The very mention of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen conjures up images of beautiful scenes, dances, lighting and unforgettable songs. Raj Kapoor had a knack for mastering and getting the best from every aspect of filmmaking – story telling, drama and emotions, photography, visual effects, choreography and music. After Shanker Jaikishen’s debut in Barsaat, the team of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen went on to create songs that are magical and evergreen. Some of the most popular songs in the 50s and 60s were the result of the magic of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen. There were several reasons why this combination delivered unforgettable songs.
Raj Kapoor had a keen sense of the mood of the general public and wanted to ensure that the common man could identify and emote with his films and songs. He saw songs as the medium to appeal to the common man. This keen sense of the public mood enabled him to ask for and choose songs that could connect instantly with anyone. It is said that Shanker-Jaikishen used to offer at least 5-6 tunes for every situation for Raj Kapoor to choose the best. Raj Kapoor had a keen ear for music and his music sensibilities could identify a ‘hit’ when he heard some of the tunes. Along with Shanker-Jaikishen, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat also made their debut with Barsaat to create a formidable well-bonded team. As a team, the lyrics found a chord and the tunes were simple, appealing and catchy.
Raj Kapoor was able to blend multiple emotions through his story telling, visuals and songs. Most of his films feature a fine blend of joyful and lilting songs, well-choreographed dances, sad songs full of yearning and wistfulness that viewers and listeners could relate to and connect instantly.
Shanker-Jaikishen’s extensive orchestration and an appealing style of composing ensured that most of their songs were hits and stayed high on the popularity charts. In this post, I will highlight some songs that showcase the distinctive Shanker-Jaikishen style and techniques used by Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen to make their tunes catchy and appealing. These songs were in films that featured Raj Kapoor in a main role and are not limited only to films produced under the Raj Kapoor banner.
Enjoy the magic of Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen in the playlist below.
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Shanker-Jaikishen used preludes (music before the vocals start in a song) extensively, sometimes creating lengthy preludes. In a majority of cases, this prelude created the mood for the song visually. A number of their preludes feature a tempo that is picked up quickly at the beginning of the prelude and is maintained throughout the song as in Woh chaand khila (Anari).
Other advantages of a prelude include setting the stage for a dance on the screen like in Sab kuch seekha hamne (Anari). Sometimes, the preludes became ‘signatures’ where you instantly recognize the song on hearing the prelude as in Mera joota hai japani (Shri 420). Also, repeating a certain piece of music in the prelude as in Mera joota hai japani firmly planted the tune in the listeners mind. Sometimes, the prelude became an integral part of the film and became a sort of visual story. Yeh mera prem patr (Sangam) shows different seasons and passage of time to the strains of the prelude to depict the growing love between Rajendra Kumar and Vijayantimala.
Shanker-Jaikishen’s orchestration was a fine blend of western and Indian. Their orchestration ensured that the instrumental effect around the vocal melody created a fine harmony (prelude plus interludes). This balance between harmony and melody gave their songs a sense of completeness and an integrated feel. One feature that stands out in their orchestration is their preference for ‘full-bodied’ sounds. They would make extensive use of a number of violins and other instruments to get this full-bodied effect. When you combine a full-bodied feel and a lively tempo, the result is a tune that captures the imagination of the listener immediately and holds his attention and interest throughout the song. Dattaram (their long time assistant since Barsaat) said that they strived to create tunes with uninterrupted rhythm.
How can one forget the stunning visual of Nimmi with her fluttering dupatta in Hawa mein udtha jaye (Barsaat) that made you feel the wind in the lovely locales of Kashmir? Observe the use of violins and instruments in the prelude to create a full-bodied effect. This song was set to a lively tempo like the other hit Jiya beqarar hai in Barsaat. I must confess that in my younger days, I was often confused between these two lively songs in Barsaat with the song Jawaan hai mohabbat (Anmol Ghadi). To me, they sounded alike when I was too young to know the difference. Later, I was able to identify the composers and the films to which they belonged. Luckily the other lively Lata solo in Barsaat, Mujhe kisise pyaar did not create any such confusion. Shanker-Jaikishen’s lively tempo was not restricted to solos. They created a lovely tempo and used the flute for a lively effect in the rain in the evergreen duet Pyar hua ikraar hua (Shree 420). In all these songs, the full-bodied orchestration and the brisk tempo are very appealing parts of the song, apart from the lovely melodies, of course. (Interestingly, later day composers did away with the techniques of violin background for vocals and as fillers in vocal pauses, a style so prominently used by Shanker-Jaikishen)
The descending notes are perhaps the most easily identifiable Shanker-Jaikishen style. Even composers before Shanker-Jaikishen produced songs with descending notes. But this style came to be more closely associated with Shanker-Jaikishen than anyone else. Shanker-Jaikishen start a mukhda line in the higher notes and gradually make each line of the mukhda end on a lower note. Sometimes, only the main line of the mukhda had descending notes. This style also complements their preference for full-bodied sounds. The lower notes in the octave obviously sound more full bodied than higher notes. The two lovely duets in Chori Chori, Aaja sanam madhur chandni and Yeh raat bheegi bheegi are outstanding examples of this style (The opening lines of Aaja sanam madhur chandni resemble portions of the Italian folk song Tarantella). Shanker-Jaikishen used this style extensively and were not averse to using it in ‘sad ‘ situations like in Tera jaana (Anari).
