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'Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua' to 'Yahoo': Remembering S-J on Shankar's 101st birth anniversary

New Delhi: One was a percussionist from Hyderabad, the other a harmonium player from Vansada in Gujarat. Together, Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi and Jaikishan Panchal, or more famously Shankar-Jaikishan, made music that struck a chord 78 years ago when they started and resonates even today.

October 15 was the 101st birth anniversary of Shankar, as he came to be known for generations of music lovers, and occasion perhaps to recall the magic and the chemistry behind filmdom’s enduring music composing duo who went on to famously collaborate with Raj Kapoor in songs as varied as the romantic Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua and the thoughtful Kehta Hai Joker Sara Zamana.

Hyderabad-born Shankar was a percussionist specialising in tabla but mastered several other instruments like sitar, accordion and piano at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre, founded by Prithviraj Kapoor, the patriarch of the Kapoor film family.

Shankar also frequented the office of Gujarati director Chandravadan Bhatt, who had promised to give him a break as a music director whenever he would produce a film.

That’s where he spotted Jaikishan. They hit it off and Shankar assured Jaikishan a job at Prithvi Theatre but without asking Prithviraj Kapoor. Fortunately, Prithviraj Kapoor honoured Shankar’s selection and Jaikishan started out at the theatre as a harmonium player.

They soon developed a close bond and people started referring to them as ‘Ram-Lakshman ki jodi’, the ideal combination of brothers from another mother.

It was at Prithvi Theatre that Shankar and Jaikishan came in touch with Raj Kapoor, son of Prithviraj Kapoor. At the time, Raj Kapoor was assisting Kidar Sharma, director of films ‘Neel Kamal’ and ‘Bawre Nain’.

Hindi music history was soon to be made.

In 1948, Raj Kapoor debuted as a director with Aag. Shankar and Jaikishan assisted music director Ram Ganguly in the film that starred Raj Kapoor and Nargi and went on to be a hit.

The following year came Barsaat. During the recording of a song for his new film, Raj Kapoor parted ways with Ganguly amid creative differences. The then young filmmaker-actor assigned music duties to Shankar, who insisted on taking Jaikishan as his partner.

And Shankar-Jaikishan was born.

‘S-J’, as the duo was known, created gems like Barsaat Mein Humse Mile, Jiya Beqarar Hai, Hawa Mein Udta Jaye, and Patli Kamar Hai for the film.

And there was no looking back after that.

Shankar-Jaikishan broke new ground in the film industry by blending their knowledge of Indian classical music with western beats and orchestration. Together, they ruled the decades of 1950s and 1960s in Hindi cinema.

They went on to score music for movies such as Awaara, Aah, Shree 420, Basant Bahar, Halaku, Patita, Kathputli, Anari, Chori Chori, Daag, Baadshah, Boot Polish, and Ujala.

They became the in-house composers for RK Films, a film studio founded by Raj Kapoor, and were on their pay-roll till the end.

They also frequently collaborated with lyricists Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra and singers Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle.

Apart from Raj Kapoor’s films, the pair also gave the music for some of his brother Shammi Kapoor’s best songs — the foot tapping Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charcha from Brahmachari, Suku Suku and the signature Yahoo from Junglee and Akele Akele from An Evening in Paris.

Jaikishan’s death in 1971 cut short the journey of one of Hindi cinema’s most successful musical duos.

Shankar, however, continued composing music for films such as Be-Imaan (1972) and Sanyasi (1975) until his death in 1987.

(Published 16 October 2023, 16:46 IST)

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