The Myths Surrounding Shankar Jaikishan

When anyone reaches the dizzying heights in their career, gain unheard of national and international fame, and win stupendous fan following from the common man to stalwarts in the entertainment and political world like Shankar Jaikishan did, it is but natural for their peers to feel a twinge of jealousy. Their contemporaries and media spun all kinds of fictitious stories about SJ to gain attention. Some in the music industry wanted to dismantle SJ from the “pedestal” their fans put them on and the media wanted to sell their product. The public was so fascinated by the composer duo’s persona and would take anything and everything written about the duo and believe it. SJ were so busy in their work that they hardly ever gave any interviews which would have helped to set the record straight.

It was said that SJ were arrogant and did not spare time to give interviews to the press. This is far from the truth. The reason was that SJ were extremely busy and they hardly ever had the time. Thus, the little time that they had was spent on their personal interests. Shankar, the consummate musician that he was, spent all his spare time composing tunes, learning to play new instruments and meeting with classical musicians who were of great interest to him. Jaikishan, on the other hand, was a social butterfly. With his handsome looks and successful career, he was always surrounded by friends and fans. Being a “party animal,” he was always spotted at social events where he was the center of attraction.

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That Shankar was rude, crude and uncouth cannot be more false. He may not have been highly educated, but he was a man of honor. Being a thorough professional, he always delivered his assignments on time and, thus, could never tolerate tardiness and irresponsibility. He reprimanded those who were not, which left him in their bad books. as mentioned by Manoj Shailendra, son of Shailendra, Shankar always addressed young and old with the suffix “ji” which shows his respect for one and all.

Nothing is as far from truth as Shankar Jaikishan being dropped from movies because of their high remuneration. As their popularity grew, so did their number of assignments. At the top of their career, in 1971, SJ were the busiest in town with nineteen movies on hand and couldn’t take on any more assigments. This was true with producers like Sridhar, L. V. Prasad, P. Gangadhara Rao, S. S. Vasan, T. Prakasa Rao from the south who were actively making movies and very badly wanted SJ to compose music for their upcoming movies. But the composers were so swamped with work that they couldn’t oblige. Movie making is a high risk gambling. Films are financed at twenty five percent interest rate and, as it gets closer to release date, the interest rate sometimes jumped to thirty percent too. With this factor involved, the producers couldn’t afford to wait for SJ to be free to work for their movies. So, they opted for other music directors who were ready to work for them at a fraction of the remuneration and meager orchestra which reflected in their run of the mill work.

Another fallacy about SJ is that, after Jaikishan’s demise, Shankar was a spent force and couldn’t meet the expectations of their producers and fans. The fact is, not only did he complete all the nineteen movies signed for 1971, he even went on to compose music for forty two more movies, single handedly. This is proof that there were many producers who believed in his talent and that the maestro still had the mettle left in him. At the peak of their career, SJ were paid five lakhs for a movie. With Jai’s death, some producers felt that they should cut that amount to half since it was only one composer doing the job. This resulted in a lower budget and fewer musicians to work with in his orchestra which had a negative effect on the compositions. The main reason for the failure of some of SJ’s later movies lies in the mediocre actors, poor story line and screen play.

That Shankar had a fascination for Sharda and preferred her to Lata and, therefore, switched to the former for female songs was never the case. From their very first movie to the last, SJ chose their singers keeping in mind the lyrics and the actor for who the playback was done. There are many movies in which both Lata and Sharda sang as per requirement of the characters. However, Lata felt threatened by Sharda’s popularity and SJ’s support of her which lead to the former holding a grudge against him. She later returned to the SJ camp to sing many more songs. Yet, Shankar maintained the same regard for the singer till his end.

People may have said and done what they wanted to thwart SJ (Shankar)’s career, but they couldn’t erase their fame and name to this day. SJ reign supreme in the hearts of their fans!

By Lakshmi K. Tummala

By Lakshmi K. Tummala


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