He might have dominated the music scene for decades, but legendary singer and actor Kishore Kumar was not your regular star. He was brilliant at what he loved doing most, which was singing, but in an exclusive interview to Pritish Nandy back in April 1985, two years before his death, Kumar revealed how much he detested acting and how he craved for peace, to be one with nature as he found people boring.
Though he came to Mumbai to pursue a career, Kishore Kumar always longed to quit the whole showbiz life and move to Khandwa. “Who can live in this stupid, friendless city where everyone seeks to exploit you every moment of the day? Can you trust anyone out here? Is anyone trustworthy? Is anyone a friend you can count on? I am determined to get out of this futile rat race and live as I’ve always wanted to. In my native Khandwa, the land of my forefathers. Who wants to die in this ugly city?,” he had said in his interview.
The late actor admitted that he would deliberately mess up his lines just to get out of acting. “I only wanted to sing. Never to act. But somehow, thanks to peculiar circumstances, I was persuaded to act in the movies. I hated every moment of it and tried virtually every trick to get out of it. I muffed my lines, pretended to be crazy, shaved my head off, played difficult, began yodelling in the midst of tragic scenes, told Meena Kumari what I was supposed to tell Bina Rai in some other film – but they still wouldn’t let me go. I screamed, ranted, went cuckoo. But who cared? They were just determined to make me a star.”
But, he denied giving his producers and directors any trouble. “They give me trouble. You think they give a damn for me? I matter to them only because I sell. Who cared for me during my bad days? Who cares for anyone in this profession?”
Considered to be a loner, Kishore Kumar was not fond of people too much especially those from the film industry. “People bore me. Film people particularly bore me. I prefer talking to my trees,” he said. “That’s why I want to get away to Khandwa. I have lost all touch with nature out here. I tried to did a canal all around my bungalow out here, so that we could sail gondolas there. The municipality chap would sit and watch and nod his head disapprovingly, while my men would dig and dig. But it didn’t work. One day someone found a hand – a skeletal hand- and some toes. After that no one wanted to dig anymore. Anoop, my second brother, came charging with Ganga water and started chanting mantras. He thought this house was built on a graveyard. Perhaps it is. But I lost the chance of making my home like Venice.”
Kishore Kumar also opened up about his four wives. Talking about Ruma Devi, his first wife, Kishore Kumar 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?”
His second wife Madhubala was dying from a congenital heart problem even before he married her. “For nine 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 nine 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,” said Kishore Kumar.
He referred to his third marriage, which was to Yogeeta Bali as a joke. But at the time of this interview, Kishore Kumar was married to actress Leena Chandavarkar. “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 realise the ephemeral quality of all things.. I am happy now.”