Now when Amitabh Bachan rules, there are very few people who are aware that the first superstar of Hindi Cinema was KL Saigal. In a short span (1904-47) KL Saigal carved a niche for himself as one of the immortals of Indian cinema. He was what is termed a singing star, which was the fashion when Saigal entered films. Who can forget his eternal song ‘Jab dill he toot Gaya…’ from the film Shah Jahan whose music was composed by another legend Naushad.
Saigal was born in Jammu and dropped out of school. But his mother had a deep influence on him and he took to religious music in a big way. Subsequently he went to Lahore and there befriended one Meharchand Jain. They became fast friends and Meharchand took him to Calcutta which was an important place in Indian cinema then, there he was introduced to KC Boral who was impressed with his singing and looks and gave him a break. His class was appreciated by Ravindra Nath Tagore who allowed him to sing Rabindra sangeet, something not normally allowed to a non Bengali.
Saigal who learnt fluent Bengali acted in 7 Bengali films before shifting to Bombay in 1941. Now the songs of KL Saigal had become a rage all over India. He also starred in a number of films, some of them all time hits.
Among his hits were Shahjehan, Devdas, Didi, Street Singer and many more. He in all acted in 36 films, but what endeared him to the public was his singing. Some of his songs like toot gaye sab sapnemere, Mohabbat mein kabhi aisi haalat etc are eternal hits. In all Saigal rendered 185 songs and now his name is loved all over the world Even Tehran Radio has broad cast his songs
Saigal however was addicted to the bottle and this proved his undoing. Alcoholism took a toll of the great singer actor’s life and he died young at 42. As he knew his end was near, he went to Jullundur a place in Punjab he loved and died there. Saigal is held in high esteem by all singers and there is no doubt he was the first superstar. It is about time he was given his due.