He started with the same musical salutation his father used to start HIS stage performances. Then went on to belt out song after song from his father’s oeuvre. His voice was full, chest-deep, melodious. His pleasure in music-making was obvious. He looked at least 10 years younger than his 57. And he dished out nuggets between the songs, anecdotes about how “amader Ponchu” (Pancham) lifted a mukhda here, an antara there, from sources as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Rajasthani folk tunes. Yes, even within the same song (Raju chal Raju, now which film was that? Dharmendra in a travois behind a white horse - Azaad, I think). He brought down the house with his account of how Sapan Chakraborty had composed a soulful tune for Amitabh Bachchan in “Zameer” – mimicking him, eyes half-closed, teeth protruding slightly – and Kishore Kumar had trashed it right away. “THIS song? For Amitabh Bachchan? Won’t do! What? YOU are the composer, and you have to ask ME what to do? STEAL a tune! Lift it!” And then proceeded to modify a Nat King Cole song (something about falling leaves) to produce Tum bhi chalo, hum bhi chalein.
Right through the evening it was evident how Amit Kumar idolized his father, but what was touching was the way he referred to him as a friend, someone whom he could fight and disagree with but a person who never lost his respect. He sang his own songs too – Bade acchey lagtey hain, Yaad aa rahi hai and on my request, Mayabini from the 1996 album – but his heart seemed to be in his father’s memories. Sumit Kumar, his brother, younger by 30 years, came on afterwards, but sadly his voice just doesn’t make the grade. I left at that point, wondering why for a man who can sing like Amit Kumar does, the biggest hit in recent years is Dil mein baji guitar.