KL Saigal King of Music
Never before had the Indian screen presented such a glorious singer with so much of emotion and pathos in his music. Born on April 14, 1904, at Jammu, Kundan Lal Saigal took the country by storm with his thrilling and melodious voice. Saigal was the one single person who had given the screen music a rare emotion which soothed the aching souls of people in the travails of modern life. Millions wept with him when in Devdas his unforgettable song: Sukh ke din ab beetat nahin came from the screen with its agonising melody and yet in its very agony gave to the millions rare soothe. For, in Saigal’s rare voice, there was pathos and joy, pain and pleasure, a stab and a soothe—all at once wedded to an incomparable melody never before heard on the screen anywhere in the world. Saigal was easily the world’s most emotional male singer.
The book, which contains 13 chapters and 5 appendix, points out that Saigal took the screen music to every home in the country and in doing so lent to the Indian film industry a stability which a hundred of its so-called industrial captains would have failed to give in another hundred years. The book reveals an interesting anecdote that “Singing like Saigal” became a national proverb and proud parents often introduced their progeny in society with this proverb and proceeded to prove their claim by asking the child to sing a Saigal song.
The book provides us with many interesting facts and insights. Before embarking on a singing career Saigal had worked with Delhi Electricity Department, as a time-keeper with Punjab Railways and also a salesman with Remington Rand, the typewriter people, so that he could tour places and “sing his heart out wherever he goes”! It is said that Saigal used to break into an impromptu music session whenever and wherever he felt and whatever be the place! This biography not only takes the readers back to the glorious black and white era of Hindi cinema, it also contains a number of rare photographs of the singer from his formative years to the period of his untimely death. Saigal, unfortunately, succumbed to the lure of the bottle. The author cites many anecdotes culled out from various sources. The book quotes the great composer Naushad Ali as saying, “A perfect artiste like Saigal, a cloud bursting with melodies has yet to be seen again. Many maestros of music have appeared on the scene but no one has been able to match Saigal.” The book is also notable as it contains lyrics of Saigal’s songs and even carries details of Saigal’s mentors, associates, his family life, his enduring love for Ghalib, his love for Urdu ghazals, his memorable concert in Lahore, his heroines and even a separate chapter on the kotha culture prevailing those days. Though many purists believe Saigal could not excel in high-pitch singing—majority of his songs were soft numbers and ghazals that brought out the pathos in his voice—his voice still gives joy to his countless fans.
The book further highlights that Saigal turned music into a simple emotional poetry of the soul. People only needed a voice, a little ear for music, and the emotion to sing a Saigal song. For, Saigal’s soulful music, which seemed to come directly from the heart, was intended to go directly to the heart of the listener. In another chapter, the book outlines, when Saigal lived, he sang and lulled a nation into an emotional coma and even after his death he haunted the people with his melodious voice. This is substantiated by the fact that today it is considered to be a great art to imitate Saigal. Saigal’s music was a democratic fare which both the rich and the poor enjoyed with the same relish.
By Ashok Kumar