would share about his father. How a certain song came about? Why his father had sung a song in a particular style? What was the background or the context to a certain album being created? These stories were like handing down lived history to us. Not something that could be simply read, or watched, but needed to be heard. In that sense the show for many was some compensation for for not having seen Kishore live before and also provided some real insight into the songs we love and listen to.
We can not forget to mention a special appearance by a popular Rajesh Khanna look-alike brought in especially from Mumbai, who delivered some nostalgic dialogues and dance performances of Rajesh Khanna. It would also be unfair to say a few things about the younger brother and performer Sumit Kumar. Not quite the range and power in his voice, as his brother and father, Sumit was better suited to the softer songs. In fact his rendition of Rafi’s ‘Gulabi aankhen’, his father’s contemporary and for hardcore fans competitor, Sumit’s voice is surprisingly more suited to that style and range than that of his fathers.
Finally, you will notice that I have not listed any of the Kishore Kumar songs sung on the night, mainly because I was so lost in the magic of the night that I once each song was sung, one kept thinking ‘what about this song and what about that song’? Which makes you think, an evening is simply not enough to hear Kishore Kumar’s songs, a lifetime is needed…