Kishore Kumar, called Abhas Kumar Ganguly in his childhood, was born in a family in the Khandwa town of Central Provinces and Berar, British India (now in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh). His father Kunjalal Ganguly was a lawyer and his mother Gouri Devi came from a wealthy family. Abhas Kumar was the second youngest of four siblings, the other three being Ashok Kumar (the eldest), Sati Devi, and Anoop Kumar. While Abhas Ganguly was still a child, Ashok Kumar became a popular Bollywood actor. Later, Anoop Kumar also ventured into cinema with the help of Ashok Kumar. Spending time with his brothers, Abhas Kumar too started to take a keen interest in movies and music. He became a fan of singer-actor Kundan Lal Saigal (whom he considered his guru).
After Ashok Kumar became a Bollywood star, the Ganguly family used to visit Mumbai regularly. Abhas Kumar changed his name to Kishore Kumar and started his cinema career as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies, where his brother worked. His first film as an actor was Shikari (1946), in which Ashok Kumar played the lead role. Music director Khemchand Prakash gave him a chance to sing the song Marne ki duayen kyon mangu for the film Ziddi (1948). After this, Kishore Kumar got many other assignments, but he was not very serious about a film career. In 1949, he decided to settle in Mumbai.
Kishore Kumar played hero in the Bombay Talkies film Andolan (1951), directed by Phani Majumdar. Although Kishore Kumar got some assignments as an actor with help of his brother, he was more interested in becoming a successful singer. He was not interested in acting, but his elder brother Ashok Kumar wanted him to be an actor like himself.
He starred in Bimal Roy’s Naukri (1954) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s directorial debut Musafir (1957). Salil Chowdhury, the music director for Naukri was initially dismissive of him as a singer, when he came to know that Kishore Kumar didn’t have any formal training in music. However, after hearing his voice, he gave him the song Chhota sa ghar hoga, which was supposed to be sung by Hemant Kumar.