(DP Rangan recently asked me who would be the music director of 2016. Obviously, he presumed there would be one, because I celebrated 2015 as the Year of Naushad (with C Ramchandra in tandem), and the year before that as the Year of Anil Biswas. Concurrently, I also covered SD Burman extensively, but that happened organically. Next in line, no one deserves this honour more than Shankar-Jaikishan, who were arguably the most successful music director(s) ever, and among the most dominant figures on the music scene for about two decades. I start my tribute to SJ with a special niche of their songs for Lata Mangeshkar which has been my great favourite, and which would make your heart dance. Thank you Mr. Rangan, for the timely reminder. – AK)
Shankar-Jaikishan have come in for some unkind comments on Songs of Yore, not so much for the decline in their music in the later years – everyone has a sunset – but for some of their astonishing Filmfare Awards. When they composed Jai bolo beimaan ki, no one would have realized they meant it literally, and would pull it over Pakeezah. They had achieved a similar feat with Pehchaan. This was no less brazen than their Dil Apna Aur Preet Paraayee victory over Mughal-e-Azam, or Suraj over Guide. Yet, even if we delete all of this, and all that is considered loud and unmusical, what is left is still enormous in scale, and of outstanding quality. Shankar-Jaikishan are by any yardstick among the greatest music directors, and arguably the most successful ever. When I think of them, I remember a very nice line from a story of Nirmal Verma – कुछ झूठ अनावश्यक होते हैं. Siddharth put it very aptly that Beimaan is not their only Pehchaan. One very important part of their identity is their songs for Lata Mangeshkar, and I start my tribute to them with a very special sub-set of their songs for her, which is very dear to me.
Quite a while ago, Ashok Vaishnavji sent me a link of an article which suggested that Lata Mangeshkar has not been generous in giving due credit to Shankar-Jaikishan in her career. I usually confine myself to music and avoid making any judgments about the artiste as a person. Ignoring the personal part, this article set me thinking as to what SJ and Lata Mangeshkar mean to each other, musically.
SJ stormed the Hindi film music scene with RK Films’ Barsaat (1949). Music was a very special part of RK films. SJ reached the top with their very first film, which had Lata Mangeshkar almost all the way, figuring in 10 out of 11 songs. Later, there were many films in which all or almost all songs had Lata Mangeshkar’s voice, such as Kaali Ghata (1951), Poonam (1952), Aurat (1953), Patrani (1956) etc. Out of 171 films for which Shankar-Jaikishan composed music, Lata Mangeshkar sang for them in 124 films, singing over 450 songs for them of which over 300 were solos. C Ramchnadra’s Lata Mangeshkar obsession or Madan Mohan-Lata hyphenation is more talked about. But her central position in SJ’s music is no less conspicuous.
Lata Mangeshkar, too, who had debuted a couple of years earlier (an excellent write up on her early career is here), single-handedly transformed the film music world in 1949, dethroning the great playback singers of the earlier era such as Suraiya, Amirbai Karnataki and Shamshad Begum from the top. Apart from Ayega anewala (Khemchand Prakash) and Uthaye ja unke sitam (Naushad), Barsaat songs have an important place in creating the Lata-phenomenon.
Lata Mangeshkar soon became synonymous with female playback singing. SJ, on their part, became the most prolific and, commercially, the most successful composer, and a large part of their work is also musically outstanding. Naturally, SJ-Lata became a strong combination for about 20 years, creating songs for all the big banners and all heroines. Regardless of the reported tiff between them later, or whether they were fair in recognizing each other’s contribution or not, some of the Lata Mangehskar’s best and everlasting songs are composed by Shankar-Jaikishan.
Not much older than Lata Mangehskar, SJ could not claim any special role in grooming her, as other stalwarts did. But they did not have to, because they spoke with their songs for her.
Best of SJ-Lata would normally include RK’s Meri ankhon me bas gaya koi re, Raja ki ayegi baraat and O basanti pawan pagal. Talking of RK films, it was often said that Raj Kapoor created all the music himself for RK Films, and SJ or other composers simply gave the orchestration. Over the years, both SJ and Lata worked for other banners also, creating a different kind of music. In my active radio listening years, a special kind of songs, one after another, held me spellbound. These were all dance numbers; the dance rhythm was either folk or classical based. Some had Arabic or West Asian origin, but had universality of folk. But the most important part was that those songs were uniquely SJ-Lata’s. Their stamp was unmistakable – you could not imagine those songs in any other voice, nor composed by anyone else. And, lest part of SJ’s credit is given to RK, I have taken care not to include any song from that banner or from any film from outside the banner which had Raj Kapoor in the lead role. It goes without saying that SJ would not have dared to use RK’s ‘tunes’ outside his banner.
Let me share some of the ‘special’ SJ-Lata gems which have been my great favourites for over three decades.
1. Unse pyar ho gaya from Baadal (1951), lyrics Shailendra
This was the year of RK’s most celebrated film Aawara. SJ were not awed by the big banner, because in the same year, they gave great music in small-banner films like Baadal, Kaali Ghata and Nageena. These films established SJ style of orchestration, which was very different from that by anyone else. They presented Lata Mangeshkar in many colours – one of which was joyous dance songs, which may not be a formal dance on the dance floor; the heroine could be dancing just by herself because she has just fallen in love with her man. The song is picturised on Venus-Madhubala.
