Eons have gone by but that voice left people awestruck. Kundan Lal Saigal was the pioneering singer of Hindi film music. He also popularised Ghazals in India. In the span of 15 years, Saigalsaab had acted in 36 films and rendered over 200 songs. A niche craved by the legend with his unique voice. The admirable part of Saigalsaab was that despite super-stardom, K.L. Saigal remained a simple man. Saigal created history with Devdaas - based on Bengali writer Sharadchandra Chaterjee`s novel released in 1935. People all over heard Songs Balam Aao Baso Morey Man Mein and Dukh Ke Ab Din Bitat Nahi.
K.L. Saigal was born at Jammu in Kashmir. His father Amarchand Saigal was employed with Maharaja Pratap Singh. K. L. Saigal was an Arian by birth born on 12th April 1904. 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. After listening to K.L. Saigal sing, Khan Saheb later said "I have no knowledge with me to make you a better singer than you are."
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.
Before his resplendent super-stardom, Saigal was a clerk in Railways and later he became a Hotel Manager, thereafter took up a job with Remington Typewriter Co. for Rs. 80/- a month. Saigal was introduced to music due to his mother.
When he went to Calcutta to become a singer in films, Rai Chand Bhoral assayed his voice and he sang Jhoola Na Jhulao Ri. K. C. Dey, the renowned playback singer was in the adjoining room overheard Saigal. The senior diva came to room where Saigal was and showered compliments on the legend to be. He also gained knowledge after hearing singers like C.C. Saha. He was instrumental for Saigal`s meteoric rise in his film career.
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.
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 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).
Up till 1946 right from 1932 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.
A day before his death, Saigal`s health suddenly took turn. His niece, Durgesh, then 15, read Bhagwad by his bedside throughout the night. Early in the morning, Saigal breathed his last. He was 42 when he passed on 18th January 1947 in Jalhandar, his hometown. K. L. Saigal had expressed his last wish to play his song Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya, Hum Jee Kya Karenge a song composed Naushad.
The legend passed away 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.
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