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Shankar Jaikishan: The magical Duo

Shankar Jaikishan were among the greatest musicians to have graced Hindi cinema – they were exceedingly popular and 75 per cent of their films were musical hits

Distributors play a very critical role in the film industry. There were no distributors when the first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, was released in 1913. With the advent of talkies in 1931 when Ardeshair Irani's, Alam Ara was released, distributors became a vital force. They decided to sell the film on the basis of studios or banners. Even though films started selling in the name of actors, the films of the 1950s and 60s were sold in the name of a music duo. This magical duo was Shankar Jaikishan.

Shankar Jaikishan started their career with Prithviraj Kapoor's Prithvi Theatre. In 1949, Raj Kapoor (Prithviraj Kapoor's eldest son) acted in Mehboob Khan's magnum opus Andaz with Nargis and Dilip Kumar. He was impressed by Naushad's music in the film. Andaz was a musical jubilee hit. Raj Kapoor had decided to have music like Andaz in his next film Barsaat, the same year. Ram Ganguly was its composer. Soon, differences between Raj Kapoor and Ganguly developed and Shankar Jaikishan were brought in.

Barsaat had Lata Mangeshkar, who was trying hard to establish herself as a playback singer. Shankar had heard her earlier and brought her to give playback in Barsaat. Lata sang all the eleven numbers of Barsaat, nine solos and two duets with Mukesh. For the first time, Lata gave playback for Nargis, Nimmi and Bimla. Barsaat was a blockbuster. Its music stirred the nation. Shankar Jaikishan scaled the dizzy heights with their maiden film.

Shankar Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra and Lata became the permanent team of R K Films. Barsaat's music became a trendsetter. It is often said that Shankar Jaikishan gave their best to R K Films. They remained loyal to Raj Kapoor and indebted to too as he had given them their maiden break. Between 1951 and 52, Shankar Jaikishan also gave scintillating music in films outside R K Films.

Their third film was Bhagwan Das Verma's Badal (1951) starring Prem Nath, Madhubala. Who can forget the compositions of the duo, Main rahi bhatakne wala hoon (Mukesh) Unse pyaar ho gaya dil mere kho gaya (Lata) and Dulcet duet Ae dil na mujhse chhipa kya hua (Lata/Mukesh). In the same year, Kishore Shahu's Kali Ghata was released and the duo showed their versatility with Dil mein tu mere dil mein tu, Humse na puchho koi pyaar kya hai, Maine kya kiya sitam unke sitam ne loot liya, Ille bel laa illaa din hain pyare pyare and a romantic duet Ho madhur Milan hai sajna. The film did average business at the box office but was remembered for its hit numbers.

Shankar Jaikishan were very particular and never compromised with their singers. They gave an opportunity to C H Aatma in Dalsukh Pancholi's Nagina. C H Aatma sang hit iconic numbers in typical K L Saigal style, Rooo main sagar ke kinare and Dil beqraar hai mera, Ek sitara hai aakash mein, Lata also sang her unforgettable sad number Tune hi mere zakhm-e-Jigar ko chhoo liya.

Seeing their popularity, legendary Amiya Chakraborty signed Shankar Jaikishan for his super hit film Daag (1952), starring Dilip Kumar, Nimmi. Shankar Jaikishan took Talat Mehmood for the first time to do playback for Dilip Kumar. They made three versions of their evergreen number Ae mere dil kahi aur chal in happy and sad versions in Talat's voice and also in Lata's voice.

In 1953, Raj Kapoor made a film on a Tuberculosis patient, Aah, which was directed by Raja Nawathe along with Nargis and Pran. Unlike Awara and Barsaat, the film didn't do well at the box office. Even the re-edited version with a new end failed to impress.

In the same year, Shankar Jaikishan gave music in seven films – Aas, Aurat, Boot Polish, Mayur Pankh, Naya Ghar, Patita and Shikast. They gave enchanting melodies in these films. Zulm ki nagri mein (Lata) in Aas, Naino se nain hue chaar, Aa sun le mere dil ki pukaar, Dard-E-jigar thaher zara and Bewafa ne de diya ghum zindgani loot li (Lata) in Aurat.

Shankar Jaikishan composed a variety of songs in R K's Boot Polish, Nanhe munhe bachche teri mutthi mein kaya hai (Asha/Rafi, chorus) Chali kaun si desh gujriya tu saj dhaj ke (Asha/Talat), a light number Lapak jhapak tu aa re badarwa (Manna De) and the title song Thehr zara o jane wale babu (Asha/Manna Dey/Madhubala Jhavri). There was also Ja re ja ranjo ghum ke andhere tu jaa (Lata) in Naya Ghar.