2. Kaisi khushi ki hai raat balam mere saath from Nageena (1951), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
Again a delicate dance by the leading lady, Nutan, because her lover is with her.
3. Chanda ki chaandani me jhoome jhoome mera dil mera from Poonam (1952), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
All the nine songs of Poonam are in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice, almost all of which are still remembered by music lovers. I had a tough choice between three dance songs: Din suhaane mausam bahaar ka, O bhole baalama O more saajana and Jhoome jhoome dil mera. Since we are talking of the songs making your heart sway, let us dance with Kamini Kaushal in the moonlit night. The song has both Sajjan and Ashok Kumar entranced.
4. Ulfat ka saaz chhedo shama suhana hai from Aurat (1952), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
Aurat is another film which had all the nine songs in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. You again have tough choice between several outstanding songs – some picturised on Bina Rai and some on Purnima. Bina Rai is any day more charming than the latter. Dressed in white, she looks like a celestial beauty, dancing in the court of
Prem Nath Ulhas.
5. Khushiyon ke chaand muskuraye re from Mayur Pankh (1953), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
Do I need to say more?
6. Kisi ne apna bana ke mujhko muskurana sikha diya from Patita (1953), lyrics Shailendra
Usha Kiran is not one you associate with uninhibited dancing. But if someone has made her special, and she has to ‘sing’ Shankar-Jaikishan’s music for Lata Mangeshkar, she can’t suppress her joy and would break into dance if she is by herself. Patita had only six songs, but it was an SJ landmark for its variety: Talat Mahmood’s three solos including Hain sabse madhur wo geet mere, and a Hemant Kumar/Lata Mangeshkar all-time great twin song Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum. And this, their signature dance song.
7. Kaare badra tu na ja na ja from Shikast (1953), lyrics Shailendra
The song starts on a joyous note, but half-way it acquires poignant, philosophical tones – they had to make some concession for the Tragedy King Dilip Kumar. But the song has delightful beat all through and I imagine it as a dance song. Nalini Jaywant does seem to be swaying in the beginning. This is among my great favourites.
8. Main piya teri tu maane ya na maane from Basant Bahaar (1956), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
SJ meant Basant Bahaar to be their answer to Naushad’s Baiju Baawra. The result was not quite what they expected, in spite of Bharat Bhushan. The movie flopped, but they gave great music. And they had a line up of stalwarts of classical music to match DV Paluskar and Ustad Amir Khan (in Baiju Baawra). They managed to pit Pt Bhimsen Joshi against Manna Dey in a duet Ketaki gulab juhi champak ban phoole. Main piya teri is embellished by Pt. Panna Lal Ghosh’s flute. A beautiful song in their favourite Raga Bhairavi makes Nimmi dance.
9. Tum sang preet lagaai rasiya from New Delhi (1956), lyrics Shailendra
Now we have a trained dancer Vyjayanthimala dancing to this beautiful song, which is based primarily on Punjabi folk, but avoids the OP Nayyar’s masculinity and maintains SJ stamp of sweetness.
10. Mere sapne mein aana re sajna from Raajhath (1956), lyrics Shailendra
SJ’s dance song does not always mean you have to hit the floor. At times your heart sways, like Madhubala’s delicate dance in this beautiful song.
11. Meri jaan meri jaan pyar kisi se ho hi gaya hai from Yahudi (1958), lyrics Shailendra
Seven songs of Yahudi showcase enormous talent of SJ. It has Mukesh’s iconic Ye mera deewanapan hai, and at least four absolutely outstanding dance songs which have Lata Mangeshkar’s voice: Bechain dil khoi si nazar (duet with Geeta Dutt), Meri jaan meri jaan, Aate jaate pahlu mein aaya koi and Dil mein pyar ka toofan na samjhe koi naadan – each surpassing the other. I am presenting Meri jaan, picturised on the leading lady Meena Kumari for her delicate movements, and SJ’s outstanding use of chorus.
12. Baagon mein bahaaron mein ithalata gata aaya koi from Chhoti Behan (1959), lyrics Shailendra
Raju Bharatan makes the story of Chhoti Behan slipping from C Ramchandra, and Shankar-Jaikishan grabbing the opportunity sound as a suspense thriller. This film marked SJ’s knocking at the big guns in terms of the fee commanded. Nice story, but as far as I am concerned, from their very first film SJ were composing great music consistently. This film had the cult Rakhi song, Bhaiya mere Rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana, and this great dance song with beautiful picturisation on the sister Nanda.
13. Tera jalwa jisne dekha wo tera ho gaya (1959), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
I end this post with the mother of all dance songs, and what a storm Kumkum dances up, leaving the two leading heroes, Shammi Kapoor and Raj Kumar, guessing, and the whole crowd in raptures. Notice Kumum’s floor-act in sync with the violin – absolutely beautiful.
I have ended at 1959 on purpose, because Shankar-Jaikishan came to be regarded as the monarch of the 60s. Nay, even before that, when they were not officially anointed as the No.1, they gave great music.