Kundan Lal Saigal (1904-1947)

By Suresh Chandvankar *

Hazaroon Saal Nargis Apni Be-noori Peh Roti Hai

        Bari Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Main Deedavar Paida

Mr. Kundan Lal Saigal, popularly known as K. L. Saigal was the most popular actor-singer of the Indian films during 1935-47. Born in a family of Jullunder in the year 1904, he entered in the films in 1931-32 and acted in several films until his untimely death on 18th January 1947 at the very young age of just forty-two.


As a boy his mother used to take him to a Sufi-Pir Salman Yousuf of the Yesvi sect. Singing was his hobby. Later on he learnt music and basic melodic structure and perfected after practicing a lot. He also learnt from the great masters: Faiyaaz Khan, Pankaj Mullick and Pahari Sanyal.


His father was violently against his singing and was disappointed with his poor results at school. He left home and came to Calcutta. Before choosing music and singing as his vocation, he worked as a time-keeper in the Punjab Railways. He was a salesman for short time and tried to sell typewriter machines. He used to sing within his friend circles. In one such private concert, Hindusthan Record Company’s sales representative listened to his songs. He immediately recognized the talent and the sales potential of his records [if made]. Saigal was persuaded to make a life time contract with this company and his one of the early records – ‘Jhulana Jhulao’ in Raga Dev Gandhar became an instant hit.


At the age of 28, he entered the films and soon became a successful actor-singer. His films such as Devdas, Shah Jahan, President, My Sister, Zindagi, Chandidas, Bhakta Surdas, Tansen, Dushman became hit and the songs are evergreen even today and to the extent that young musicians are tempted to use them in jingles and re-mix song versions. Around 1935, i.e. before his film career, Saigal used to participate in classical music concerts but unfortunately it is neither documented nor recorded and hence lost to history. What available is three-minute song recordings on a 78 rpm shellac record.


The first remark you hear if you talk about Saigal with someone will be ‘He was a natural singer’ or ‘ His voice was born with him’ or ‘ Golden voiced he was’ and so on. He was the first non-Bengali to be honored to sing Rabindra Sangeet and the first superstar of Indian Cinema.


Saigal managed to develop what the Italians call ‘La Voce Bianca’ or the ‘White Voice’ of Italians that follows you like a scent and hides in your memory like a coiled serpent.


Year 2004 is celebrated as his birth centenary year. For several years, at 7 hours and 57 minutes, every morning Radio Ceylon used to play a 78 rpm record of Saigal’s song. Saigal’s body has left, but not his voice. You can hear him in Kabul, in Nairobi and in Kuwait, in Tanzania and in Rabat. The Teheran radio has played his Persian Gazals. His voice is well known in Jakarta and in Fiji-islands  Every year on his Punyatithi, All India radio plays his records. Who said Saigal is dead?


Songs and records of K. L. Saigal:

1] Film songs: 132 [Hindi + Bengali + Urdu + Tamil]
2] Ghazal:  33
3] Geet 3
4] Hori 2
5] Bhajan 1
6] Classical 1
7] Bengali (Modern) 2
8] Panjabi 2
9] Persian 2
Total: 178

[More than 90 records of 78 rpm format – as some records have other artist on the backside]


Most of the records were released on Hindustan, Hindustan / New Theaters and New Theaters label. His records are also found on Jien-O-Phone, HMV and Columbia record labels. In 1959, his duet with Ila Chakravarty’s voice was released and this experiment of mixing two voices was greatly appreciated. In LP/EP era, several of these songs were reissued on single play (S. P.), extended Play (E. P.) records in 45 rpm format. In 1962, 1963, 1965 and later in 1974 and in 1982, selected songs were again reissued on long Playing (L. P.) records in 33 1/3 format. In 1983, T-series company released a set of five audio-cassettes and several pirated versions were available in many countries. In 1990, official Compact Disc of Saigal’s songs was released in London. His songs are now available in audio and video CD and DVD forms in leading music stores.

Complete discography of K. L. Saigal’s records is published in ‘The Record News’ – Vol. 8, October 1992, in the journal of the ‘Society of Indian record Collectors’, Mumbai.


