K. L. Saigal (11 April 1904 – 18 January 1947), is considered the first superstar of the Hindi film industry, A drop out of school and started earning money by working as a railway timekeeper. Later he worked as a typewriter salesman; this later occupation gave him the opportunity to travel widely in India.
He used to sing in gatherings with friends and met many people. On one occasion he met Meharchand Jain; he would become one of Saigal's early friends and supporters. In his travels, he also met B.N. Sircar the founder of New Theatres. It is said that it was Sircar, who persuaded Saigal to go to Calcutta.
In Calcutta, he briefly worked in a hotel as a manager but his interest was in music grew day by day. Though he didn't receive formal training, he learned it listening to other classical singers of that era. He was a frequent participant in mehfils. He also recorded a number of discs of songs written and arranged by Harishchandra Bali. These were released through the Indian Gramophone Company. His reputation as a singer was growing.
While in Calcutta, Saigal was introduced to R.C. Boral. It was Boral who signed Saigal to a contract with New Theatres. Those were the days when actors and actresses sang their own songs, and musical ability was considered an important prerequisite for a successful film career.
His first film was an Urdu film "Mohabbat Ke Ansoo" (1932). Thereafter he had roles in "Subah Ke Sitare", and "Zinda Laash". These were released in 1932 but were not successful.
During this period Saigal continued to work in films and continued to sing private songs. Out of many private disks, of which Jhulana jhulao attracted much attention from the public. In 1934 one of his films "Chandidas" made him famous as an actor.
The next year in 1935 Devdas was released. After the phenomenal success of "Devdas", there was no doubt that Saigal was a formidable entity in the film industry. His songs in the film Devdas (1935), "Balam Aaye Baso Moray Man Mein" and "Dukh Ke Ab Din Beetat Naahi", became popular throughout the country
While in Calcutta, Saigal became proficient in Bengali. This allowed him to sing and act in a number of Bengali films. He even had the distinction of being the first non-Bengali that Rabindranath Tagore would allow recording his work.
His association with New Theatres continued to bear fruit in the successful films Didi (Bengali), President (Hindi) in 1937, Desher Mati (Bengali), Dharti Mata (Hindi) in 1938, Saathi (Bengali), Street Singer (Hindi) in 1938, Dushman (1939), Jiban Maran (1939) and Zindagi in 1940, with Saigal in the lead. There are a number of songs of this era which form the rich heritage of film music in India. Also, in Street Singer, Saigal rendered the song "Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Jaye"
He moved to Bombay in December of 1941, and there began to work with the Ranjit Movietone Company. There he did films such as "Bhakta Surdas", "Tansen", "Kurukshetra", "Omar Khayyam", "Tadbeer", "Shahjahan" and "Parwana".
In a career of fifteen years, Saigal acted in 36 feature films – 28 in Hindi, seven in Bengali, and one in Tamil. In addition, he acted in a short comedy Hindi film, Dulari Bibi (three reels), released in 1933., Saigal rendered 185 songs throughout his career which includes 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. His non-film songs comprise bhajans, ghazals, and Lori. He has rendered the creations of poets such as Ghalib, Zauq, and Seemab.
Saigal lived a short life. He died at the age of 42 years. It is said that in the years before his death, he was unable to sing or perform without first having a drink. This was affecting both his health as well as his work. He developed cirrhosis of the liver. He passed away on January 18th, 1947 in Jalandhar. Before his death, he was able to churn out three more hits under the baton of Naushad Ali for the film Shahjehan (1946). These are "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani", "Ae Dil-e-Beqaraar Jhoom" and "Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya". Parwana (1947) was his last film, released after his death,
Immortal Songs of K L Saigal