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Monday, April 12, 2021

Tribute to actor director producer Kidar Sharma 1910-1999

Kidar Sharma
Born Kidar Nath Sharma
12 April 1910
Narowal, Punjab, Pakistan
Died 29 April 1999 (aged 89)
Mumbai, India
Occupation Director, screenwriter, actor, producer, lyricist
Years active 1935–1998
Spouse(s) Raj Dulari
Kidar Nath Sharma, also Kedar Sharma (12 April 1910 – 29 April 1999), was an Indian film director, producer, screenwriter, and Lyricist of Hindi films. While he had great success as a director of such movies as Neel Kamal (1947), Bawre Nain (1950) and Jogan (1950), he is often most remembered for starting the acting careers of Bollywood greats Geeta Bali, Madhubala, Raj Kapoor, Mala Sinha, Bharat Bhushan and Tanuja.

Kidar Sharma was born in Narowal in what was then the Punjab region of India and grew up in a life of poverty. Two brothers, Ragunath and Vishwa had died as infants and his sister, Taro, died of Tuberculosis at an early age. A younger sister Guro survived as did a younger brother, Himmat Rai Sharma, who would later work with Kidar on films before establishing himself as a successful Urdu poet. Kidar attended the Baij Nath High School in Amritsar where he became interested in philosophy, poetry, painting and photography. Upon completion of high school, he ran away from home to pursue a career in cinema in Mumbai but was unsuccessful in gaining employment. He returned to Amritsar and attended the Hindu Sabha College where he founded a College Dramatic Society which would later give him his first break in film.

The head of a local Temperance movement would attend one of Kidar's plays and hired him to produce a silent film depicting the evils of alcohol. Using the money he earned from this project he would receive his master's degree in English at Khalsa College, Amritsar before joining a local theatre group that earned him limited acting success in 1931. He was married in 1932 and painted to earn income. Upon seeing an early talkies film Puran Bhagat (1933) by film director Debaki Bose, he left for Calcutta hoping to get his big break at New Theatres Studios, where Debaki Bose worked. After many months of unemployment he managed to meet a then-unknown actor of New Theatres, Prithviraj Kapoor (where he would meet Prithviraj's eight-year-old son for the first time, Raj Kapoor). Prithviraj Kapoor introduced Kidar to his neighbour, then-unknown Kundan Lal Saigal, who through an acquaintance allowed Kidar to meet Debaki Bose. Debaki Bose hired Kidar initially to become the Movie stills photographer for the film Seeta (1934) but would give Kidar his first part in the creation of film with that of a backdrop screen painter and a poster painter for the film Inquilab (1935) where Kidar also had a bit part. Kidar would continue to work with New Theatres on films such as Dhoop Chhaon (1935) and Pujarin (1936) but a big break would come when Kidar was asked to write the dialogue and lyrics for the 1936 adaptation of Devdas starring his friend Kundan Lal Saigal. Devdas was not only a hit, but songs from the film such as Balam Aaye Baso Moray Man Mein and Dukh Ke Ab Din Beetat Naahi became feverishly popular throughout the country, giving Kidar Sharma acclaim by the press and public. Kidar would later say, "Both Bimal Roy and I got our first big break in Devdas. He as the cameraman and I as the writer."

Kidar's big directing break came in 1940 when asked to complete the film Tumhair Jeet. Upon its completion he was given the opportunity to direct his own screenplay for Aulad / Dil Hi to Hai, which met with some success. He was then asked to direct Chitralekha (1941) which became a smash hit and gave Kidar credibility as a director. He would go on to begin producing his own movies, casting Raj Kapoor and Madhubala in their first film Neel Kamal. He would also cast Geeta Bali in her first movie, Sohag Raat (1948) and later he would team her with Raj Kapoor for the film Bawre Nain (1950). That same year he directed Jogan starring Nargis and Dilip Kumar. In the late 1950s Jawaharlal Nehru who had heard Sharma's lyrics, summoned him and asked him to become director-in-chief of the Children's Film Society. Kidar Sharma would work on many movies for the Children's Film Society, including the film Jaldeep which would go on to receive international acclaim. In 1958, he would work for one year directing movies in Singapore for Shaw Brothers Studio.

An outstanding poet, Sharma wrote some of the most memorable songs including Balam aayo baso more man mein, Dukh kay ab din beetat nahi, Khayalon Mein Kisike (Bawre Nain), Kabhi Tanhaiyon Mein Bhi (Hamari Yaad Aayegi) and Teri duniya mein dil lagta nahi. Kidar would continue to contribute as a lyricist and to write and direct films through the 1990s. Ironically, many Indian film critics and historians argued that he deserved the highest cinema award from the government of India but he died a day before he was to receive the Raj Kapoor Award, named in honour of the actor he helped make a success.

His autobiography, The One and Lonely Kidar Sharma was published posthumously in 2002, edited by his son Vikram Sharma.

Awards and nominations
International honours and recognitions
Part of the Indian Delegation in 1945 which travelled to England and Hollywood and met with Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille
Best Children's Film, International Film Festival at Venice 1957 for Jaldeep
National honours and recognitions
1956: National Film Award for Best Children's Film: Jaldeep
Indian Film Directors' Association Lifetime Achievement Award
Gold Award from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982 for contribution to Indian Cinema
Government of Maharashtra's Raj Kapoor Award (awarded in 1999 after his death)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Remembering K L Saigal (1904-1947)

Kundanlal Saigal, often abbreviated as 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 centred in Kolkata during Saigal's time, but is currently centred in Mumbai.