Top 25 songs of Kundan Lal Saigal (Complete list of songs will follow soon)


1] Balam aaye baso more manmen – Raga Sindhura (Devdas)

2] Dukhake din aab bitat nahin – Raga Des (Devdas)

3] Radhe rani de daro na – Raga Yaman (Puran Bhakta)

4] Ek bangala bane nyara – (President)

5] Duniya rang rangili baba – (Dharati Mata)

6] Jhulana jhulao re – raga Devgandhar

7] Karun kya aas niras bhai – (Dushman)

8] Main kya janun kya jadoo hai – Raga Yaman (Zindagi)

9] Rumjhum rumjhum chal tehari – Raga Shankara (Tansen)

10] Diya jalao – Raga Deepak (Tansen)

11] Sapta sur teen taal – Dhrupad (Tansen)

12] Nis din barsaat nain hamare – (Bhakta Surdas)

13] Madhukar shyam hamare – (Bhakta Surdas)

14] Maiyya mori main nahi makhan khayo – (Bhakta Surdas)

15] Aae dile bekarar kyun – (Shah Jahan)

16] Chaha barbaad karegi - (Shah Jahan)

17] Gam diye mushtakil kitana najuk hai dil - (Shah Jahan)

18] Jab dil hi toot gaya - (Shah Jahan)

19] Do naina matwale – (My sister)

20] Kya maine kiya hai – (My Sister)

21] Panchi kahe hota udaas / Suno suno he krishna kala - Geets

22] Duniyamen hun duniyaka talabgaar nahin hun – Ghazal

23] Kaun viranemen dekhega bahar – Ghazal

24] So ja rajkumari so ja – (Zindagi)

25] Babul mora naihan chhoto hi jay – (Street Singer)

Saigal’s films and recorded songs

Year of release   film-company & city    Name of the film (language)  No. of songs
1932 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Mohabbat Ke Aansoo(Urdu)

    (alias tears of love)

2] Subahke Sitare (Urdu)

3] Jinda Lash (Urdu)

    (alias a living corpse)

1933 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Puran Bhakta (Hindi)                   

2] Rajrani Meera (Hindi)                  

    Co-singer: Miss Indubala

3] Yahudiki Ladki (Urdu)                                        

4] Dulari Bibi (Urdu)                                                

    (based on: ‘our wives’)






1934 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Chandidas (Hindi)

    Co-singers: Uma and Pahadi Sanyal

2] Daku Mansoor (Urdu)

    (alias Karishma-e-Kudrat)

3] Rooplekha (Hindi)

    (alias Muhabbatki kasauti)




1935 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Devdas (Hindi)

2] Debdas (Bengali)

3] Devdas (Tamil)

4] Dhoop Chaon (Hindi)

    Co-singers: K. C. Dey, Uma & Pahadi Sanyal

5] Bhagya Chakra (Bengali)

6] Karwan-e-Hayat (Urdu)

    Co-singers: Uma & Pahari








1936 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta / International film craft / New Theaters Ltd.

1] Devdas (Tamil)

2] Karodpati (Urdu)

    (alias The Millionaire)

3] Pujarin (Hindi)

4] Bijoy (Bangla) * courtesy Dr. Rafiq UK






1937 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] The President (Hindi)

2] Didi [Badi Bahan] (Bengali)



1938 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Dharati Mata (Hindi)

    (alias Mother Land)

2] Desher Mati (Bengali)

3] Street Singer (Hindi)

    Co-singer: Kanan Devi

4] Sathi (Bengali)







1939 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

1] Jeeban Maran (Bengali)

2] Dushman (Hindi)

    (alias The Enemy)



1940 New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta 1] Zindagi (Hindi) 6

1] Lagan (Hindi)

    Co-singer: Kanan Devi

2] Parichay (Bengali)




1942 Ranjit Movietone Bombay

1] Bhakta Surdas (Hindi)

    Co-singer: Khursheed


1] Tansen (Hindi)

    Co-singer: Khursheed


New Theaters Ltd. Calcutta

Ranjit Movietone Bombay

1] My Sister (Hindi)

    (alias Meri Bahan)

2] Bhanvara (Hindi)(alias Harjaai)

    Co-singers: Ameerbai and  Arunkumar



1945 Unity pictures Calcutta

1] Kurukshetra (Hindi)

    Co-singers:Satyachoudhury, Kalyanidas,

    Radha Rani

2] Tadbir (Hindi)

    Co-singers: Suraiyya, and Nasim Akhtar






Kardar Productions



Murari Pictures Bombay

1] Shahjahan (Hindi)

    Co-singers: Shamshad Begum,

Naseem Akhtar and M.Rafi

2] Umar Khayyam (Urdu)

    Co-singer: Suraiyya





1947 Jeet ProductionsBombay

Parwana (Hindi)

Co-singers: Suraiyya


Total number of films (Hindi + Bengali + Urdu + Tamil) = 39

Total number of film songs – 132

About the Author

Suresh Chandvankar, Honorary Secretary ’Society of Indian Record Collectors’,


Back to home

Back to Articles page