Happy Birthday Kundan Lal Saigal
K. L. Saigal was an Indian singer and actor۔ His 117th birthday is being celebrated today
Kundan Lal Saigal, often abbreviated as K. L. Saigal was an Indian singer and actor who is considered the first superstar of the Indian film industry, which was centred in Kolkata during Saigal’s time, but is currently centred in Mumbai.
Saigal’s unique voice quality which was a mixture of baritone and soft tenor was the benchmark for most of the singers who followed him. In fact it remains the gold standard even today shining through very early and practically primitive recording technology. K L Sehgal’s charisma and magic is still alive and continues to inspire budding talents. Born in Jammu on April 11th, 1904 as Kundan Lal Saigal, he inspired legends like Kishore Kumar and Mukesh to copy his style to make their mark in the industry before developing their own signature tones. His songs are evergreen and are hummed even today. To know more about the life history of K L Saigal, read this biography given below.
K.L Saigal started singing from a very young age and his mother used to take him to Sufi-Pir Salman Yousuf of the Yesvi sect. His father Amarchand Saigal was employed at the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh. At the age of twelve, K.L Saigal sang Meera Bhajan at the court of the king. The Maharaja was really impressed and blessed him saying that he had a bright future. His father was disappointed when he learnt that his son wanted to sing and dropped out of school.
When K.L. Saigal realized that his voice was cracking at the age of 13, he was so shocked that he remained silent for months together. His worried family took him to a saint who told Saigal to refine his voice and not leave practicing. For three years thereafter he practiced with determination and also received some help from Faiyaaz Khan, Pankaj Mullick and Pahari Sanyal, who were the greatest singers of that era. Saigal also learnt to sing in Punjabi when he was in Jalandhar. The most astonishing thing is that he never received any formal training and cultivated his own style, which was accepted and appreciated by all.
K. L Saigal worked as a time keeper with Punjab railways and also a salesman before he chose music as a vocation. Those days, his singing was limited to his friend’s circle. During one such occasion of his singing, a sales representative of Hindustan Record Company happened to be present in the congregation. He recognized Saigal’s potential and persuaded him to sign a contract for recordings with the company. One of his earliest records “Jhulana Jhulao” in Dev Gandhar raga was a huge hit.
Thus started the flourishing career of K.L Saigal and he started to act and sing in films. Some of his earliest films were Subah Ke Sitare, Zinda Laash and Mohabbat Ke Aason. The songs that showered fame on him were Premnagar Mein Basoongi Ghar Main, Tadapat Beeti Din Rain and Prem Ki Ho Jai from the first feature film Chandidas. He was also the lead actor of the movie. More and more offers started to pour in making him one of the reigning stars of the film industry. His enigmatic voice only made him even more famous.
In the year 1935, Devdas was released, which increased his popularity manifold. Saigal portrayed the character of the love struck and heartbroken Devdas with flawless perfection. His solo performances Balam Aaye Baso and Dukh Ke Ab Din were tagged as immortal. Saigal experimented with many forms of music and perfected Khayal, Bandish, Ghazals, Geets, Bhajans, Hori and Dadra in various Ragas. He also sang in many different languages like Hindi, Urdu, Pushto, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil. Saigal always drank before recording and he fondly called a peg Kaali Paanch.
The period from 1932 to 1946 is called as Saigal era. Saigal shifted to Bombay in 1940 and did unforgettable films like Bhakta Surdas, Tansen, Kurukshetra, Omar Khayyam, Tadbeer, Shahjahan and Parwana. Some of his immortal songs are 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 eternal Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya.
The great composer Naushad commented that Saigal did not drink while recording for his last two films Shahjahan and Parwana. His addiction to alcohol reached a stage where quitting was just not possible. On January 18th, 1947, at the age of just forty two years, this great inimitable artist passed away. The industry was suddenly deprived of one of the greatest performer. Today, sixty years since his death, his songs continue to bring nostalgic moments alive and remind people of the golden era of music.