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Kishore Kumar

Without any formal training in singing, Kishore Kumar rose to the top of India’s film industry as a playback singer, actor, composer, director, and screenwriter. He was born into a wealthy family in the former British India’s Central Provinces in 1929. Kumar’s brother Ashok became a Bollywood actor and soon brought his siblings into the industry. Kumar’s first role in the film business was as a choral singer in 1946’s Shikari. Through 1955, despite not taking acting seriously as a career, Kumar acted in twenty-two films. During this period, his singing talent was nurtured by the music director S. D. Burman. Kumar sang in a distinctive style that incorporated yodeling—which he had learned from American country and western records. From 1955 until 1966, Kumar took acting more seriously and was cast in a series of films as a heroic lead; these performed well at the box office. Toward the end of the 1960s, Kumar became notorious for his behavior during filming, sometimes not showing up at all, and as a result his films did not succeed. In 1969, the film Aradhana featured three of Kumar’s songs and established him as the premier playback singer in Indian cinema. That year, the song “Roop Tera Mastana” resulted in his being presented with his first Filmfare Award. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Kumar worked with many leading actors. His most prolific relationship was with Rajesh Khanna, for whom Kumar sang 245 songs in ninety-two different films. In 1976, Kumar refused to perform for Sanjay Khan, which resulted in the government placing a ban on the playing of his songs on the radio. In September 1987, Kumar retired from the film industry citing his disapproval of the direction songwriters and music directors were taking. He continued to perform until his death in October 1987. Throughout his career, Kumar recorded 2,678 songs for 1,198 films.