Art & Culture

Remembering Kishore Kumar, Hindi cinema's legend and the eccentric

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa GahlotAug 04, 2016 | 18:25

Remembering Kishore Kumar, Hindi cinema's legend and the eccentric

Kishore Kumar, whose birth anniversary falls on August 4, is fondly remembered as as a singer, a comic actor and a famed Bollywood eccentric.

Who would have thought that the first film he chose to direct, would be a serious one called Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964).

Set in a picturesque rural area, the film's inspiration from Satyajit Ray's immortal Pather Panchali seems obvious.


It is now a well-known fact that Kishore Kumar had helped finance that iconic Bengali film. He also happened to be related to Ray by marriage; his first wife Ruma Guha Thakurta was Ray's niece.

Kishore Kumar (August 4, 1929 – October 13, 1987).

After doing a row of hit comedies, for Kishore Kumar it was a challenge to write and direct a soft father-son subject, in which he cast his own son Amit Kumar (credited as Amit Gangoly).

The film opens with humble thanks to "All workers big or small whose efforts made the creation of this motion picture possible," which was a nice gesture on the part of Kishore Kumar.

The credits roll over painted backdrops depicting scenes from the film and Hemant Kumar's mellifluous voice singing the title track.

When Shankar (Kishore Kumar), a soldier, returns from the front, hoping to surprise his family by his sudden appearance, he finds that in his absence, his house has burned down killing his father and wife; the shock has left his young son, Ramu, unable to speak.

Father and son have a joyous reunion, tinged by grief at what happened to the family. Shankar sees the burned shell of his home, with the heartbreaking "Koi lauta de mere beete hue din" playing on the soundtrack in Kishore's voice.


He also composed the superb music for the film, set to Shailendra's evocative lyrics. 

Shankar tries to exhort Ramu to speak, to call him "Bapu" like he used to; the boy shakes his head vehemently and collapses in his father's arms.

The next day, Shankar sets out towards the city, with Ramu and his inseparable dog Shera, determined to get his son treated.

On the way, he gets into a scrap with a Thakur (Raj Mehra) and his two nasty sons (Iftekhar and Sajjan). He is wounded and left bleeding on the road.

Meena (Supriya Chowdhury), passing by in her cart, picks him up and takes him home. She is the other big landowner in the village, and the Thakur has his eye on her property. He wants his older son to marry her, so that he can usurp her lands, but she has been resisting his advances and threats.

She lives by herself, with her caring staff and is loved by everyone around for her generosity. She shelters Ramu and Shankar till he recovers and is able to move.

Ramu gets attached to her, and Shankar is attracted too, but unable to articulate his feelings. Besides, he is focused on Ramu’s treatment.


All Shankar’s rounds of various doctors fail to cure Ramu—there is nothing wrong with the boy they all say, he just won’t speak.

Shankar and Ramu return to the village dejected, but the Thakur and his sons have not given up. From attempting to rape Meena to kidnapping Shera, they don’t spare any ploy to get rid of their enemy.

Ramu comes to save his dog with the help of a beggar he had befriended (Nana Palshikar) and gets captured himself. Now it’s Shera’s turn to fetch Shankar, and during his fight with the villains, when he is about to be attacked from the back, Ramu shouts out to save him.

The child recovers his vocal chords, Shankar and Meena accept their love for each other and the film has a happy ending.

Kishore Kumar, the youngest of the Ganguly brothers Ashok and Anup, is a Bollywood legend. Actor, singer, composer, producer, singer—his contribution to cinema is matchless.

He was married to Ruma Guha Thakurta, whose son Amit grew up to be a singer; then Madhubala, Yogeeta Bali and finally Leena Chandavarkar, with whom he had another son Sumit.

As he grew older, stories of his eccentricity and deliberate distancing from the film industry were rife.

Kishore Kumar with Madhubala.

He directed half a dozen more films, including the weirdly titled Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi (1974), none as accomplished as Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, nor as successful.

Incidentally, when a critic panned one of his films, Door Wadiyon Mein Kahin, he took out full page ads in the trade papers lashing out at him, challenging stories of his notorious miserliness.

Last updated: August 04, 2016 | 18:25
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