Today is 114th Birthday of First Superstar of Hindi Cinema
K. L. Saigal alias Kundan Lal Saigal a legendary Indian singer and actor who is considered the first superstar of the Hindi film industry was born on 11 April 1904. Today on his 114th Birthday, Google made a Doodle for his contribution to Indian Cinema.
Kundan Lal Saigal was born in Nawanshehr, in Jammu. His father Amarchand Saigal was a Tehsildar at the court of the Raja of Jammu. His mother Kesarbai Saigal was a housewife. He was the fourth-born child of five. Her mother was very fond of the music and a religious lady. She used to take her young son (KL Saigal) to religious functions where kirtan, bhajan, shabads were sung in traditional styles based on Indian classical music.
Saigal dropped out of school and started earning money by working as a railway timekeeper. Later, he worked as a typewriter salesman for the famous Remington Typewriter Company, which allowed him to tour several parts of India. His travels brought him to Lahore, where he befriended Mehrchand Jain at the Anarkali Bazar. Mehrchand and Kundan remained friends when they both moved to Calcutta and had many a mehfil-e-mushaira. In those days Saigal was a budding singer and Mehrchand encouraged him to pursue his talent. Saigal often remarked that he was what he was because of Mehrchand’s encouragement and early support. He also briefly worked as a hotel manager. Meanwhile, his passion for singing continued and became more intense with the passage of time.
Before Indian got Independence, Kolkatta is centered of Hindi Film industry. But lately, Mumbai becomes centered of Hindi Film industry. In the early 1930s, classical musician and music director Harishchandra Bali brought Saigal to Calcutta. Saigal was hired by Calcutta-based film studio New Theaters on a contract of Rs. 200 per month.
Meanwhile, Indian Gramophone Company had released Saigal’s record containing a couple of Punjab songs, composed by Harishchandra Bali. In this way, Bali became Saigal’s first music director. The first film in which Saigal had a role was the film Mohabbat Ke Ansu released in 1932. In 1933, four bhajans sung by Saigal for the film Puran Bhagat created a sensation throughout India. As a youngster, Lata Mangeshkar is alleged to have said that she wanted to marry K.L. Saigal after seeing his performance in Chandidas (1934). In 1935, Saigal played the drunken title character in Devdas.
In December 1941, Saigal moved to Mumbai Here he acted and sang in a number of successful films. By this time, alcohol had become a predominant factor in Saigal’s life. His dependence on alcohol had begun affecting his work and his health. It was said that he could only record a song after being fortified with liquor. Saigal died in his ancestral city of Jalandhar on 18 January 1947, at the age of 42. Saigal was survived by his wife Asha Rani (whom he married in 1935); three children, a son and two daughters: Madan Mohan, Nina (born 1937) and Bina (born 1941); and an adopted child, his late elder brother’s daughter, Durgesh Nandini, whom he adopted when he was still single.
In a career of fifteen years, Saigal acted in 36 feature films – 28 in Hindi, seven in Bengali, and one in Tamil. In all, Saigal rendered 185 songs which include 142 film songs and 43 non-film songs. Of the film songs, there are 110 in Hindi, 30 in Bengali and two in Tamil. There are 37 non-film songs in Hindi, and two each in Bengali, Pashto, Punjabi, and Persian.