Kundan Lal (K.L.) Saigal (11 April 1904 – 18 January 1947) was an Indian singer and actor who is considered the first superstar of the Hindi film industry, which was centered in Calcutta during Saigal’s time, but is currently centered in Mumbai.
Saigal was born at Jammu where his father Amar Chand was a tehsildar at the court of the Raja of Jammu & Kashmir. His mother Kesar Bai was a deeply religious lady who was very fond of music. She used to take her young son to religious functions where bhajan, kirtan and shabad were sung in traditional styles based on classical Indian music. Saigal was the fourth-born child of five and his formal schooling was brief and uneventful. As a child he occasionally played Sita in the Ramlila of Jammu. Saigal dropped out of school and started earning money by working as a railway timekeeper. Later, he worked as a typewriter salesman for the Remington Typewriter Company, which allowed him to tour several parts of India. His travels brought him to Lahore where he befriended Meharchand Jain (who later went on to start the Assam Soap Factory in Shillong) at the Anarkali Bazaar. Meharchand and Kundan remained friends when they both moved to Calcutta and had many a mehfil-e-mushaira. In those days Saigal was a budding singer and Meharchand encouraged him to pursue his talent. Saigal often remarked that he was what he was because of Meharchand’s encouragement and early support. He also briefly worked as a hotel manager. Meanwhile, his passion for singing continued and became more intense with the passage of time.
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