Bringing back the magic of K.L. Saigal


Apr 11, 2007, 18:58

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) It was a rewind to the past as songs from the 1940s filled the air and had the audience, some young and many old, drifting back in time and applauding the melodies made famous by the legendary K.L. Sehgal. Fifty-eight years after his death, the legendary actor-singer lived again Tuesday evening as three singers paid tribute to him on his death anniversary at a special function in New Delhi’s India International Centre. A young woman sang a Mirza Ghalib ghazal and the audience nodded to the music, back-tracking to a time when Saigal’s music was on everyone’s lips.

With canes as support, or a younger companion gently holding their arms, the elderly came to savour the music they had grown up on.

Radhika Chopra’s rendition of the Ghalib’s ghazal “Har ek bat pe kehtey ho ki tu kya hai” was sung just the way Saigal had — and with the same inflections.

“Do naine matware tihare” from the 1944 hit “Meri Behen” was also sung superbly by Radhika, a 39-year-old doctorate in Indian classical music.

The other two singers paying tribute to Saigal were Bhupinder Singh and Ajit Singh. The elderly Sikh gentlemen brought alive that famous voice when they sang the evergreen “Babul mora naihar chhuto hi jaye” from the film “Street Singer” and “Diya jalao” from the film “Tansen”.

The few youngsters in the audience were clearly enjoying the music as well. Something that the show’s organiser, Pran Nevile, was happy about as he aims to rekindle interest in Saigal among the youth.

A little-known fact about Saigal is that he was a gifted composer and lyricist as well, said Nevile, a former diplomat.

“Saigal was the first artiste to make ghazals popular in India,” said Nevile, whose book “K.L Saigal, Immortal Singer and Superstar” was published recently.

During his research, Nevile had stumbled across an Urdu poetry penned by Saigal on his letterhead. It was a piece that had never been set to music.

“I took permission from Saigal’s daughter, Bina Chopra, to get it set to music. I approached the ministry of culture and they agreed. They asked Radhika to set the tune and she has done a wonderful job.”

“Saigal left behind only 30 ghazals. In fact, his film songs overshadowed his proficiency as a ghazal singer. He brought Urdu poetry to the public through his ghazals. Acting was a mere profession. Ghazals were his lifeline,” Nevile told us.

He said he had persuaded HMV to come out with a record of 12 ghazals by Saigal in 1966.

The centenary celebrations that started on April 4, 2004, would conclude on April 4 this year – Saigal’s birth anniversary – when a special programme is being organised by the K.L. Saigal Memorial Club, a one-man show by Nevile.

Nevile plans to popularise other artistes too. “The younger generation has forgotten the old artistes. I plan to hold special gatherings to rekindle interest in the great singers like Suraiya and Kanan Bala.”

“Saigal’s music will get back,” said Radhika confidently.

She gave her first performance of Saigal’s songs in 2003 and the response was “tremendous”, said the artiste who has grown up on Saigal’s music.