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Golden greats

Filmfare profiles the Midas composers Shankar-Jaikishan

Golden greats

If ever there was a magic baton, then Shankar-Jaikishan surely possessed it, as everything they touched during the heady ’50s and ’60s turned to gold. It’s said they charged more than the leading lights of their films. That distributors picked up projects because their name was associated with it. That films were publicised with them in mind. They won the Filmfare Best Music Award a record nine times, only maestro AR Rahman has beaten them in the modern era. They were giants whose shadows loom large even now, long after they are gone…

Diverse beginnings
Shankarsingh Ramsingh Raghuvanshi was born on October 25, 1922 in Punjab. His father later moved to Andhra Pradesh and young Shanker was exposed to classical dance and music. He was both a trained wrestler and a dancer. He also showed a command over musical instruments and started playing the tabla at temples there. The family later moved to Mumbai, where he formally started learning the tabla under Baba Nasir Khansahib and composer Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. He later joined pioneering composers Husnlal Bhagatram as an assistant. A passion for theatre led him to join Prithiviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi  theatre, where he befriended Raj Kapoor, leading to a lifetime of friendship and collaboration.
On the other hand, Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal  was born on November 4, 1929, in Bansda, Gujarat. He started learning classical music from Sangeet Visharad Wadilalji and later from Prem Shankar Nayak. It’s said his father was a court musician of the ruler of Dharampur. The debonair musician actually wanted to be an actor, which was his prime motivation for moving to Mumbai. He started learning music under Vinayak Tambe and became a trained harmonium player.

Luck by chance
A chance conversation at the office of director Chandravadan Bhatt. acquainted them with each other’s love for music. Prithvi Theatre was searching for a harmonium player and Shankar took Jaikishan under his wings.Soon, both friends were providing music and even acting in plays produced by Prithvi. Raj Kapoor was launching his banner RK Films and made them assistants under Ram Ganguly in Aag (1948). Apparently, he caught Ram red-handed as he was about to sell one of his tunes for Raj’s next venture Barsaat (1949) to some other producer. Raj reportedly fired Ram and offered Shankar the music director’s baton. Shankar pleaded that he’d only join if his friend Jaikishan too was offered the same terms. Barsaat’s superhit music catapulted them as overnight sensations.

Raj Kapoor may have helped in establishing them but it’s wrong to credit him for all their success. They shone even in non RK films like Daag, Basant Bahar,  Amrapali, Asli Naqli, Arzoo, Dil Ek Mandir, Junglee, Love in Tokyo, An Evening in Paris. They enhanced the careers of Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar as well.

Innovative Composers

They took risk with their first film Barsaat itself, taking a new voice, Lata Mangeshkar as the lead singer and making her sing for both the heroines, Nimmi and Nargis. Songs such as Jiya beqarar hai, Hawa mein udta jaaye or Mujhe kisi se pyar ho gaya are still remembered today. With Barsaat mein, they also started the trend of title songs. They had an established pattern for song composition. First would be a long instrumental flourish, where their 60 plus orchestra showcased its virtuosity. Then came the first stanza, where the individual instruments were heard accompanying the singer, then the interlude, where the singer caught his breath and so on to another grand flourish. They introduced the concept of counter melody, which is a sequence of notes being played counter to the main melody of the song, with the help of their arranger Sebastian D’Souza. Dattaram, their dholak player and rhythm arranger, introduced the Dattaram theka (a special rhythm for dholak), which is still being used today. They didn’t just stick to established singers but made sure they found the right voice for the mood. For instance, they used an unknown Subir Sen for Dil mera ek aas ka panchi from Aas Ka Panchi (1960), Suman Kalyanpur for Dil ek mandir hai from Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Manna Dey for Yeh raat bheegi bheegi,  Chori Chori (1956), Asha Bhosle for Mud mudke na dekh from Shri 420 (1955), Mukesh (for Dilip Kumar) in Yeh mera diwanapan hai, Yahudi (1958) and made many more such off kilter choices.

