When Jagjit Singh’s father ‘almost ended relationship’ with singer for cutting hair and beard

MCAI - 17 Oct 2022

While Jagjit Singh's first record was being prepared for release, HMV asked for his photo that would be printed on it. This was when the late singer decided he doesn't want to be recognised as a Sikh singer who sings only Punjabi songs.

“He could seduce the listener,” said filmmaker Subhash Ghai about his friend Jagjit Singh in the book Baat Niklegi Toh Phir: The Life and Music of Jagjit Singh by Sathya Saran, which explores the life of late ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh. Mahesh Bhatt believed his voice “leaves you with a feeling of a friend touching you, a beloved touching you.”

Not just Bhatt and Ghai, Jagjit Singh cast his spell on many with his soul-stirring voice. He not only interested the music connoisseurs, but brought ghazals to the mainstream with songs like “Tum Itna Jo”, “Koi Fariyaad”, “Hoshvalon ko Khabar”, and a few others.

Jagjit Singh, was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, as Jagmohan Singh. Belonging to a Sikh family, he was associated with music since childhood. His father, a devout Sikh, recognised his inclination towards music at an early age, and took Singh to temples where he sang devotional Sikh hymns. At a priest’s suggestion, his name was changed to Jagjit.

His father didn’t let his son’s talent be limited to religious hymns and decided to hone his son’s singing skills. He sent Singh to learn classical Indian music from Pandit Chaganlal Sharma for two years. Later, he learnt music from Ustad Jamaal Khan for six years. But, Singh’s one decision changed his relationship with his father forever.

Singh found it difficult to find work in Mumbai when he arrived in 1965. To survive, he started singing at club functions. He sang a few “bawdy Punjabi songs” there before switching to ghazals, shares Subhash Ghai in the book.

After running from one studio to another during his first six months in Bombay, Singh finally got a break at HMV, as Saregama was then called. He recorded his first EP (Extended Play) record (two songs on each side) with another artist under the music direction of CK Chauhan. Out of the two songs, he sang “Saaqiya Hosh Kahaan Tha,” in his style and another, “Apna gham bhool gaye” in Mukesh’s style.


As one would assume, Singh’s days of hardships didn’t end there. He still couldn’t get enough work and had to do ad commercials and several gigs in Mumbai to earn money.

In Kaagaz Ki Kashti, a documentary on the life of Singh, Bhramanand Siingh shared how the ghazal maestro had to perform at film parties to survive in Bombay. It is here that he befriended Rajesh Khanna and Dilip Kumar.

But Bollywood came calling only in the 80s. Jagjit Singh made his debut in the Hindi film industry with Mahesh Bhatt’s 1982 film Arth. And, from here on, we got some soulful renditions from the ‘King of Ghazal’ including “Tum Ko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aaya” (Saath Saath), “Hontho Se Chhoo Lo Tum” (Prem Geet), “Hosh Walon Ko” (Sarfarosh), “Chithi Na Koi Sandesh” (Dushman), “Kiska Chehra Ab Main Dekhun” (Tarkieb) and “Badi Nazuk Hai” (Joggers’ Park).

It  might be 11 years since the singer passed away, but Jagjit Singh still lives in the hearts of his many fans. As Lata Mangeshkar sang, “Meri Awaaz hi pehchaan hai…


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