Kumar was a walking contradiction. Although he didn't smoke, drink, or socialize, he married four of Indian film's most beautiful leading ladies: Ruma Devi, Madhubala, Yogita Bali, and Leena Chandavarkar. Although he appeared in numerous comic films, his dreams of becoming a romantic hero like his brother, Ashok Kumar, never came to fruition. His only opportunities for serious roles came in films he produced on his own, including Door Gagan Ke Chaon Mein (Koi Lauta De Mere Beete Huen Din) in 1964 and Door Ka Rahi in 1971.
Kumar inherited his love of music from his mother, Dhananjay Banerjee, a classical singer. Kumar's earliest influence came from K.I. Saigal, a well-known Indian vocalist and actor. Hoping to meet Saigal, Kumar traveled to Bombay in the late '40s. Although the meeting failed to materialize, Kumar was invited to join a chorus under the direction of Saraswati Devi and his singing soon attracted the attention of composer Khemchand Prakash. In 1948, Kumar was chosen by Prakash to sing "Marne ki Duayen Kyon Mangu" in the film Ziddi starring Dev Anand. Prakash later provided Kumar his first hit with "Jagmag Jagmag Karta Nikla Chand Poonam Ka Pyara."
In the early '50s, Kumar began working with Indian film director S.D. Burman. Although they had a serious argument in 1958 and didn't work together again until 1965, Kumar performed 112 songs in Burman's films. Their collaboration ended with Burman's death in 1975.
Kumar's first success as an actor came with the 1953 film Ladki. In addition to the commercial film Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi, he appeared with his brothers Ashok and Anup in the hit films Chalti ka Naam Gadi and Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi.
Kumar reached his peak in the mid-'60s. After achieving commercial success in the 1965 film Teen Deviyan, he followed it in 1969 with his most popular film, Anandhana.
The streak of luck, however, came to a sudden halt in 1976. As a result of his refusal to participate in a program in Delhi honoring Sanjay Khan, he was banned from airplay on All India Radio and Doordarshan and the Indian government attempted to freeze the sale of his records.
Kumar remained active as singer and the night before he died of a heart attack, he recorded a duet with Asha Bhosle. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi