Last week, we had been to a friend's house to celebrate the 80th birthday of his mother. A grand lady with a lot of guts. She has always been one who regaled us with stories of her time . Stories of her childhood, days at Nizam College and so on. Even the children found her company interesting .
Her children had organised an evening of music - of old Hindi songs. It was three hours of Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Rafi, Talat Mahmood with everyone pitching in with the main singer. And specially for the mother he sang a song of K.L. Saigal, a singer of the 1940s. It feels nice to mention here that this era was much before my time!!
I probably would not have been exposed to Saigal's songs or appreciated them if it was not for my father. I always thought, my father sang the songs better than the original. For one, my father had a nice voice, and maybe the poor recording quality of the songs in that period of time did not do justice to the singer. To get my father started off , one had to just start a discussion about Saigal and sooner ( than later) we would have a full singing session till all songs were exhausted. Another time, you could be sure that he would burst into song would be during a power failure, when he would start singing the famous Diya Jalaao till the lights came on.
Back to the present - Auntie had a very nice story to relate about Saigal, which I shall share.
Saigal was an alcoholic. He was convinced that he could sing only after he had a drink, and all the music directors ensured that he had a glass in his hand during a recording. It was much later that Naushad came onto the Indian music scene. For his first recording with Saigal, he refused to allow him his drink. Saigal was vehement that he could not sing without it. Naushad refused to give in. Reluctantly he sang the song, and to his surprise he found that it was probably one of his best rendering ( for the movie Shah Jehan). Very sadly, he is said to have remarked to Naushad I wish you had come into my life earlier. It might have been a different story. It was too late by then.
PS: There was no alcohol served at the singing session either. And all sang very well .