In the early 1970s, two individuals came to the fore – Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan – and ruled Bollywood for the next two decades. They were a mismatched pair. While Amitabh Bachchan was rookie, Kishore had been around for more than two decades. Both were struggling with their careers. As luck would have it, they came to work together a lot and in the years to come, they became as identifiable a pair as Mohammed Rafi and Shammi Kapoor were in the 1960s. By the end of the 1970s, they had completely transformed their careers. In the span of a decade, Kishore Kumar recorded more than double the number of songs he had recorded in the previous two decades and Amitabh Bachchan became a superstar.
To mark Amitabh Bachchan’s 73rd birthday on October 11 and Kishore Kumar’s 28th death anniversary on October 13, I pick their ten most memorable collaborations.
Bombay To Goa (1972)
This was amongst Amitabh’s earliest films in a lead role. While the film was moderately successful, it is said to have helped Amitabh bag his career-making role in Zanjeer the next year. My favourite song from the film is the melodious Kishore-Lata duet ‘Tum Meri Zindagi Mein’. Unfortunately, the song was not filmed and given the theme of this post, a better pick would be the boisterous ‘Dekha Na Haye Re’. Amitabh Bachchan was known to be a reluctant dancer and it was Mehmood’s counsel that extracted an energetic performance from him. Kishore Kumar, who also had a cameo in the film, belted out the song in a manner that made this song a staple for travelling groups. Incidentally, the phrase “dole dole dole dole” was a last minute inclusion and was inspired by Amit Kumar’s presence in the studio. ‘Dole’ was Mehmood’s nickname for Amit Kumar.
Long before celebrity couple names were in vogue, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri formed a production company named Amiya Pictures. Abhimaan was the only movie produced under this banner. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s thoughtful direction, SD Burman’s award-winning score and Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri’s excellent portrayal of a couple weathering a troubled marriage makes Abhimaan an evergreen classic. SD Burman’s genius can be seen not just in the music he made for the film but also the singers he picked for Amitabh Bachchan’s character. He used Kishore Kumar for just two songs. The first, ‘Meet Na Mila Re Man Ka’ was at the beginning of the film, when Amitabh Bachchan’s character is at the peak of his singing career. The second, a duet with Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina’, appears in the film’s stunning climax in which the singer gets over his insecurity and reconciles with his wife. The songs in between use other singers to portray a conflicted, insecure husband. My pick from Abhimaan is ‘Meet Na Mila Re Man Ka’.
Mili was SD Burman’s last film. He passed away during the film’s making and it was RD Burman who recorded the songs for Mili. Perhaps because of Dada Burman’s demise, the film’s soundtrack had just three songs. What the album did not have in numbers, it more than made up for in quality. The two Kishore solos are beautiful and achingly poignant. My pick is ‘Badi Sooni Sooni Hai’.
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar may not be a classic film album but in my estimate, as a child of the 1970s/1980s, it has an important place in the Indian pop culture. Amitabh Bachchan had established himself as the industry’s alpha male and his entry in films had become a thing. In Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, his entry was with the song ‘Rote Hue Aate Hain Sab’. The song, with the stylishly dressed Amitabh Bachchan riding a Bullet on the streets of Bombay, carefree and with wind in his hair, had the theatre crowds in raptures. Muqaddar Ka Sikandar was a roaring success at the box office.
Don was another hugely successful film and album for Amitabh Bachchan, Kalyanji-Anandji, Kishore Kumar and Anjaan. While the film has several popular songs, it’s biggest hit, ‘Khaike Paan Banara Wala’, was ironically added as an afterthought. After the filming was complete, Manoj Kumar, who was director Chandra Barot’s mentor, suggested that the film was too tightly paced and needed a song in the second half to ease the proceedings. It was only then that ‘Khaike Paan Banaras Wala’ was recorded and filmed. Who else could play the gamcha-wearing, paan chomping, bhaang guzzling village bumpkin better than Amitabh Bachchan? Kishore Kumar was as spectacular behind the mic as Amitabh was on screen, going to the extent of actually eating paan while recording the song.
Manzil is another example of a small sized package delivering a mean punch. Just three songs from the film – ‘Tum Ho Mere Dil Ki Dhadkan’, inspired by Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, sung by Kishore and two solos of ‘Rimjhim Gire Saawan’ by Lata and Kishore – elevate the album as an all-time favourite. ‘Rimjhim Gire Sawan’ has to be one of the top three rain songs in any Indian music lover’s list. Lata Mangeshkar’s version, wonderfully shot in a rain swept Bombay, has been a hot favourite on TV for decades. However, when it comes to the song itself, I prefer Kishore’s version.
Silsila is one of the several Yash Raj films that deal with love triangles and marital conflicts. What makes this film stand out is the parallels between the real lives of the film’s stars, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, and the characters they played in the film. The film’s album was a musical treat despite, or perhaps because of, debutante music directors and lyricists. Music directors, Shiv – Hari, comprising of ace santoor player Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and the legendary flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, and lyricist Javed Akhtar introduced a fresh perspective and new sounds that were sorely needed inHindi film music at the time. My Kishore Kumar favourite from the movie, is his romantic duet with Lata, ‘Dekha Ek Khwab’, filmed in the spectacular tulip fields of Keukenhof.
After Abhimaan and Manzil, Yaarana was another film that featured Amitabh Bachchan as a singer. Amitabh Bachchan’s dance, dressed in a light bulb studded suit, for ‘Saara Zamana Haseenon Ka Deewana’ may have stolen the show in the film but my favourite is Rajesh Roshan’s tasteful adaptation from Rabindra Sangeet, ‘Chhoo Kar Mere Man Ko’. Interestingly, the original ‘Tomar Holo Shuru’ was the first ever Rabindra Sangeet song recorded by Lata Mangeshkar.
Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan shared a special bond. Over the years they formed a very successful partnership with films like Anand (1970),Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haram (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Alaap (1977) andJurmaana (1979). Bemisal was their last offering together. At a time when Amitabh’s on screen persona was one of the angry young man pitted against evil villains, his restrained intensity and a female antagonist made Bemisal very interesting. Bemisal is perhaps an offbeat pick in this list but for me, it deserves a place for two lovely Kishore solos with memorable lyrics Anand Bakshi. My pick – Ek Roz Main Tadap Kar.
There are two Bachchan films in which Bappi Lahiri knocked the ball out of the park –Namak Halaal (1982) and Sharaabi. Amitabh’s versatility was in full display as he played a brooding alcoholic in one and a hilarious village boor in another. Kishore Kumar won Filmfare Awards for both films and if I could, I would include both films in the list. For me, what breaks the tie between the two films is a Kishore solo in what is essentially an Asha Bhosle song – ‘Mujhe Naulakha Pehna De Re’. Kishore makes a grand entry 5 minutes into a rather ordinary song and completely transforms it. My pick from Sharaabi – the superb ‘Manzilen Apne Jagah Hain’, which won Kishore Kumar the Filmfare award.
As with the rest of this series, this list is meant to serve as the beginning of a musical exploration. These lists are not definitive in any sense. If you’re disappointed that your favorite Kishore – Amitabh film or song is not listed in this post, please head here.
‘Jidhar Dekhoon Teri Tasveer’ (Mahaan, 1983) is perhaps the only film song that came in versions sung by Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. And it may be musical blasphemy, but I think Amitabh Bachchan’s version is better than Kishore Kumar’s!