The enduring legacy of Shankar-Jaikishan

The enduring legacy of Shankar-Jaikishan

They made some of Hindi cinema’s most memorable songs and delivered evergreen hits for Raj Kapoor in Shree 420 and Barsaat. September 12 marked Jaikishan’s 50th death anniversary

The Moscow Olympics in 1980 began with Shankar-Jaikishan’s song ‘Mera joota hai Japani’ from Raj Kapoor’s ‘Shree 420.’

Manna Dey was initially reluctant to sing the duet ‘Ketaki gulab juhi’ with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi for ‘Basant Bahar’ (1956), based on Tarasu’s Kannada novel Hamsageethe. The sequence demanded that Manna Dey score over the classical maestro.


‘Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahan’ from
‘Mera Naam Joker’ is another
famous song by the duo. 

Jaikishan of the legendary Shankar-Jaikishan duo convinced Manna Dey to sing it. The outcome was a song that astonished renowned music directors Naushad, Madan Mohan and Roshan. They were till then not aware of Shankar-Jaikishan’s command of Indian classical music. No music director of that era could match the versatility and range of Shankar-Jaikishan.

Though Ram Ganguly had composed memorable tunes for RK Film’s ‘Aag’ (1948), Raj Kapoor opted for the new composer duo Shankar-Jaikishan in ‘Barsaat’ in 1949. The film’s songs, such as ‘Barsaat mein humse mile’, ‘Patli kamar hai’, and ‘Chhod gaye balam,’ were super hits. Jaikishan composed the brilliant RK theme, inspired by the eternal Western classical ‘The Blue Danube’. Director Mehboob Khan confessed that Naushad’s excellent compositions in his ‘Andaz’ (1949) were literally washed away by the eternal melodies of ‘Barsaat’.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the Shankar-Jaikishan combination was the highest-paid among composers. They contributed significantly to the growth of singers Manna Dey and Mukesh. Mohammed Rafi was their first choice, and Shankar-Jaikishan gave songs to Talat Mahmood, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar occasionally. Subir Sen, hailing from Bengal, became nationally famous with the songs ‘Manzil wohi’ and ‘Dil mera ek aas ka panchi’, composed brilliantly by Shankar-Jaikishan.

Jaikishan knew about the tantrums Lata Mangeshkar threw at times. He controlled her well and at the recording of ‘Aa ab laut ke chale’, in which he used a huge number of musicians. The violinists and cellists  played enthusiastically at the recording of the song at RK Studio and then on the adjacent street in Chembur throughout the night. 

Jaikishan was a genius when it came to handling singers, musicians and background scores. He made sure every musician received remuneration on time. The prelude to ‘Aa gale lag ja’ by Rafi goes on for five minutes, the longest in the history of Indian film music. Jaikishan made great use of horns, guitars, drums and the piano in the orchestra.

Jaikishan was an expert in Indian and Western classical music, besides folk, jazz and pop music. He openly admitted that the title music of the charade in ‘Gumnaam hai koi’ was


The cult-classic song 'Yeh Mera Prem Patra'
from 'Sangam' created a rift between
Shankar and Jaikishan. 

influenced by ‘Somewhere my love’ (Doctor Zhivago) in the piano counters of 'Dost Dost Na Raha' and Beatles in 'Dekho Ab To'. Not imitating blindly, he gave his own Indian touch to Western influences. He was the musical soul of Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, and Shammi Kapoor.

Shankar-Jaikishan gave some evergreen songs for Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna. Even the Olympics in the USSR (1980) kick-started with their ‘Mera jhoota jai Japani’.

The best of Suman Kalyanpur was extracted by Shankar-Jaikishan. When Jaikishan revealed ‘Yeh mera prem patra’ from ‘Sangam’ (1964) was actually his composition and not Shankar’s, it created a rift between the two. From the middle of the ’60s, they composed separately. Jaikishan was certainly more gifted than Shankar. A difference of opinion between Lata Mangeshkar and Shankar compelled the latter to opt for the singer Sharada. Jaikishan never hesitated in lending a helping hand to Sharada whenever she needed it. A transparent soul, Jaikishan was the first to compliment juniors like Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji and R D Burman.

Lyricist Shailendra’s suicide was an irreparable loss for Shankar-Jaikishen. Till the mid-60s, they had composed songs to the lyrics of Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. From 1968, they started losing form because they had too many commitments. Monotony crept into their compositions. Yet, it was only Jaikishan who could create two bumper hits in ‘Kauwa chala’ and ‘Thoda ruk jayegi’ on same guitar chords, both sung by Rafi.

The Rafi number ‘Jaan pehchan ho’, composed by Shankar-Jaikishan, remains the biggest rock and roll hit in Hindi film music. This particular song has been sung by several singers across the world. 

How the paan song was made

It is commonly believed that the Shankar-Jaikishan number ‘Paan khaye saiyan hamaro’ for ‘Teesri Kasam’ (1966) was taken from a tune composed by RD Burman.

The actual anecdote goes that at a film party, Jaikishan noticed paan stains on S D Burman’s clothes. This inspired him to create a tune that S D Burman himself was fond of. Jaikishan would never stoop low to borrow a tune from another composer, especially a junior.

Shankar-Jaikishan silenced critics with evergreen tunes in ‘Yakeen’ (1969), ‘Mera Naam Joker’ (1970), ‘Main Sundar Hoon’ (1971) and ‘Andaz’ (1971). Fifty years ago, on September 12, Jaikishan left for his heavenly abode, creating a vacuum yet to be fulfilled. R D Burman dedicated his memorable songs ‘Gulabi aankhen’ and ‘Raton ka raja’ to one of his idols, ‘King’ Jaikishan.

(The author is a freelancer based in Kolkata)