By Shefali Jha Last Updated:
Born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly and known as his stage name, Kishore Kumar, Kishore Da was a Bengali Brahmin and was the youngest of four siblings, Ashok Kumar, Sati Devi, and Anoop Kumar. Following the footsteps of his brother, Ashok and Anoop, Kishore started his career in the film industry as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, followed by his debut as an actor in the film, Shikari. Before Kishore Kumar, the singing industry was a Kora Kagaz, but after he floored us by becoming the magical voice behind the Bollywood heroes, his fans joyfully sang, Humein Tumse Pyaar Kitna, for him.
Zindagi became a Suhana Safar and every time was Inteha Hogayi Intezaar Ki for a song of Kishore Kumar. He made us believe in Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Ho Sake Toh Isme Zindagi Bita Do, Pal Jo Yeh Jaane Wala Hai. From Kishore Kumar's songs, Zarurat Hai Zarurat Hai, Roop Tera Mastana, Yeh Kya Hua, O Mere Dil Ke Chain, Jahaan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai, Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan, Keh Du Tumhe, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, Pyaar Humein Kis Mod Pe and a lot more; Kishore Kumar had given us countless of gems in his one lifetime. The evergreen singing maestro, Kishore had the knack of modulating his voice suitably for every actor and he infused yodelling in his music, winning every heart with his soulful voice.
Kishore Kumar's magical voice, the ability to encapsulate an ocean range of emotions into a song and a multitude of talent bugs that resided inside him, made him, one of the most famous singer-actors till now. Many consider him as their God and many as a legend, who was gifted with a voice like no other. O Saathi Re, Tere Bina Bhi Kya Jeena, sung by Kishore Kumar garnered him thundering applause but also remained a harsh reminder of his aloofness behind the illustrious life he led. While Kishore was always under the limelight, but what lay hidden inside him, were layers of loneliness and discontentment. The singer-actor not only got involved but also got married to four different women of his times, who were also the well-knowns in the industry. Let's take a look at Kishore Kumar's love life, marriages and four wives.
Kishore Kumar, Ruma Guha Thakurta and Amit Kumar
Kishore Kumar first tied the knot with Satyajit Ray's niece, Ruma Guha Thakurta, in 1950. Apart from being an ace actress and singer, Ruma also worked as an active socialist. She was the founder of Calcutta Youth Choir in 1958. The couple tied the knot in a grand ceremony in Bombay in 1950 and were blessed with a son, Amit Kumar in 1952. Cracks started developing between the couple soon after marriage as it was reported that Kishore Kumar wanted Ruma to be at home and take care of the house and their son, while she did not want to let go of the stardom she had achieved and not utilise her potential. After many years of friction and quarrels, the couple amicably decided to part ways in 1958, 8 years after their marriage. Ruma was last seen in the Hollywood film, The Namesake in 2006. Revealing the reason behind the separation, Kishore Kumar, in an interview with Pritish Nandy, had said:
"She was a very talented person but we could not get along because we looked at life differently. She wanted to build a choir and a career. I wanted someone to build me a home. How can the two reconcile? You see, I'm a simple-minded villager type. I don't understand this business about women making careers. Wives should first learn how to make a home. And how can you fit the two together? A career and a home are quite separate things. That's why we went our separate ways."
Kishore Kumar and Madhubala
While the west flaunted their Marilyn Monroe, India had its own Madhubala. Ever since she entered the industry, Madhubala emerged as an instant sensation, a diva, a trendsetter. Born in a poor Pathan family, Madhubala decided to tie the knot with Kishore Kumar after her relationship with Dilip Kumar faded. Kishore Kumar and Madhubala's marriage sent the entire nation into a fizzy as he had reportedly changed his religion and converted into a Muslim (he was named Karim Abdul for the same) to appease her parents, who vehemently opposed their alliance. Even after a civil Hindu wedding, Madhubala was not accepted by Kishore Kumar's family. Before their marriage, Madhubala was detected with a hole in her heart. Right when Madhubala was preparing to leave for her treatment to London, Kishore had proposed to her in a true filmy style. Though they lived harmoniously for a while during their short-lived married life, both went into bouts of depressions during the last few years of their marriage. The reason being, Madhubala was mostly bed-ridden and Kishore had watched the love of his life die painfully in front of his eyes. In an interview with Pritish Nandy, Kishore had stated:
"She was quite another matter. I knew she was very sick even before I married her. But a promise is a promise. So, I kept my word and brought her home as my wife, even though I knew she was dying from a congenital heart problem. For 9 long years, I nursed her. I watched her die before my own eyes. You can never understand what this means until you live through this yourself. She was such a beautiful woman and she died so painfully. She would rave and rant and scream in frustration. How can such an active person spend 9 long years bed-ridden? And I had to humour her all the time. That's what the doctor asked me to. That's what I did till her very last breath. I would laugh with her. I would cry with her."
After battling the disease for a long time, Madhubala passed away in 1969.
Kishore Kumar and Yogeeta Bali, Image courtesy: India TV
Many years after Madhubala's death, Kishore Kumar found love in the arms of Yogeeta Bali, niece of Shammi Kapoor's first wife, Geeta Bali. It was said that while being married to Kishore Kumar, Yogeeta had fallen for Mithun Chakraborty during the making of their film, Khwaab. The animosity between Kishore Kumar and Mithun grew to such an extent that Kishore Kumar refused to sing songs for Mithun, which proved a boon for Bappi Lahiri. Yogeeta and Kishore Kumar's divorce was granted just after two years of their marriage.
