Tuesday, January 18, 2022


On this day, 75 years ago, the mellifluous nasal baritone voice of Kundan Lal Saigal fell silent. However, thanks to modern technology, with about 200 recordings and 36 films, his mesmerising voice has been immortalised to the delight and pleasure of later generations. Saigal didn't have any formal training in music from a Pandit or Ustad of a Gharana, though he did spend two years with a Sufi Peer, Salman Yusof. He nurtured his musical skills in the company of wandering minstrels, Sadhus and Sufis, and at Mehfils and Mushairas. It was his love of singing that refined and polished his vocal cords. As the waters of a river flow uncharted through the land enriching its soil, his natural voice, unconstrained by conditioning, flowed through his lips, lending a mystic charm to his songs. He sang a vast repertoire of songs. Romantic songs such as 'Do Naina Matware Tihare Hum Per Zulum Kare'; songs of love and yearning like 'Tarpat Beete Din Rain Nit Din Birhaa Ko Raat Satave'; Bhajans and Ghazals; sad, melancholy songs such as 'Dukh Ke Din Ab Bitat Nahin' and lullabies, probably the first in Hindi cinema, 'So Jaa Rajkumari, So Jaa'. His mastery over the classical genre was evident in Jhoolana Jhulao Aao Ri. At the same time, he sang children's songs with equal ease, as is apparent in Ek Raje Ka Beta Lekar Udanewala Ghoda, a piece that had lyrics as well as prose. The evergreen 'Ek Bangala Bane Nyara' resonated with the collective emotions of millions desiring a magnificent house. Besides these, there are the classics: Babul Mora Nahiar Chute Jai, Balam Aaye Baso More Mann Mein, Karun Kya Aas Niraas Bhayi, Diya Jalao Jag Mag Jag Mag, Kahe Ko Raad Machaiyi and many more that are regularly played by popular demand on Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon, or Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as it is known now. Whilst Saigal's solo songs cast a spell on his fans, his duets with singer-actresses of that era were equally popular. He sang some memorable duets with Uma Shashi, Kanan Devi, Khursheed Bano and Suraiya. Saigal first tasted success with the film Chandidas. The story is about Chandidas, a poet, played by Saigal, who falls in love with Rami, a low caste girl played by Uma Shashi. As Rami sings of building a home on the foundation of love, Chandidas joins in this melodic duet, 'Prem Nagar Mey Banaoongi Ghar Mein'. It was one of Saigal's earliest duets that became a hit. They paired together in many New Theater movies, such as Puran Bhakt, Daku Mansoor and Dharti Mata. Audio of Prem Nagar Mey Banaoongi Ghar Mein https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp9eTM_6bvQ Their romantic duet in Dharti Mata, 'Main Man Ki Baat Bataaun, Kya Kya Baat Uthat Man More' penned by Pt. Sudarshan and beautifully composed by Panjak Mullick, in which both lovers express their thoughts towards each other became extremely popular. Audio of Main Man Ki Baat Bataaun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRbSop0O8qE Though, the song that first comes to mind when one refers to Dharti Mata is 'Duniya Rang Rangili Baba, Duniya Rang Rangili' in which Saigal is joined by Uma Shashi and K C Dey (Pankaj Mullick in the record). Audio of Duniya Rang Rangili Baba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2dQWFVU8Qg Another well-known actress with whom Saigal successfully paired was Kanan Devi. And their most notable performance was in Phani Majumdar's Street Singer. Whilst Saigal's rendition of Wajid Ali Shah's thumri, 'Babool Mora Naihar Chooto Jaye' made him a singing sensation, his love duet with Kanan Devi 'Sanwariya Prem Ki Bansi Sunai' helped establish Kanan Devi's reputation as a melody queen. Another classic duet with Kanan Devi in Street Singer is 'Rut Hai Suhani, Mast Hawaein, Chaayi Hai Udi Udi Ghatayein'. Credit must also be given to Arzoo Lakhnavi, who penned the lyrics, and Rai Chand Boral for composing music for many of the hummable melodies Saigal sang solo or in a duet in films produced by New Theaters, Calcutta. Audio of Sanwariya Prem Ki Bansi Sunai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HOIUiCtO6g When he came to Bombay in 1942, he signed a contract with Shree Ranjit Movietone, and the first movie made under this banner was Bhakt Surdas. It was in the genre of Saint Films and was a huge success. Its bhajans and devotional songs became an unforgettable part of the Saigal legacy. One such eternal melody is a duet with Rajkumari, who did not act in the film but lent her voice as a playback singer, sung in Raag Bhairavi, 'Sar Pe Kadamb Ki Chhainya Muraliya Baj Re, Mori Laaj Rahi'. Audio of Sar Pe kadamb Ki Chhainya Muraliya Baj Re https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2Au9JhujHI Actress-singer Khursheed Bano, who starred opposite Saigal in Bhakt Surdas, tasted success after a string of forgettable films. Her romantic duet with Saigal "Chandani Raat Aur Taare Khile Ho, Taare Ki Chaiyya Mein Do Dil Mile Ho" is still doing the rounds on Radio and YouTube. Audio of Chandani Raat Aur Taare Khile Ho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tKIi5R-qNU The following year they paired again in the classic, Tansen. It was as if Saigal was born to play the role of the great 16th century Sangeet 'Nav Ratna' of Akbar's court. "More Balpan Ke Saathi Chhaila Bhool Jaiyo Na", a duet with Khursheed, was an instant hit, as was Khursheed's solo 'Ghata Ghanghor Ghor, Mor Machave Shor, More Sajan Aaja'. Saigal's peerless solo rendition of songs such as Diya Jalao Diya Manao, Baag Laga Dun Sajani, Sapt Suran Teen Gram Gaao Sab Guni Jan and Rhum Jhum Rhum Jhum Chaal Tihare made Tansen the second highest-grossing film after Kismet in 1943. This was Khemchand Prakash's first association with Saigal as a music composer, and the often hummed lyrics were written by Pandit Indra. However, D N Madhok is also mentioned as a co-lyricist in the credits. Video of More Balpan Ke Saathi Chhaila Bhool Jaiyo Na https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RvcNEVFrKE Towards the end of his career, Saigal did two movies with Suraiya, a leading singing star of the 1940s and early 50s - Tadbeer and Parwana, the latter released after his passing away. A love duet in Tadbeer with Suraiya that became popular was "Rani Khol Apne Dwar, Milne Ka Din Aa Gaya, Aa Gaya, Karle Naino Nain Do Char, Milne Ka Din Aa Gaya, Aa Gaya". In many of his songs, Naino or eyes have been used to express love. Audio of Rani Khol Apne Dwar, Milne Ka Din Aa Gaya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-6cmNSzNdY
On 26th December 1946, Saigal, having completed Shahjehan and Parwana despite failing health, boarded the Frontier Mail to visit his hometown Jalandhar. On 18th January 1947, the legend passed away, but his songs continue to remain popular with the connoisseurs of music, young and old.   



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