Czars of Hindi film music
Today's music-loving population of young men and women can justifiably be crazed about the AR Rahman phenomenon for putting Indian film music on a...
Today's music-loving population of young men and women can justifiably be crazed about the AR Rahman phenomenon for putting Indian film music on a global pedestal. Not many of them, however, know that the Shankar-Jaikishan duo had achieved this feat more than half a century ago. Their hit songs anesthetized the younger set in Russia, China, Japan and other parts of the world In the fifties, it was not unusual to come across a Muscovite humming 'awara hoon' or 'mera jootha hai japani,' no matter he did not know the meaning of even one word of these timeless Shankar-Jaikishan melodies. Those were the happy Nehruvian times when 'Hindi Chini bhai bhai' or 'Long live Indo-Soviet friendship' sentiment defined the fraternal relations with these countries. Raj Kapoor strengthened these bonds at the cultural level. The Fifties and the Sixties went down in history as the golden era of film music and Shankar and Jaikishan were the star composers of the times, churning out hits by the dozen and winning Filmfare and other prestigious awards. They had a manic following down the generations. I am a steadfast fan of SJ, right from the days of Awara and Barsaat. As a boy of 10, I would go into raptures listening to the Lata number 'Ghar ayaa mera pardesi' or Mukesh's 'Awara hoon'. As the SJ fever won a firmer grip over me, friends and I would frequent Irani restaurants in Himayatnagar, YMCA, Vidyanagar not so much for chai as for the even hotter SJ numbers. Those days, Irani joints had juke boxes. You pay 20 or 25 paise and listen to your favourite number. No baaraat was complete without the band playing 'begaane shaadi me Abdullah deewana' from Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahtee Hai. Hyderabadis are proud even now of mana Shankar because he made Bhagyanagar his home. 'Ramaiah vasthaavaiah' was a huge hit in the coastal Andhra for its novel Telugu connection in the Sri 420 song. Come Wednesday 8 pm, all activity in millions of homes across the country would come to a grinding halt and people sit glued to the radio. It is time for 'Binaca Geetmala', hosted by Amin Sayani, whose style of presentation was as popular and outstanding as the songs. They waited for the show as much for Amin's comments as for the songs. The biggest attraction was the year-end show and the best song of the year. SJ dominated the show between the second half of the Fifties and the first of the Sixties so completely that their own creations jostled for top spots and I understand that in 1959, seven of the top 10 were SJ numbers, prompting Amin Sayani to jokingly dub the show as 'Shankar-Jaikishan geetmala'. Shankar Jaikishan hits are too numerous for me to list. They changed the face (or shall we say 'tone') of film music by employing western beats and orchestra in a big way. Earlier practice was, by and large, a kind of filler between the lyrics. He used orchestra to enhance the meaning and mood of the song. The SJ duo pressed into place an orchestra of more than a hundred instruments for the Mohd. Rafi-Suman Kalyanpurkar classical duet 'aj huna aaye balamaa saawan beeta jai' from Sanjh aur Savera (1963). SJ enjoyed iconic status in the Hindi film industry and at the peak of their popularity, commanded a price equal to or more than the leading man of the movie. Such was their dominance. The inseparable duo's golden run came to a sad and abrupt end with the premature death of Jaikishan in 1971. He was 42. Shankar's life was never the same again. Raj Kapoor threw him out and patronised Laxmikant Pyarelal (LP) and Lata Mangeshkar too fell out with him. Rivals fished in troubled waters that Shankar had lost his magical touch and that he was a spent force. Big banners avoided him and later movies failed at the box office despite good music score. Shankar died in April1987, almost unsung and unwept. The RK team � consisting of Raj Kapoor, Shankar, Jaikishan, Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Lata and Mukesh, thus broke up. Raj Kapoor retained most of SJ's unrecorded tunes for his post-Sangam films, the credits going officially to other composers like LP (for songs from Bobby, Satyam Sivam Sundaram). Gujaratis put up a statue of Jaikishan at his birthplace near Valsad. There is a Shankar-Jaikishan chowk in Churchgate, Mumbai. The Government honoured the pair with Padmasri. The memory and music of another giant, Rahul Dev Burman, are kept alive by the media and fans through regular programmes. We need to pay tributes, in the same fashion, also to Shankar-Jaikishan and other greats of the past like Naushad, C. Ramachandra, Madan Mohan, Roshan, OP Nayyar. (The writer is former Chief of Bureau, The Hindu, Hyderabad) Email: [email protected],