'Laxmikantam, Pyarelalam, namaskaram'
Ahead of Pyarelal Sharma's tribute concert to mark Kishore Kumar's 90th birth anniversary, the composer recalls the infectious way in which the legend greeted them
Intentionally employing a monotonous and consistent tone, veteran composer Pyarelal Sharma asks me if I'd greet every person I know with a: 'Namaste. Kaise hai?' The answer, of course, is in the negative, as he reiterates when stating, "You will smile at someone, shake hands with another, and embrace yet another, isn't it?" He makes a case for himself when explaining the methods of Kishore Kumar as he chronicles what made the legendary singer a force to reckon with, even years after his demise. "He had a sound understanding of what he must deliver when working with each composer. His method with each one was different. Given that there were such celebrated composers in that era, including Shankar Jaikishan, RD Burman and SD Burman, among others, this knowledge was important," says Sharma, ahead of his upcoming August 9 tribute concert to mark the 90th birth anniversary of the legend.
For the veteran composer, a discussion about Kumar stirs up many memories, given that, along with long-time associate Laxmikant Kudalkar, he collaborated with the singer-composer-actor on 402 numbers. He attributes the legend's unmatched legacy to his ability to hold his own. "When he came into the industry, he did not focus on singing alone. People come with the intention of excelling in one thing. But he worked as an actor just as much as he did as a singer. He never sought inspiration from another person; he was always a natural. Being involved in the different aspects that go into the making of a song, he understood the whole process better. That was an advantage for a composer. He blessed us by delivering our songs precisely how we wanted them to be."
It was several projects into their career that Laxmikant-Pyarelal got an opportunity to work with Kumar. "When Mr X In Bombay  came our way, we were happy that Kishore Kumar, who was singing it, was also our hero. Laxmikant and I realised that it would be a challenge. Kumar had already worked with many composers, and us, with several singers. We had to ensure that what we created for him was different from the work of other composers as well as our own past projects. But he was fond of our ideas. For the song Dakiya Dak Laya, we employed 90 musicians. The song started with one musician, then two and then slowly built up to all 90 playing together. There were sounds of the cycle, the chakki and all things that you would associate with a village. He really appreciated the idea."
Kumar, we're told, would arrive on set and greet them with a reverberating 'Laxmikantam, Pyarelalam, Namaskaram.' An 11 am walk-in time was usual, but once in the studio, he'd never rush the musicians to wrap up work early, happily rendering "two, five or 25 iterations" of the recordings. He was jovial for most parts, and his tendency to poke fun at individuals was well-known. Although rarely apprehensive about singing any track, he never missed a chance to make light of any situation, if it came his way. "There was a qawwali section in the song Wada Tera Wada, and he playfully kept asking if he would be able to deliver it. We egged him to give it a shot and also told Rajesh Khanna and Ramesh Sippy to come to the studio because he was asking for bhao [acting pricey]. Kishore would sit with a gloomy face as they'd try to persuade him. Then, he'd turn and face the other way, and they'd all have to get up and go the other way to continue persuading him. Finally, he sang it so well."
At the concert scheduled for Friday, Sharma, with his ensemble, will revisit those "beautiful" tracks of Kumar that achieved less popularity. "When we play these numbers abroad, people always appreciate them." A brainchild of singer Pankaj Chaturvedi, the show will have a sprinkling of stories involving Kumar that went behind the making of the songs. "There are many moments that stand out. I've been told, on one instance, a producer had paid him only 50 per cent of the amount. Kumar then arrived on set with half his hair shaved, telling him that if he paid him half the amount, only half of him would be available," Chaturvedi says.
Favourite number by Kishore Kumar
Alka Yagnik: Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi and O Hansini. Kishore da introduced a versatility with his voice; there is no genre that he has not sung in. I fondly remember him for the song Inteha Ho Gayi because of the way he rendered the quirky elements. This duet was sung by Asha tai and Kishore da, who have given numerous blockbusters.
Sukhwinder Singh: Aapke Kamare Mai Koi Reheta Hai. Anyone can come out of depression by listening to the song. It rejuvenates you. Kishore da's death was a tremendous loss to Indian cinema. I never got the chance to meet him. But if you are feeling low, listen to his songs. They are inspirational.
Javed Ali: Kuch Toh Log Kahenge. The song has been rendered very emotionally by Kishore da. Also, I particularly like it because when I listen to it, I can't picturise Kishore da in it. I visualise Rajesh Khanna. That is something Kishore da could do; sing a song such that it was easy to visualise the actor.
Armaan Malik: Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas and Humein Tumse Pyaar Kitna are cherished. Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas is special because [I employed the song] for my first school annual day performance with Amaal. I also got a chance to recreate it a few years ago. Most of my remakes have been Kishore da's songs. I feel I have a cosmic connection with him.
Today in music
August 5, 1965: The Beatles were at No.1 on the UK singles chart with Help! John Lennon later stated he wrote the lyrics to express his stress after their rise to success
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