Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Living in the past

Saturday night at the Calcutta Club. I associate the members there with soulful swaying to Robindroshongeet with their eyes shut (or even worse, half-shut to indicate a kaalchaaraal intoxication), but this was an evening with Amit Kumar. He would have preferred to be known as Amit Ganguly, son of the far more famous Abhas Kumar Ganguly aka Kishore Kumar, but he had to accede to the demands of the Hindi film circuit.

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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great account. Yes being with AK is like being with KK !! Bliss !!

kcp

panu said...

I t.hink the song was really lovely. Film had Hema Malini in it.

Lazyani said...

You hit a chord there.
I have listened to AK live as early as 1984(in Durgapur) and as late as in 2007 ( in Hyderabad). Each time I have come out impressed enough to ask why does this individual do not sing more regularly for Bollywood!! Specially, when the other KK clones ruled the playback scenario for a decade and a half.

Lazyani said...

JAP da, taratari tey aektu grammatical error hoiae gaeshey giya. Nizo gunae khoma ghenna koira diyen korta.

km said...

While *no one* can measure up to the Great One, I've always felt Amit Kumar lacked any distinctive style of his own. A decent voice, yes, but nothing more.

Or maybe the Generic 1980s did him in. He arrived a decade too early on the scene.

man in mufti said...

... Churee Nahin; Yah Mera Dil ...

Chronicus Skepticus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neurojava said...

you dont write enough, Mr. P.:)

Love your blog. If I haven't said it already, have been following it for a couple of years - I aspire, I aspire:)

Ron said...

I have often wondered the same. He has a marvellous voice. Pity he never made it big.

PS: I do lurve the Dil Mein Baji Guitar song though. It ranks amongst my all time favourite faltu songs, along with Dance Maare Re from Tashan. Lurverly :D

M'mita said...

Loved the way you spelt "kaalchaaraal" --- the real bangali talking! Great post too..