Most people associate a song with the actor or the actress on whom it is picturised. And if one is a bit more interested then perhaps they can identify the singer and music director. The person behind the words is by and large forgotten. Even though, the lyrics are what help us connect to a song. One of the main reasons I got hooked on to old Hindi songs early on was because I could understand the language and understand the meaning. (Embarrassed to admit this, but growing up in Delhi meant that my siblings and I were more comfortable with Hindi and English than the Tamil we spoke at home!)
I usually like songs because of the language and the way words are used. If you have read my previous posts, you would probably know that Sahir Ludhianvi is an all-time favourite. He had a way with words – he would use just the right word to convey an apt meaning – and that too straight from the heart. Just this morning, a sweet Mohd Rafi number, Jiyo Toh Aise Jiyo (Bahu Beti, 1965) that I had forgotten all about and not heard for ages showed up in my playlist. As I heard the lyrics, I wondered who the poet was. And well it was Sahir…to my surprise (or not)..
No, this post is not about Sahir. It is about another lyricist who had the same knack with words – the ability to convey profound thoughts in simple language, easy to feel and understand.
Shailendra, born as Shankardas Kesarilal in 1923, was primarily known for his association with Raj Kapoor and Shankar Jaikishen. Dec 14, 2014 marked his 48th death anniversary. So yes, this tribute post is a couple of days late. But better late than never… So here are some of my favourite Shailendra songs:
1) Hain Sabse Madhur Woh Geet Jinhe (Patita, 1953, Talat Mahmood, Shankar-Jaikishen): Inspired by Shelley’s oft quoted line from To A Skylark, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”, this melodious song from Patita is in actuality a love song – a love that is tender, deep, reassuring and comforting. Yes, the mood is sombre (as those who would have seen the film would know), but there is an optimism in the song that is consoling and inspiring. Just sample these lines: “Jab Gham Ka Andhera Ghir Aaye, Samjho Ki Savera Door Nahin, Har Raat Ka Hai Paigham yehi, Taare bhi Yehi Dohrate Hain.”
2) Tu Pyar Ka Saagar Hai (Seema, 1955, Manna Dey, Shankar-Jaikishen): Moving on from a contemplative to a devotional mood; Shailendra has written two of the finest bhajans in Hindi cinema, in my opinion: this one and Na Main Dhan Chahoon, Na Ratan Chahoon (Kala Bazar). Both are not typical bhajans. God is not invoked by a particular name. Tu Pyar Ka Saagar Hai is from the 1955 Amiya Chakraborty classic, Seema. Sung by Manna Dey and picturised on Balraj Sahni and Nutan, this is an all-time great. In this bhajan, the relationship between the devotee and the Lord is intimate and personal. The devotee is looking up to the Almighty, seeking guidance and assurance (“Ab Tu Hi Ise Samjha, Raah Bhoole Kahan Thhe Hum“). In Na Main Dhan Chahoon (my personal favourite when it comes to filmy Bhajans), the focus is on the weaknesses of human beings and how the devotee is praying to the Lord asking for his guidance at a time when one’s own mind is weak and susceptible to folly. (Moh Man Mohe, Lobh Lalchaye, Kaise Kaise Yeh Naag Lehraaye.) I had written an entire post on Na Main Dhan Chahoon some time back, which is why Tu Pyaar Ka Saagar hai finds a spot in this list.
3) Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe Ho Nisar (Anari, 1959, Mukesh, Shankar-Jaikishen): Considering that Shailendra had a long association with Raj Kapoor, leaving songs from Raj Kapoor films out of a Shailendra list is not an option. And since I am so not a Raj Kapoor fan, I cannot have him hijack my list! So, I racked my brain to pick one song that has Raj Kapoor and one that I like. So here it is. This song is from the Raj Kapoor-Nutan starrer, Anari, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The song espouses a worldview about what it takes to be a decent human being. In simple words, the poet is telling us to empathise and feel for each other. (A much needed lesson in the face of pure evil as witnessed in today’s inhuman Peshawar attack!).
4) Zindagi Khwab Hai (Jagte Raho, 1956, Mukesh, Salil Chowdhary): Ok, another number from a Raj Kapoor film. But this philosophical, cynical take on life from a drunkard’s point of view had to be in here. Picturised on a superb Motilal and sung by Mukesh, the song starts off with a couplet penned by Kabir:”Rangi ko Narangi Kahe Bane Doodh Ko Khoya, Chalti Ko Gaadi Kahe Dekh Kabira Roya” and then the poet continues to speculate about life – what is truth? what is false? After all life is but a dream!
5) Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh Kahan Shuru Kahan Khatam (Dil Apna Preet Parayi, 1960, Lata Mangeshkar, Shanker-Jaikishen): If there is a song that epitomises unrequited love filled with an acute longing and yet wishing one’s beloved well, it is this melodious Lata Mangeshkar song from Dil Apna Preet Parayi. Meena Kumari loves Raj Kumar who was her boss (a typical doctor-nurse romance) but he is now married to Nadira. The song plays out on a boat after the wedding reception. Shailendra’s biggest plus point was to convey the deepest of emotions in simple, uncomplicated words making his lyrics easy to understand and relate to. Listen to this: “Mubarak-e-tumhein ki tum kisi ke noor ho gaya, Kisi ke itne paas ho, ki sabse door ho gaye,”
6) Poocho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitaayi (Meri Surat Teri Aankhen, 1963, Manna Dey, S.D.Burman): What a touching song this is. A situational song, it conveys the mental state of the singer – a man shunned by the world because of his “ugliness”, a man who has found solace in music as his life is engulfed in darkness. The music and singing are top notch.
7) Apni Toh Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai (Kala Bazar, 1960, Rafi, SDB): If I were asked to choose two of my favourite soundtracks, my picks would be Kala Bazar and Pyaasa. (Which is why they land up in every post that they can!) Look at this song from Kala Bazar – it is sheer genius – be it the lyrics, the melodious music, Rafi’s superlative singing, or the picturisation! Dev Anand looks a million bucks here…He is on the train along with Waheeda Rehman and her parents. The parents for one cannot figure out whom the song is being sung for. It could be a song sung to the almighty, or the daughter who is asleep on the berth above! Simply delightful.
8) O Jaane Wale Ho Sake Toh Laut Ke Aana (Bandini, 1963, Mukesh, SDB): Bandini had some poignant, heart-rending numbers that conveyed the mental distress and state of the protagonist perfectly. Be it the Mere Saajan Hain Us Paar, when Kalyani (Nutan) is torn between going back to her only love, currently ailing (even though he had deserted her) and her new life (with the prison doctor). The words sum up the conflict perfectly – “Main Bandini Piya ki, main sangini hoon saajan ki, Mera Kheenchti hai aanchal, manmeet teri har pukar.
Or for that matter, take that poignant, heart-wrenching lament sung by Asha Bhosle, Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya ko baabul. It conveys the despair, sadness, the futility of the women prisoners completely. Seasons may change, but their situation will not. They are confined to the jail, living only with their memories. Memorable.
And then, there is the haunting, melancholic Mukesh number, foreshadowing Kalyani’s future as she runs away from her village in the middle of the night, cutting all her ties with her family and friends. On one hand, while the words can be construed as philosophical, it is a situational number that helps in moving the story ahead. (“De Deke Yeh Awaaz koi har ghadi bulaye, phir jaaye us paar woh kabhi laut ke na aaye”)
9) Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hain (Guide, 1965, Rafi, SDB): Another one of those soundtracks, where each and every song is a masterpiece. I did not like the movie or Dev’s character one bit but this song is a favourite. It is a wonderful romantic song that has Dev do what he does best – play a man much in love. Add to it, the sublime voice and singing by Rafi saab, SDB’s melodious music and of course Shailendra’s brilliant lyrics depicting true love. Perfect!
10) Aye Chaand Zara Chhup Ja (Laat Saheb, 1967, Asha-Rafi, Shankar-Jaikishen): I had to, had to, include this number. It stars my favourite actor (Shammi Kapoor) and actress (Nutan) and is sung by my favourite singers (Rafi and Asha Bhosle). It is romantic and has the euphoria connected with the first flushes of love – Can time please stand still as they express their feelings to each other?
11) Awara Aye Mere Dil (Raat Aur Din, 1967, Lata Mangeshkar, Shankar-Jaikishen): And finally the wonderful number from Raat Aur Din, Awaara Aye Mere Dil. Sung beautifully by Lata Mangeshkar, this has two versions. The fast version is a joyous one and is picturised on Laxmi Chayya. As she twists and turns to the music, she sings about her life and how it is all about living it fully and enjoying it. It is picturised on Laxmi Chayya. The slow version is picturised on Nargis (in her last film role), who plays a mentally unstable character who doesn’t remember who she is, or where she is from. Both the versions are below:
Shailendra’s output in terms of lyrics is vast and his contribution to Hindi cinema, immense. His biggest talent was the ability to convey a deep, profound thought in the simplest of language. And this truly made him a great poet-lyricist. Shailendra died on December 14, 1966, unable to cope up with the failure of Teesri Kasam, a movie he had produced. Ironically, it won great critical acclaim and a couple of awards after his death.