BOOK EXCERPT

The comic philosophy of Kishore Kumar

‘His comedy was based on an acknowledgement of simple human weaknesses and hence on generosity and forgiveness.’

Kishore Kumar’s distinctive resourcefulness arose from his physical and psychological proximity to the conventions of the Hindi language as he knew it. That resource was more small-townish in nature than fully urban. In a way, he felt lost in the city at first and his initial experience was almost a culture shock. It took him quite a while to get over it. He even spoke of it, but that was years later.

Kishore derived his sense of the comic from the oral theatrical traditions of Ramlila and nautanki or tamasha as these are performed in central India. The Hindi dialect which was broadly used all over Madhya Pradesh came naturally to him. That dialect had come down from its literary heritage to a racy and bantering pattern of speech as highlighted in the idiom used in the Ramlila tragicomic theatrics.

The kind of values that Kishore brought with him and which were subsumed under the tragicomedy of the Ramlila tradition as well as the virginal music of the New Theatres days were somewhat chaste and virtuous. These made his humour direct, a little innocent and somewhat childlike.

Consequently, to Kishore the comic became an expression of tenderness, more sensuous than sensual. In Naukri, for instance, rubbing some butter on a potential employer – after someone advises him to use a bit of maska – was closer to his sense of fun than indulging in statements of double entendre or suggestive innuendo, which could have made the act titillating.

Secondly the inspiration Kishore derived from Hollywood dancing and singing stars like Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor gave further strength to his concept of the comic. Danny Kaye projected, through song and lyric and gesture and mime, the early American common man’s sentimental dream of simple and lasting happiness. When he sang, it seemed as if the world sang with him.

Furthermore, Danny Kaye’s comedy, as well as that of Gene Kelly, was clean and wholesome, and hence innocent. The tears and laughter these lightfooted and golden-voiced stars glided through with ease and nonchalance came straight from the heart, as did the music.

What these two traditions did to Kishore Kumar’s sense of the comic was to correlate the funny with the romantic. To him, fun was a mode of winning hearts, more particularly young hearts. Consequently, fun and laughter related not to the erotic, as happened in the case of Mehmood who was one of the most successful comedians on the screen, but to attraction and to affinity. Kishore remained a little above the lewd. What he sought was kinship. That motivated him. Doing a comic was a way of seeking guiltless attention. The comedy had to be inconsequential. It had to be innocent to be true fun. Only then did it work from him.

This was further reinforced by the innate power he has to use words not only through the meanings the words carried but also through their phonetics. He could match words and produce sounds – sounds that were immaculate, melodic and euphonious. He could coin sounds to match words to produce spontaneous enrichment as well as beat and lilt and, above all, rhythm.

Kishore Kumar’s comedy was more truly like a song or a melody. The movement of the comic character had to have lilt and a certain tempo, a certain oscillating cycle. His verbal interchange fell within that cycle. Consequently, it had a beat, a locomotion that was rhythmic and that could be orchestrated in time. Whether it is the suicide scene in Half Ticket or scenes where he is making advances to Vyjayanthimala in Asha and in New Delhi or teasing Smriti Biswas in Baap Re Baap, Kishore was at his best when he was filling the screen with musical sound, gesture and intent. That is what give Kishore’s comedy both heart and body. It became its organizational principle.

The principle arose from conceiving the human person as simple and well-meaning, a person who is endeavouring to rise and who often faces defeat but pushes on regardless. This is the way Kishore saw his own life; that image was implanted in his mind. His comedy was based on an acknowledgement of simple human weaknesses and hence condemn or to judge. It was broad natured, bounteous and openhanded. It was nearly Chaplinesque although, unlike true Chaplinesque, it could not rise to the point of making a philosophical statement.

Given all this, it would be simplistic to assume that Kishore Kumar could have found success as a signing comedian without being himself. It is no wonder that, as he grew and jelled, and as he began to unfold and establish himself, he took liberties with the scripts he was given. At times, these liberties caused annoyance to those who were making the film. Unfortunately, he did not explain why he took the liberties and, often, they did not understand either.

At heart a self-conscious artist, Kishore attempted to express himself in his role and to expound his own sense of the comic. To do so, he had to understand what he felt deep inside him to be able to delineate it on the screen. That took him many long years. It was only in the film Padosan that, for the first time, he did it. The nation saw a breathtaking comic figure with trickles of paan spit exuding from his mouth and colouring his chin, and understood.

Kishore Kumar was seen for what he was, a soft, somewhat sentimental person, perhaps a bit childish but caring, not aggressive, not really unruly, not wild. He was a simple, homespun individual fusing romance into the comic.

Kishore Kumar could have made great movies for children. That somehow did not happen although his comedy has a special appeal for children. In many ways, his role as a young boy wearing bermuda shorts in Half Ticket was a true and spirited portrayal of how he felt about the comic in actual life. The young boy in him refused to die, ever.

Play
Kishore Kumar at the Filmfare Awards in 1970, singing ‘Mere Naseeb Mein’ from ‘Do Raaste’.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.