Singer Shridhar Ranade, (77), has been crooning the songs of legendary actor and singer Kundan Lal Saigal for more than last 35 years now, not just as a hobby but also for music programmes. Ranade is not just a regular fan of Saigal, who is regarded as the first superstar of the Hindi film industry. His voice has a stark resemblance to that of Saigal’s.
And today, on the 111th birth anniversary of the late singer-actor, he is ready with a befitting gift for his idol — the 1,600 sq ft Kundan Lal Saigal Memorial Hall.
“Saigalji was an artiste and so am I, though not as big as him. I do know that most of the artistes cannot afford the exorbitant rent that is charged for the usage of government-run and private auditoriums. Most of them in the city cost anywhere from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 for three hours. I want to encourage such artistes by offering this memorial hall at a nominal price — Rs 2,000 for three hours,” said Ranade.
The memorial hall is situated near his house in Shastrinagar, and was inaugurated at 4 pm. “Artistes can hire it for rehearsals and small-scale functions. The hall comes with the changing room and toilet facility,” he adds.
Prior to his retirement, Ranade, a mechanical-electrical engineer by qualification, managed his manufacturing unit that produced special types of pumps.
Even at his advanced age, Ranade dedicates two hours every day to riyaaz (rehearsal), wherein he sits in front of Saigal’s photograph in his house and sings his songs one after the other. While Ranade is fond of all the numbers sung by Saigal, ask him to name a few of his favourite ones he says, “It’s difficult to choose a few but still I would songs such as Aye Qaatib-e-Taqdeer (Meri Behen, 1944), Soja Rajkumari (Zindagi, 1940), Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya (Shahjahan, 1946), Do Naina Matwale (Meri Behen) and Ek Bangala Bane Nyaraa (President, 1937).”
So how did it all began? “I was always fond of singing and would often sing Kishore Kumar songs. A number of people told me that more than Kishore Kumar, my voice sounds similar to Saigal’s. Someone gifted me a pack of cassettes that had Saigal’s songs, which I would play continuously. I also started collecting books and read about him. Gradually, I grew fond of his works and took to singing his songs seriously, and started giving performances,” recalls Ranade.
His next performance is scheduled on April 12.