They gave all-time great numbers in Patita – Kisi ne apna bana ke mujhko, Mitti se khelte ho bar bar kis liye (Lata), Andhe jahan ke andhe rasre, Tujhe apne pass bulati hai teri duniya and Hain sabse madhur wo geet (Talat) and evergreen melodious romantic duets in Lata and Hemant's voice Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum. Shikast too had classical-based numbers in Raag Chandrakaush, Jab jab phool khile tujhe yaad kiya humne (Talat/Lata) and Sapno ki suhani duniya ko (Talat).

Surprisingly, in 1954, only two of their films released – Pooja and Badshah. Both the films flopped but Shankar Jaikishan gave immortal the romantic duet, set in Raag Bheem Palasi, Aa neel gagan tale pyaar hum karein (Lata/Hemant) in Badshah.

In 1955, they came back with their magical touch in Amiya Chakarverti's Seema starring Balraj Sahni, Nutan and Shobha Khote. Their glorious gems were in their favorite Bhairvi, Suno chhoti se gudiya ki lambi kahani which starts with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan's Sarod, and the enthralling melodies Baat baat pe rutho na, Manmohna bade jhuthe (Lata). Manna Dey's all-time great Tu pyaar ka sagar hai and Rafi's heart rendering Kahan ja raha hai tu ae jane wale and Hume bhi de do sahara (Rafi/Chorus) in Qawwali style.

Shankar Jaikishan, besides Raj Kapoor, worked with almost all major directors. They were in a position to dictate their own terms. They even declined the offers made by B R Chopra and V Shantaram. They did films of all genres and periods.

Shankar Jaikishan ruled the industry for more than two decades. They were at their best in creativity and versatility. If they were responsible for getting their first FilmFare Award for Sab kuch sikha humne (Mukesh) in Anari (1959) though Mukesh was their favorite, they got best of Rafi in Chahe mujhe koi jangli kahe, Ahsan tera hoga mujh par in Junglee. Ae gulbadan in Professor, Tumse se accha kaun hai in Janwar, Yaad na jaye bite dino ki in Dil Ek Mandir and Dil ke jharokhe mein in Brahmchari. After Dil Ek Mandir they started working separately, but they kept their credit intact.

Jaikishan gave scintillating melodies in Arzoo. After completing the music for Ramanand Sagar, Jaikishan left for London. When Sagar wanted to add one Qawwali, Jaikishan recommended Shankar's name. Similarly, all songs of Teesri Kasam were recorded by Shankar.

When Jaikishan was asked to score the background music of Teesri Kasam, he realised after listening to the song that it lacked the touch of Shankar Jaikishan and suggested Shailendra, who was the producer and lyricist of the film, to include two more songs and composed two numbers penned by Hasrat Jaipuri, Mare gaye gulpham and Duniya banana wale. Though the film didn't do well initially, it later became a Bollywood milestone.

In the 1970s, film music was changing very fast. The golden days for the trio of Dilip, Raj and Dev were over. Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar were also fading out. The new generation of Rajesh Khanna, Jitendra and Amitabh Bachchan had taken over. Rajesh Khanna preferred R D Burman but he appeared in a guest appearance and sang his iconic number in Kishore's voice Zindgi ek safar hai suhana which was Jaikishan's last song.

Jaikishan scummed to cirrhosis on September 1971.

In spite of differences, this was a big blow to Shankar. He didn't take any assignment for a long period and as a result, he lost many films. Even his mentor Raj Kapoor replaced him with Laximikant Pyarelal in Bobby. Shankar's last notable film was Sanyasi. Shankar died on April 26, 1987.

During their reign, they were also accused of plagiarism. They had copied music from Egyptian, Arabian, Italian and even tunes of Gypsy music but one thing in their defense was that they Indianised the music so well that it appeared original. They revolutionised the concept of an orchestra. They were responsible for popularising film music. 75 per cent of their films were resounding hits and many celebrated golden and silver jubilees.

They were winners of nine Filmfare Awards for Chori Chori (1956), Anari (1959), Dil Apna Aur Preet Prayee (1960), Professor (1962), Suraj (1966), Brahmchari (1968), Pahchan (1970), Mera Naam Joker (1971) and Baiman (1972). They were also recipients of Cine Goers Association Award, Bombay Film Journalist Award and Sur Singar Sansad. They were conferred the Padma Shree in 1968.

Today Shankar and Jaikishan are not amidst us but their rich legacy of music will keep them alive in memories of music lovers for many years to come.

Sharad Dutt

Sharad Dutt

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