Bangladesh playback legend Andrew Kishore could be ‘number one’ in Bollywood: Linu Billah

The legendary Indian music composer Rahul Dev Burman once asked Andrew Kishore to sing in Bollywood after hearing the playback singer for the first time.

But Kishore, who dominated the Bangla film industry for decades, politely refused and decided to dedicate his life in the service of Dhaliwood, Linu Billah, a prominent singer and close friend of Kishore, said paying tribute to the popular playback singer who died after a long battle with cancer on Monday. He was 64.

“Even Bollywood had no singer who could match Kishore in playback, let alone in Bangladesh. If he could collaborate with RD Burman, Kishore had the potential to take the ‘number one position’ in India and Bangladesh,” Billah said. 

Manjurul Alam Billah Linu, a freedom fighter and former member of one of Bangladesh’s first rock music bands Jingle, is popularly known as Linu Billah. He has countless memories with Kishore.

Billah, also a founding member of Dhaka Theatre, was brother-in-law to martyred freedom fighter and cultural activist Altaf Mahmud.

“I met Andrew Kishore in 1979-80. We embraced each other during our first meeting and that was the beginning of our long friendship,” Billah reminisced.

Andrew Kishore left Rajshahi for Dhaka in the 1970s to pursue a career in music. He made his debut as a playback singer with the song ‘Ochinpurer Rajkumari Nei Je Tar Keu’ in the movie “Mail Train”.

An eight-time winner of the National Film Award for his outstanding contribution to the music industry, Kishore also earned acclaim for his work in Urdu and Hindi films.

He got his break with the song ‘Ek Chor Jay Chole’ in the movie ‘Protigya’ and never looked back. He started to take over the places of Syed Abdul Hadi and Khurshid Alam after the era of singer Mahmudun Nabi in playback.

His songs -- ‘Jiboner Golpo Achhe Baki Olpo’, ‘Dak Diyachhen Doyal Amare’, ‘Haire Manush Rongin Fanush’, ‘Amar Shara Deho Kheyo Go Mati’, ‘Amar Buker Moddhe Khane’, ‘Amar Babar Mukhe Prothom Jedin Shunechilam Gan’, ‘Bhengeche Pinjor Meleche Dana’, ‘Shobai To Bhalobasha Chae’, and many others -- will linger in the hearts of his fans.

“Andrew Kishore had dominated the Bangla film industry over the last 40 to 42 years. There was no singer to rival him bar Syed Abdul Hadi,” Linu Billah said.

“Andrew Kishore was a class apart! It was said over and over that he was not known to most people as he wasn't interested in appearing on TV. He was very selective about events and he had his own definition of ‘name and fame’,” he added.

Kishore underwent treatment in Singapore for nine months after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He returned home on Jun 11 and was placed in the care of his sister's clinic in Rajshahi.

His death has sparked an outpouring of grief with President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina leading the tributes.