Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi was one of the genius composers of the famous duo Shankar Jaikishan, the greatest musical duo to have graced the world of Hindi cinema. So great was the impact of their creative genius that it had a lasting impact on the music of the Hindi films. Shankar-Jaikishan understood the taste of the masses, were able to cater to them, as well as moulded their tastes. No wonder then that during their tenure as music directors, they were exceedingly popular and 75 per cent of the films for which their scores were resounding hits – many have celebrated silver jubilees.
Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi was born on 15 October 1922. He was a native of telangana, and spent his early years in Hyderabad. He learned the tabla and other instruments and was a student of the musicians Baba Nasir Khansahib and Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. He was an expert percussionist. He learnt the fundamentals of film music from the first music duo Husnlal-Bhagatram.
Shankar started his career with a theater group run by Satyanarayan and Hemawati, before shifting to Prithvi Theatre where he played tabla and performed some minor roles in plays. .
Raj Kapoor once heard Shankar sing one of his compositions, ”Ambuva ka ped hai, wahi munder hai, aaja more baalama ab kaahe ki der hai….” He recognised the flash of genius and invited him to compose music for ‘Barsaat’. Shankar introduced Jaikishan as his partner.
Shankar and Jaikishan reportedly first met when they were both waiting outside a film director’s office. They soon became collaborators and helped in composing music for Prithvi Theatres, which was founded by the renowned actor Prithviraj Kapoor. In the years to follow, Shankar-Jaikishan became the favourite music directors of Prithviraj’s son, the legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor.
Both the music directors composed independently. They never interfered in each other’s works. The duo together with lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri formed an unbeatable team. With them started a new era in the Hindi film music. While background music was Jaikishan’s strength, Shankar was good at song compositions. He was a very good pianist too. The duo were commercial geniuses in addition to be wonderfully God-blessed on music. Shankar-Jaikishan were the pioneers in establishing the role of the orchestra in song compositions as a medium to express and enhance the meanings and feelings of songs rather than using it just as a filler as per the prevalent practice before their advent on the scene. Between the two, Shankar was the senior partner and hence, he would usually arrange the orchestra, even for Jaikishan’s songs. There was a gentleman’s agreement between them for not identifying the actual composer of the song.
They made a significant contribution in promoting Indian classical music throughout their career. It was their established practice to have at least one song in a movie based on semi-classical style. These included songs like “Jhanak-jhanak tori baje payaliya” (Mere Huzoor), “Chham chham baje re payaliya” (Jane-anjane), “Radhike tune bansari churayi” (Beti Bete), “Manmohana bade jhoothe” (old `Seema’), “Koi matwala aya mere dware” (Love in Tokyo), “Ajahu na ayae baalma, sawan beeta jaye” (Sanjh aur Savera), “Lapak jhpak tu aa re badarwa” (Boot polish), “Ye barkha bahar sautaniya ke dwar” (Mayur pankh), “Re man sur mein gaa” (Lal pathar), “Sooni sooni sans ke sitar par” (Naina), “Kate na kate raina” (Mera naam joker) and numerous others. Their music in `Basant Bahar’ and ‘Amrapali’ was outstanding, both these films had every song based upon Indian classical music.
On the fateful night of April 26, 1987, Shankar, who had enthralled millions by his music, suddenly died. In the passing away of Shankar, the country has lost one of its foremost musical craftsmen.
For millions of fans of Hindi film music, Shankar-Jaikishan remain alive through their unforgettable music.