K L Saigal
- Birth Date: 11 Apr 1904
- Birth Place: Jammu
Long before Shah Rukh Khan was born and when Amitabh Bachchan was still an infant, a colossus ruled the silver screen of India. Going by the name of Kundan Lal Sehgal, he created the grammar of film singing in the nascent Indian talkie era.He was India’s first legendary superstar whose aura and charisma still remains intact.. Such was the power and mystique of Saigal's singing that singers like Mukesh and Kishore Kumar started their careers singing in the 'Saigal style' before etching out their own identities.
Born on April 11, 1904 at Jammu in Kashmir.His father Amarchand Saigal was employed with Maharaja Pratap Singh.As a boy his mother used to take him to a Sufi-Pir Salman Yousuf of the Yesvi sect. Singing was his hobby. At the age of 13 Saigal realised that his voice was cracking. So shocked was the intense singer that he remained silent for many months. A worried family took Saigalsaab to a saint who advised him to practice and cultivate his voice. He did as advised by the saint singlemindedly for three years. Due to which, he was able to attain a difference in tone and texture of notes. He also learnt from some of the great masters of the period: Faiyaaz Khan, Pankaj Mullick and Pahari Sanyal.
At the age of twelve Saigalsaab gave a rendition of Meera Bahjan in the court of Pratap Singh`s court. The Maharaja was impressed and predicted that Saigal had a bright singing future. In Jalhandar, Saigal learnt to sing in Punjabi style. Surprisingly Saigalsaab did not undergo any formal training. The legend however wished to be Ustaad Faiyyaz Khan`s student over which Saigal received the compliment of his life.
His formal schooling was brief and uneventful.His father was violently against his singing and was disappointed with his poor results at school. He left home and came to Calcutta. Before choosing music and singing as his vocation, he worked as a time-keeper in the Punjab Railways. He was a salesman for short time, selling typewriters. In those days, his singing was largely confined to a friend-circle. One such private concert had among its audience a sales representative of the Hindustan Record Company Rai Chand Bhoral. He immediately recognized Saigal's talent and the sales potential of his records if he were to be signed up for recordings. Saigal was persuaded to make a lifetime contract with this company, and one of his early records - ‘Jhulana Jhulao’ in Raga Dev Gandhar - became an instant hit.
In 1932 Kundan Lal Saigal`s successful career commenced after he signed a contract of Rs. 200/- a month, with New Theatre to act and sing in films. Some of the films in his early days were Subah Ke Sitare, Zinda Laash and Mohabbat Ke Aason. Later on sang songs like Premnagar Mein Basoongi Ghar Main, Tadapat Beeti Din Rain and Prem Ki Ho Jai from the first feature film Chandidas in which Saigal was the lead actor. The songs catapulted Saigal to stardom.
Thereafter, Saigal never looked back. Films that followed included some of the all-time greats like Chandidas, Yahoodi Ki Ladki and Rooplekha.The real breakthrough came soon thereafter with Devdas in 1935 which established him as the first superstar of the Indian Cinema. It created history and continued to haunt film lovers for years to come.
A year after Chandidas in 1935 Devdas benchmarked the star-singers popularity like no other singer before or after. The story of a love-struck and doomed Devdas. The Hindi version in which Saigal starred had immortal arias like Balam Aaye Baso and Dukh Ke Ab Din. The version by Bimal Roy starring Dilip Kumar, Vaijayanti Mala, and Suchitra Sen flopped.
The range of Saigal’s recorded music is vast. Besides film songs, he has sung khayal, bandish, ghazals, geets, bhajans, hori and dadra in numerous Ragas. He sang in Hindi, Urdu, Pushto, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil.The distinct voice of Saigal transcended Saigal the actor. K. L. Saigal could render light classical with utmost ease. Saigal normally sang in lower octaves, which was emulated by many but was unmatched. It was said that Saigal never recorded without drinking (he used to call a peg Kaali Paanch).
In December 1940, Saigal shifted to Bombay where he did more memorable films like Bhakta Surdas, Tansen,Kurukshetra , Omar Khayyam, Tadbeer, Shahjahan and Parwana. The songs which took him to greater heights were: Diya Jalao Jagmag Jagmag, Rumjhum Rumjhum Chaal Tihari, Baag Laga Doon Sajani, Chah Barbaad Karegi, Ai Dil-e-beqarar Jhoom, Gham Diye Mustaqil, and the immortal Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya.
From 1932 to 1846 , the Hindi film world was called as K. L. Saigal musical era. According to composer, Naushad, for his last two films Parwana and Shahjahan, Saigal recorded his compositions without his Kaali Paanch (peg). Some believe that Saigalsaab had a premonition of his death and that is the reason why he quickly completed the shooting.
Saigal acted in 36 films of which 29 were in Hindi and seven in Bengali. He sang 150 film songs and 110 non-film songs and lent his voice to the creations of Ghalib, Zauk and others.
Saigal had one son, Madan and two daughters, Nina and Bina. None of his children are now alive, the younger daughter Bina Chopra expired in October 2001 in Delhi.
The legend passed away on January 18, 1947 at the age of just forty-two depriving music lovers of his celestial voice. Fifty years since his demise Saigal still lingers in the memories of music lovers as K. L. Saigal the immortal singer.