In the interview with Pritish Nandy, Kishore Kumar had shared that their marriage was a joke, "That was a joke. I don't think she was serious about marriage. She was only obsessed with her mother. She never wanted to live here." When probed further, "But that's because she says you would stay up all night and count money…", Kishore Kumar added, "Do you think I can do that? Do you think I'm mad? Well, it's good we separated quickly."
Kishore Kumar and Leena Chandavarkar
One of the most sought-after actresses, Leena Chandavarkar decided to go for an arranged marriage at a very young age with Sidharth Bandodkar (Chief Minister of Goa). However, tragedy soon struck her and Leena was widowed at the mere age of 25. Leena Chandavarkar's first husband, Sidharth was a great Kishore Kumar fan. During a trip to Lonavala, on seeing Kishore with his third wife, Yogeeta Bali, Sidharth had asked Leena, 'Would you marry him if he proposed to you?' To which, she had said, "I said 'never'." Little did she know that years later, she will become Kishore Kumar's fourth wife.
Remembering their first interaction in 1979 and what she liked about Kishore Kumar, Leena Chandavarkar had once said in an interview with the Filmfare:
"One day, his driver Abdul came home, gave me his number and asked me to call him. When I called him, he at once picked up the phone and said, 'Leena! I've been waiting to hear from you'. Every morning he'd call me and without introducing himself start talking. He'd make me laugh. My father began noticing a change in me. I didn't fall in love with him instantly but I felt protected when I was with him. He was kind to his staff. I'd wonder why he was called kanjoos. There was no chichorapan (frivolousness) about him. He didn't drink. But yes, he didn't like his women working. I liked the child in him who rejoiced in the rain, who felt excited about nature. His world was a world of dreams. Once he went to a bazaar in Delhi. There he saw masoor ki dal. Immediately he said, 'Let's go to Musoorie!' I loved this gypsy life. I was in need of such a life."
When Leena Chandavarkar had said that 'never' will she accept Kishore Kumar's proposal, in the interview, she accepted that 'one must never say never'. One day, Kishore sang the song, Mere Dil Me Aaj Kya Hai but Leena failed to recognise his hint for marriage. Recalling the same, Leena had said:
"A few days later he said, ‘If you ever think of settling down again, please consider my proposal’. I was shocked and told him that marriage may be a ‘casual’ thing for him but I had not yet forgotten Siddarth. He said, ‘Achcha cancel it!’ After that he never mentioned marriage. It was only professional talk between us."
Kishore Kumar, Leena Chandavarkar and Sumit Kumar
Revealing how she grew insecure after falling in love with him, Leena Chandavarkar had continued, "Kishore ji never ever told me 'I love you'. He said it's something to be felt, not said. Even in his films he was never overtly romantic. But as I began loving him, I grew insecure. At concerts, girls would kiss him and leave lipstick marks on him. He used to call me his lagaam."
Recalling the day of Kishore Kumar's death and his last lines before he took his last breath, Leena Chandavarkar was quoted as saying:
"On the morning of October 13 (the day he passed away in 1987), he looked pale and as though in deep sleep. As I went near him, he woke up and asked, ‘Did you get scared? Today is my holiday’.” That day he had several meetings at home. During lunch he told me that we’d watch the film River Of No Return in the evening. A little later, I heard him move furniture in the next room. When I went to see what was happening, I saw him lying on the bed. Nervously he said, ‘I’m feeling weak’. I ran to call the doctor. He got angry and said, ‘If you call the doctor, I’ll get a heart-attack’. Those were his last lines. His eyes were wide open and he was breathing out. I thought he was fooling as usual but that was the end."
Speaking about his fourth wife, Leena Chandavarkar, Kishore Kumar had said in his interview with Pritish Nandy, "Leena is a very different kind of person. She too is an actress like all of them but she’s very different. She’s seen tragedy. She’s faced grief. When your husband is shot dead, you change. You understand life. You realize the ephemeral quality of all things.. I am happy now."
In the same interview, when Pritish Nandy had asked Kishore Kumar about his four marriages, revealing the reason behind his turbulent personal life, the singer had retorted, "Because I like being left alone."
Kishore Kumar Ganguly, Ashok Kumar Ganguly and Anoop Kumar Ganguly
To begin with Kishore Kumar's family tree, the actor-singer was born to Kunjalal Ganguly (Gangopadhyay), who was a lawyer and Gouri Devi, who was a homemaker. Kishore Kumar Ganguly had three elder siblings, Ashok Kumar Ganguly, Sati Devi, and Anoop Kumar Ganguly. Kishore Kumar's son, Amit Kumar from his first wife, Ruma Guha Thakurta and Kishore Kumar's second child, Sumit Kumar with Leena Chandavarkar, are both singers.
Kishore Kumar's early demise shocked the whole town. While his unsurpassed creative brilliance gave him unbeatable stardom, it was his tumultuous married life, which restrained him to the bitter reality of the being. But no matter what, Kishore Kumar is a legend. His immortal remains in the form of priceless songs that he has left behind for us will stay forever in the generations to come.