Saigal was born in Jammu, where his father Amarchand Saigal was a tehsildar at the court of the Raja of Jammu and Kashmir. His mother Kesarbai Saigal was a deeply religious Hindu 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 Mehrchand Jain (who later went on to start the Assam Soap Factory in Shillong) at the Anarkali Bazaar. Mehrchand 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 Mehrchand encouraged him to pursue his talent. Saigal often remarked that he was what he was because of Mehrchand'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.

In the early 1930s, classical musician and music director Harishchandra Bali brought K.L. Saigal to Calcutta and introduced him to R. C. Boral. R.C. Boral took an instant liking to his talents. Saigal was hired by B. N. Sircar's Calcutta-based film studio New Theatres on a contract of Rs. 200 per month. There he came into contact with contemporaries like Pankaj Mullick, K. C. Dey and Pahari Sanyal. Meanwhile, Indian Gramophone Company had released Saigal's record containing a couple of Punjabi songs, composed by Harishchandra Bali. In this way, Bali became Saigal's first music director. The first film in which Saigal had a role was the film Mohabbat Ke Ansu, followed by Subah Ka Sitara and Zinda Lash, all released in 1932. However, these films did not do very well. Saigal used the name Saigal Kashmiri for his first three films and used his own name Kundan Lal Saigal (K. L. Saigal) from Yahudi Ki Ladki (1933). In 1933, four bhajans sung by Saigal for the film Puran Bhagat created a sensation throughout India. Other films that followed were Yahudi Ki Ladki, Chandidas, Rooplekha and Karwan-E-Hayat. As a youngster, Lata Mangeshkar is alleged to have said that she wanted to marry K.L. Saigal after seeing his performance in Chandidas (1934). In 1935, Saigal played the role that would come to define his acting career: that of the drunken title character in Devdas, based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel of the same name and directed by P.C. Barua.His songs in the film Devdas (1935), "Balam Aaye Baso Moray Man Mein" and "Dukh Ke Ab Din Beetat Naahi", became popular throughout the country.

Saigal picked up Bengali very well and acted in seven Bengali films, produced by New Theatres. Rabindranath Tagore first heard Saigal before giving consent for the first time to a non-Bengali singing his songs. Saigal endeared himself to the whole of Bengal through his 30 Bengali songs.

Saigal's association with New Theatres continued to bear fruit in the successful films Didi (Bengali), President (Hindi) in 1937, Desher Mati (Bengali), Dharti Mata (Hindi) in 1938, Saathi (Bengali), Street Singer (Hindi) in 1938, Dushman (1939), Jiban Maran (1939) and Zindagi in 1940, with Saigal in the lead. There are a number of songs of this era which form the rich heritage of film music in India. Also, in Street Singer, Saigal rendered the song "Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Jaye" live in front of the camera, even though playback was becoming the preferred method of singing songs in films.

In December 1941, Saigal moved to Mumbai to work with Ranjit Movietone. Here he acted and sang in a number of successful films. Bhukt Surdas (1942) and Tansen (1943) were hits during this period. The latter film is still remembered for Saigal's performance of the song "Diya Jalao" in Raga Deepak; in the same movie, he also sang "Sapta Suran" and "Tin .. Gaa-o Saba Guni Jan". In 1944, he returned to New Theatres to complete My Sister. This film contained the songs "Do Naina Matware" and "Ae Qatib-e-Taqdeer Mujhe Itna Bata De". By this time, alcohol had become a predominant factor in Saigal's life. His dependence on alcohol had begun affecting his work and his health. It was said that he could only record a song after being fortified with liquor. He survived ten years of drinking; however, his alcoholism was too advanced for even a single attempt at abstinence, and Saigal died in his ancestral city of Jalandhar on 18 January 1947, at the age of 42. However, before his death, he was able to churn out three more hits under the baton of Naushad Ali for the film Shahjehan (1946). These are "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani", "Ae Dil-e-Beqaraar Jhoom" and "Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya". Parwana (1947) was his last film, released after his death, in which he sang under the baton of Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. The four songs which Saigal sang in Parwana are: "Toot gaye sab sapne mere", "Mohabbat mein kabhi aisi bhi haalat", "Jeene ka dhang sikhaae ja", and "Kahin ulajh na jaana". Saigal was survived by his wife Asha Rani (whom he married in 1935); three children, a son and two daughters: Madan Mohan, Nina (born 1937) and Bina (born 1941); and an adopted child, his late elder brother's daughter, Durgesh Nandani, whom he adopted when he was still single.

In a career of fifteen years, Saigal acted in 36 feature films – 28 in Hindi, seven in Bengali, and one in Tamil. In addition, he acted in a short comedy Hindi film, Dulari Bibi (three reels), released in 1933. In 1955, B.N. Sircar released a documentary film based on the life of K.L. Saigal, Amar Saigal. In the film, G. Mungheri performed the title role of Saigal. The film contained 19 songs lifted from Saigal's films. In all, Saigal rendered 185 songs which includes 142 film songs and 43 non-film songs. Of the film songs, there are 110 in Hindi, 30 in Bengali and two in Tamil. There are 37 non-film songs in Hindi, and two each in Bengali, Pashto,Punjabi and Persian. His non-film songs comprise bhajans, ghazals and hori. He has rendered the creations of poets such as Ghalib, Zauq, and Seemab.

Saigal's distinctive singing was revered and idolised by the first generation of post-independence Hindi Film playback singers, including Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, and Mukesh. Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar have even gone on record in an interview that they consider Kundan Lal Saigal to be their musical guru. K L Saigal became famous because of the "new" technology of 78 rpm shellac records and players. Mukesh started his career as a copycat of K L Saigal, but went on to develop his distinctive style. These records were recorded in one take with all instruments playing along. Today this may not be possible.In 1970 one such record was priced at Rs 15. In today's money, it is equivalent to Rs 1500 for two songs.

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