Saigal aur Dabistan-e-Lakhnau

  Kundan Lal Saigal was undoubtedly a legendary singer and I have a lot to write about him. The first superstar of the Hindustani film industry as well as its first singing star, he has a lot of accomplishments to his credits. Leaving the legacy of over 200 songs in his mellifluous and sonorous but intensely moving voice, Saigal’s biggest credit – to my mind – is popularising the ghazal. His rendition of Ghalib’s “Nukta cheen hai” was the first performance of this splendid poetic form in the popular sphere and his example was the genesis for a veritable spawn of emulators. This is one thing that would always kept me among his most ardent admirers….. and there are a lot of other things but we will discuss more about this and them later.

 The purpose of this particular post is different …. Here I will focus on the contribution of the “Dabistan-e-Lakhnau” or the Lucknow School of Urdu to Saigal’s marvelous music.

Let me start with the most famous example – of this song which is inalienably associated with with his name. Saigal turned conventional wisdom on his head by insisting that he would sing this song from the film “Street Singer” “live” to express perfectly the persona of the character rather than in the recording studio. The studio heads had no choice but to agree and Saigal, sporting a harmonium, walked like a wandering ministrel – though on a studio set only – as he sang, while the sound crew followed on a truck behind, being carefully kept out of the camera frame. The song was:

Baabul mora, Naihar chhuto hi jaaye
Baabul mora, Naihar chhuto hi jaaye

Chaar kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven
Mora apna begaana chhuto jaaye
Baabul mora …

Anganaa to parbat bhayo aur deharii bhayii bides
Je baabul ghar aapno main chali piyaa ke des
Baabul mora …

Baabul mora, Naihar chhuto jaaye
Baabul mora, Naihar chhuto jaaye

The song is usually credited to Arzu Lakhnavi but it is the work of one of the most stellar personalities of not only the “Dabistan-e-Lakhnau” but the whole world of Avadhi culture itself. I refer to Jaan-e-Alam, Akhtar himself…. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah “Akhtar” himself. It is fitting that this qalaam of one of the last prominent figures  – or arguably the most prominent gigure – of a glorious era should be immortalised by another prominent figure who left his stamp on his own era – l ess then a century later.

To be continued….

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