Film Ghazal Kundanlal Saigal

A melodious morning

A wonderful song from Shahjahan by Kundanlal Saigal, the first superstar of Bollywood

I woke up with this song playing in my head. I can’t really think of any conceivable reason why it might have happened. I had not seen or read anything about the actor or the character in the latter part of yesterday. In fact I had seen a French movie dubbed in English late in the evening (very well done actually, even the lip synching was managed very well for the most part). One of the mysteries of the human mind.

I had seen the movie in the early 70s during one of the Sunday evening movie shows , a regular feature on DD those days, something we would look forward to. Had it not been for this and the Saturday afternoon film club shows in G S Medical College, I would never have developed the taste for old Hindi movies and my understanding would have been much the poorer.

Shahjehan was the movie with the first Superstar of Bollywood. Kundanlal Saigal was churning out movies one after the other and his movies were hits too, his singing and screen presence no doubt a big contributor to the success.

The movie made just before the Brits left India after WWII had great music by Naushad. The lyrics by Khumar Barabankvi for this song were beautiful. This was his debut film and song, lyrics for most of the other songs are by Majrooh Sultanpuri, also on his debut.

What I loved with Kundanlal Saigal, best shown in the song- is his natural acting ( way ahead of the times), his easy body language, gesticulations that were apt and in sync with the song and singing (he was, arguably the foremost singer of his times by the proverbial mile. All others at the time (and for decades afterwards) were so deeply impressed by the man, they all (subconsciously or otherwise) aped his style (and tried to mould their voice to his). The early songs of Mukeshji, Kishoreda and even Rafisaab are proof of the profound influence KLS wielded on a couple of generations. The apocryphal story about KLS listening to Mukeshji’s “Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne de” and remarking that he didn’t remember which movie he (KLS) had sung it for, as he clearly mistook the song for one he had sung himself, is said to be true, Mukesh’s younger son Mohnish confirmed the story in my many chats with him. I wonder why other logs of wood who passed off as heroes in the 50 s and 60s didn’t bother to see his movies and learn from him. Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar are two names amongst a legion of very inept actors who infested Bollywood those days. All of them seem to be afflicted by Parkinson’s disease, so complete was their legendary ability to prevent any emotions from coming to the fore.

One only needs to watch Kundan Lal Saigal in this movie made by Abdul Rashid Kardar to fathom the depth and astounding calibre of this singer-actor, and understand why he was idolised, nearly deified, and his inimitable singing style- that inspired and hypnotised 2 generations of Indians – imitated by many singers.

Although he was not seen in the title role, and appeared in only a few scenes in the movie, his commanding screen presence was obvious. Every time he turned up on screen, he rendered one of his immortal masterpieces – “Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya”, “Aye Dil-e-Beqarar Jhoom”’ and “Gham Diye Mustaqil” – make the film captivating and little wonder I fell in love with his singing and retain that love for the man who died more than a decade before my birth.

The movie was made beautifully by Kardar. Rehman in one of his early appearances is Shahjehan , Jairaj (who got a Phalke award) has the role of Shirazi, the Iranian Sculptor and Ragini has the role of the heroine who is Saigal’s love interest. The heavy urdu dialogues are written by Kamal Amrohi (no mean poet himself) and the movie is a great stage between the rather artificial acting of an earlier era and the more natural emoting of a later era.

Have a wonderful day ahead, folks. Stay calm and safe. Stay healthy while we get more active and brace for the second wave of the Wuhan Virus


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

7 replies on “A melodious morning”

An immortal voice that provides solace to many a soul. His singing style did have influence of Bengal as well where he was formally trained, the way he imbibed the essence of rabindrasangeet on the insistence of Pankaj Mallick as well as Bangla language is incredible. Interestingly, Kishoreda did consider the venerable K L Saigal as his guru, and used to sing his songs all the time. He had, in fact, grown up listening to Saigal’s songs & was so influenced by them that whenever any guest visited his house in Khandwa during his childhood days, young Kishore who was barely five years old & was requested to sing songs by Dadamoni always took the opportunity to sing Saigal’s songs to impress his guests who would pay him Rs.5 for showing such prowess! That admiration lasted in the initial days of his career as he was deeply inspired and imitated his style of singing in some of his early films. He was specifically told to develop his own style of singing to be able to make it in the industry. When HMV wanted him to do a cover version of Saigal’s songs he flatly refused citing the reason that he did not want any of his fans to compare him with his Guru, the mentor under whom he had never trained. Such was his respect & admiration for the first Superstar of Bollywood!

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Absolutely , Kishoreda had the integrity to turn down this kind of proposal and I respect him for always showing this. Very few, if at all, aspiring singers of the current generation would ever pass up such an offer. So many of them make absolutely inane remixes that not just infringe on copyrights but are nothing but a means of basking in the reflected glory and goodwill of the original. Many of them remain just that: Cover Artistes.


Beautiful song….. there is a different beauty of the black and white cinema…. thanks for introducing such a nice song to the people like me ( our generation ) who have not listened to such songs……

Liked by 1 person

Beautiful share SIRJI🙏🙏Yess mind
Can play tricks with us when it comes to
Remembering a song..for no reason at all👍👍Some lyrics too similarly get stuck in our minds.!!!
Coming to a phenomenon called Saigal
Yess his natural acting came as a big surprise to me 🙏All including a female
Singer Lata are inspired by him besides
The 3 giants👌👌🙏
Thank you for a lovely share🙏

Liked by 1 person

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