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HomeOpinionDear millennials, meet K.L. Saigal who WAS Bollywood music

Dear millennials, meet K.L. Saigal who WAS Bollywood music

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My generation was introduced to Saigal somewhat unexpectedly, by the use of his song ‘Ek bangla bane nyara’ in Raj Khosla’s Do Raaste.

It is challenging for the very young to appreciate the virtuosity of the late Kundan Lal Saigal.

At least it was so when we were very young, and our parents’ generation adored him. My late father hummed Saigal whenever in a (rare) good mood, usually when India won something in cricket, hockey or Davis Cup tennis. It sounded so fuddy duddy then. But we were really young, and Saigal, who died in January 1947, a decade before I was born, was already a man of the distant past. In the pre-internet, pre-Google era, memory was shaped only by what you heard on the radio, and of course, what you heard your parents hum.

My generation was introduced to K.L. Saigal somewhat unexpectedly by the use of his song ‘Ek bangla bane nyara, rahe kunba us mein saara’ in Raj Khosla’s super hit Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz-Balraj Sahni-Prem Chopra starter Do Raaste. It was the film with evergreen hits like ‘Bindiya chamkegi’ and ‘Chhup gaye saare nazare oye kya baat ho gayi’.

Yet, Saigal’s voice endured, played from an old gramophone to set up the story of a happy family of three brothers taken apart by love, jealousy and greed. The fuddy duddy lines made sense then. Later, it became the anthem of aspirational, post-reform “I also want a house of my own” India, and a big housing mortgage firm (I forget which one, so please fill in the blank if you know) used it in its advertising. What better invocation than ‘Ek bangla bane nyara…’

The voice then grew on many of us as we grew less young. Most of his classics were hummed compulsively—the legend was that Radio Ceylon played a Saigal song every day, so some royalties could reach his not particularly rich family. Remember, Saigal died at 42, or drank himself to death. Some were mostly sung in parody and exaggerated mimicry. His biggest hit, ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya, hum jeeke kya karenge’ from Shahjehan, released just before his death, in 1946, is probably the most parodied Hindi film song of all time — and words so conjured up, mostly unprintable. But then, what do you expect from teenagers, of any generation?

Many experts, including Pran Nevile, have written authoritatively on Saigal. There is also a website that M.V. Surender has put up, where his countless fans have added information and archives. I am a latter-day fan.

Here is my selection (from memory) of the dozen most hummable Saigal tunes even today. I bet you have yours to add to the list (in no particular order of ranking):

Jab dil hi toot gaya, Shahjehan, 1946

Piya milan ko jaana, Meri Bahen, 1944

Do naina matware tihaare, hum par zulam karein, Meri Bahen, 1944

So ja rajkumari, so ja, Zindagi, 1940

Main kya jaanu kya jaadu hai, Zindagi, 1940

Ek bangla bane nyara, President, 1937, and later, Do Raaste, 1969

Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaaye, Street Singer, 1938

Gham diye mustaqil, kitna nazuk hai dil, ye na jaana, Shahjehan, 1946

Balam aaye baso more mann mein, Devdas, 1936

Duniya rang rangeeli baba (with K.C. Dey), Dharti Mata, 1938

Ae dil-e-beqarar jhoom, Shahjehan, 1946

Ae qatib-e-taqdeer mujhe itna bata de, kya maine kiya hai, Meri Bahen, 1944

If you have views on this, or suggestions, please do write back. Or better still, make your own list and ThePrint will happily share.

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  1. Please send us the full text in romanised version of. Ay katib taqdeer mujhay itna bata day

  2. Kundan Lal Saighal is undoubtedly God in human form and figure. Mr. Pran Neville’s book on this divine soul throws a lot of facts about His life and His immortal contributions to the universe. I have been a very enthusiastic listener of most of the hits of K L S. for the past sixty years or so and have written short articles about him in some of the leading newspapers. I look upon K L S as God and not a human being taking into account all his superhuman traits , instinct, qualities and dispositions. My son, Mr. N.Suresh Kumar too is extremely fond of the songs of K L S. He got me a book from the railway bookstall at Allahabad railway station on K L S written by Mr. Raghava S Menon when we had gone there in the year, 1988 and I am keeping this book and also that written by Mr. Pran Neville presented by my nice and nephew before a few years.

    Sri, K L S’s songs will keep ringing in the corridors of time for ever . The greatest contribution to mankind, if at all by any human being is only that of Sri.. K L Saighal.

  3. What Saigal sang during his New Theatre days in Calcutta was and is for which the maestro is known. His ghazals of Ghalib, Seemabh, Arzu and others besides his soul stirring bhajans and geets are truly matchless. Then how about his dhrupad rendering for ‘Tansen’ – simply fabulous! I feel that songs of Shahjahan though popular were of an average quality.

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