Another well remembered descending notes song is Sajan re jhoot mat bolo (Teesri Kasam). Yeh raat bheegi bheegi also features interesting vocal counterpoint. (Counterpoint means two melodies being sung or played at the same time but with different shapes and contours). Lata’s lovely introduction into the song when Manna Dey is singing his melody is a “vocal counterpoint” treat for the ears, albeit a short one. Notice also the repeating words bheegi bheegi, dheere dheere and pyaara pyaara lend a beautiful rhythm to this song and a sense of completeness.
Raj Kapoor movies often featured emotional elements full of pathos which brought out the best in Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra.
Jo tumse hai mere humdum, Bhagwan se bhi woh aas nahi and
Yeh dharti hai insaanon ki, Kuch aur nahin insaan hai hum
were heart tugging lyrics in O mere sanam (Sangam). Shanker-Jaikishen captured the pathos of the lyrics beautifully in this well composed tune. Hoton pe sacchaai (Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai), touches the heart with the simple, patriotic lyrics with Raj Kapoor’s special emphasis on simple words for a theme song. Mera Naam Joker may have been a box office failure, but its music was spectacular especially for the two tunes with heart tugging lyrics – Jeena yahan marna yahan (“Shaily” Shailendra) and Jane kahaan gaye woh din. Often, Shanker-Jaikishen would choose to compose the mukhda in a ‘short’ line to make the mukhda easy to sing. They would also make the tune into a ‘straight’ tune without too many undulations or curves to enable even a common man to sing. Jeena yahan marna yahan is a great example of heart touching, unforgettable and simple lyrics that everyone could sing in a short, straight tune.
Jaane kahaan gaye woh din also features a lovely arrangement of full bodied violins that start the ‘signature’ prelude to pathos filled strains. Though this may have nothing to do with music, I remember a brilliant piece of direction in this movie. On board a flight, we are shown Rajendra Kumar with a FORTUNE magazine, Padmini with a LIFE magazine and Raj Kapoor with a TIME magazine. The camera closes in with the 3 actors burying their faces in the magazine. This symbolism depicts the nature of the 3 characters beautifully.
In keeping with their preference for full-bodied sound, Shanker-Jaikishen also specialized in the use of certain instruments that had a rich and full-bodied tone. They made the rich sounding accordion an integral part of the catchy Awara hoon (Awara) tune. This song showed that the Shanker-Jaikishen magic could cross national boundaries and appeal to people in other countries as well. My personal favorite in the use of accordion is Har dil jo pyaar karega (Sangam). The beautiful accordion elevates this well composed tune to a different level of melody.
Mera naam Raju (Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai) features daf (percussion instrument) with its rich and full bodied sound played beautifully by Dattaram (Dattaram, their long time associate was a ‘sitting’ musician, assistant and rhythm player who took care of the rhythm section while Sebastian D’souza, the other assistant took care of the other arrangements and conducting, for most of their films, though not all). Jaane na nazar (Aah) and Duniya banana wale (Teesri kasam) feature beautiful use of the flute. Notice that they used clarinet to add more ‘body’ to the flute in Jaane na nazar and used a rich sounding flute in Duniya banana wale. Diwana mujkho log kahe (Diwana) features lovely use of the resonant bagpipes with their rich tones.
Raj Kapoor movies invariably had a common man dance scene or situation that lent itself to a folk based tune. Lata Mangeshkar’s Panchi banoon udthe (Chori Chori) is one of the finest Shanker-Jaikishen compositions with a lovely folksy touch. Chalat musafir (Teesri Kasam) stands out for rustic flavor. Asha Bhonsle’s classical base enables her to straddle all the notes effortlessly in Paan khaiyye saiyyaan (Teesri Kasam). Shanker with his Andhra Pradesh upbringing set the Telugu words Ramaiyya vastavaiyya beautifully to dance music in Shree 420.
Raj Kapoor was the visionary, Shanker-Jaikishen, Shailendra and Hasrat were the creative spirits, and the legendary singers delivered to perfection.
Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen wrote a magical chapter in Hindi film music. In my view, this magic ended with Mera Naam Joker (although, later Shanker-Jaikishen were also in Kal Aaj aur Kal). To use a cricket analogy, Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen opened the innings and went on to score double centuries each in a 500 run opening partnership, before Shanker-Jaikishen were “out”. Later Raj Kapoor went on to play some more with others but his and the team innings ended at a score of 600. While the total score was 600, one only remembers the great stand of 500 between Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen and their double centuries. It is pertinent to note that later Raj Kapoor produced movies like Henna, Ram Teri Ganga Maili also featured Ravindra Jain composing in typical Shanker-Jaikishen style with descending notes (Main hoon khush rang henna, for example was trying to emulate the descending style).
During this glorious innings together, each success took Shanker-Jaikishen further on their rise to dizzying heights of popularity. Shanker-Jaikishen also received enviable recognition from peers, industry and the listeners for their appealing and popular scores. There were several other interesting innings in the illustrious career of this charismatic duo who brought a distinctive style to their music and made Hindi film music so memorable. Stay tuned for more posts on this ‘larger than life’ magical duo.