Shankar-Jaikishan

(clockwise) With Prithviraj Kapoor, their mentor, With Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, At a recording session and With Indira Gandhi

Different strokes
Jaikishan was the flamboyant, man-about-town who loved to dress in the best suits. He was the soul of the party and loved his scotch. Shankar was reticent, less boisterous and hence wasn’t the public face of the duo. He was said to have a liking for raag Bhairavi while Jaikishan liked to compose in raag Shivranjini. Shankar was said to prefer songs with dance moments while Jaikishan was said to prefer romantic numbers. The duo formed a team with different lyricists as well. Shankar composed Shailendra’s songs and Jaikishan Hasrat Jaipuri’s. Jaikishan was known for his mastery over the background score. From their first film itself, one heard snatches of future compositions in the background score. For instance, the strains of O basanti pawan pagal from Jis Des Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960) were first heard in the background score of Awara (1951). So, for all their differences, one can’t be sure which song was totally Shankar’s or Jaikishan’s.

Rift and rivalry

Thanks to abundance of work as also widening creative differences, they started composing separately from 1960 onwards but didn’t publically break the team. The popular radio programme, Binaca Geet Mala, was the litmus test for a song’s popularity. When Yeh mera prem patra padhkar from Sangam, composed by Jaikishan-Hasrat team got the top spot over Dost dost na raha from the same film, composed by Shankar-Shailendra team, their fragile friendship further deteriorated. People in Shankar’s camp made allegations of sabotage. Shankar’s insistence of using Sharda’s voice instead of Lata’s too came in the way. Things came to such a head that Jaikishan used to have separate recording sessions with Lata, sometimes even with a different set of musicians. Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri, their two lyricists became their common link at this point.

Death and decline
On September 12, 1971, Jaikishan passed away due to cirrhosis of liver. Shankar was hurt emotionally but continued to work under the S-J banner. It’s said he even continued to give half of his earnings from each assignment to Jaikishan’s family. RK and other big banners stayed away from Shankar after his partner’s death. There was a steady decline in business, though he continued to do good work. One such example was Sanyasi (1975), where Lata reconciled with him and whose music seemingly heralded the return of S-J’s dominance. However, it didn’t last long. He got work but the films didn’t fare well at the box office. A broken Shankar passed away unsung on April 26, 1987. Only his family attended the funeral. The media, as well as the film industry, got to know about his death only after the cremation… A chapter in the annals of Indian film history was silenced forever…

Shankar-Jaikishan

(clockwise) Stills from Sangam, Boot Polish, Chori Chori and Junglee


Shankar-Jaikishan’s popular hits

Barsaat mein (Barsaat -1949)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Awara hoon (Awara -1951)
Singer: Mukesh

Ae mere dil kahin aur chal (Daag -1952)

Singer: Talat Mehmood

Raja ki aayegi baraat
(Aah -1953)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum (Patita – 1953)

Singers: Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar

Pyar hua iqrar hua hai (Shri 420-1955)

Singers: Manna Dey-Lata Mangeshkar

Sur na saje (Basant Bahar-1956)

Singer: Manna Dey

Yeh mere deewanapan hai (Yahudi -1958)

Singer: Mukesh

Kisi ki muskurahaton pe ho nisar (Anari-1959)
Singer: Mukesh

Bhaiya mere, rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana (Choti Bahen-1959)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Ajeeb dastan hai yeh (Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi -1960)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Yaad na jaaye beete dinon ki (Dil Ek Mandir -1963)

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe (Junglee-1961)
Singer: Mohd Rafi

Paan khaye saiyyan hamaro (Teesri Kasam-1966)
Singer: Asha Bhosle

Ae bhai, zara dekh ke chalo (Mera Naam Joker -1970)

Singer: Manna Dey

Courtesy :

http://www.filmfare.com/features/golden-greats-7358-1.html#descArticle