Jaikishan - The Eternal Prince of Hindi Film Music

An exclusive interview with Bhairavi Jaikishan!

Bhairavi Jaikishan
She is Jaikishan's darling daughter! Although she lost her beloved dad at an early age, Bhairavi Jaikishan reconstructs her image of him in this 'straight from the heart' conversation with Sandeep Apte. Bhairavi has NEVER spoken about her father before!

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“Ajeeb Dastan Hain Yeh,
Kaha Shuru Kaha Khatam,
Yeh Manzilein Hain Kaun Si,
Na Woh Samajh Sake Na Hum!”

A group of boisterous, spunky BPO employees, in their twenties croon this song on their picnic.

A newly introduced starlet hums this song in the latest Bollywood musical - Rock On!

Even the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa kind of television shows can scarcely ever outgrow such melodies!

Bhairavi Jaikishan and her brothers with Shankarjibeen almost half a century, 1960, to be precise that Shankar Jaikishan composed this song for the film Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai. In its time, the song was a runaway hit. The score for the film won many an award for Shankar Jaikishan. And that was to be the story of almost every film of Shankar Jaikishan!

That awesome body of work of Shankar Jaikishan was destined for something even more elevating … their work has become immortal and lives on - in the hearts, minds and lips of music fans all over the globe even today and in forms which the duo would have scarcely imagined!

On September 12, 1971, Jaikishan, the handsome prodigy of the duo, who had barely touched his forties, passed away. An event that shocked SJ fans in India and throughout the world. Thousands of them lined up outside his Marine Drive residence to pay their tributes. As the procession made its way & passed by the restaurant Gaylords, which used to be Jaikishan’s favorite hangout, some radio set filled the air with pathos - “Aye Mere Dil Kahi Aur Chal … Dhoond Le Ab Koi Ghar Naya” … another SJ all time great tune. Today that crossroad is Shankar Jaikishan Chowk, a tribute paid to the duo by the metropolis of Mumbai.

“It is all about how you look at life … you never know where you would start and where you would end … life is a journey like that.” Bhairavi Jaikishan, the daughter of that genius father is philosophical as she recalls the life and times of her famous father. “I was just four years old when he passed away. And in that sense, I hardly can remember him! My image of him is based on what I have heard about him and read.” she adds. A sensitive introvert, pride shines across her face as she smiles and looks back at that man called Jaikishan!

Bhairavi Jaikishan is today a celebrated fashion designer whose work is popular internationally especially in Europe & the US. “I keep running into people who are Shankar Jaikishan fans all over the world! They talk about my father and his work so passionately that I am left simply astonished. Often, I am just overwhelmed and sometimes do not even know how to respond to such affection. For me, it is all so close and personal - a very sensitive aspect of my life,” she confides.

Bhairavi Jaikishan in her childhoodAs a child I had very long hair and one day I picked up a pair of scissors and cut it! I can recall my dad being very upset because of it!” she smiles with a glint in the eyes “That is the only memory of him which is still vivid in my mind. For me, my father’s persona is based on an image, one which I have imagined for myself based on what I have heard from family members & people close to him. For my father, the inspiration of work was - life itself. And that is also true for me. Being in a creative field, I too try and follow this approach in my work.”

We sit and chat by the poolside of a club in a Mumbai suburb - Bhairavi, her actor husband Rajiv and four year old son,  Aranyah Jai Tara who stares at a biography of SJ on the table, points at a photograph says “Naanu” and smiles! “Yes indeed, my father remains very much alive in our world, my son’s middle name is after my father so I always have a bit of him with me, wherever I am.” She pulls Aranyah close to her, “After my dad passed away, my mother Pallavi was a pillar of strength who did all she could to fill that huge void. We have not really had any connection with the film world, although all of us have a heritage of melodies which Shankar Jaikishan created. Just the other day, Aranyah surprised all of us when he played ‘Mera Joota Hain Japani’ on the keyboards all on his own! And that also is one of my favorite SJ songs! It captures what is quintessentially India!”

As we sip tea in the club & chat, some cell phone rings in the distance and the ring tone is of those famous opening bars of ‘Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi’ from Awara, an all time great tune of Hindi cinema.

“I made that ringtone!” remarks Harry Anand, reputed to be the ‘king of remixes’ in the Bollywood of today! “And I knew that this would be a hit! Today, you would hear it everywhere, in five star hotels and in auto rickshaws!”

In the remix business for over a decade now, Harry plays one of his recent releases -  a remixed version of ‘Badan Pe Sitare Lapete Huye’. “Just listen to that emphatic opening! What can one say about Shankar Jaikishan?” Harry muses. “Their work is simply too awesome! What melodies! Even as I say this, I am getting goose pimples!” He smiles.”I make it a point not to touch that divine melody structure. Yes, I do change the rhythms lending it a quicker pace and cadence. After all, that is what the younger generation of today wants!” Harry has a look of modesty as he adds, “It is simply the finest, old wine and all I do is present it in new, contemporary bottles!”

Badan Pe Sitare was a SJ song which underscored the debonair Shammi Kapoor persona! And the song remains fresh as ever! “The song is a favorite of ours too,” remarks Bhairavi’s husband Rajiv, “Just the other day, I mentioned to some friends that this was one SJ song which could get remixed because of its bold, romantic flavor and within weeks we were astonished to see the remix video version on television!”

Hasrat Jaipuri had mentioned the curious genesis of this song! On a trip to Paris in the 60s, Jaikishan & he visited a night club and as they looked at the glittering costumes of dancers under the lights,  Jaikishan not only began to hum a tune but also wrote the ‘mukhda’ or opening line on a piece of paper! Hasrat completed the song and they recorded it for Shammi Kapoor’s ‘Prince’ immediately on their return to Mumbai!

Shankar Jaikishan introduced music of many flavours from all over the world in their compositions. From the Beatles to Arabic music, from a Ron Goodwin melody to Russian tunes. The result was that Indians developed musical sensibilities and a ear not just for only pure Indian classical music but the Indian taste went truly international! A favorite choice of many diehard SJ fans is ‘Shankar Jaikishan Raga Jazz Style’ a non film album where SJ have performed a dozen classical Indian ragas from Yaman to Bhairavi in a Jazz form!

Shankar Jakishan unshackled Hindi Film music from the classical framework. As purists smirked, tunes of Shankar Jaikishan reached out to the the ‘common man’ who to date, continues to hum them and keeps them alive!  And the melodies were playing everywhere - in plush homes of the rich and famous, to the slums; on expensive ‘imported’ record players and on humble radio sets. Hindi Film music truly went global with Shankar Jaikishan.  In India and overseas. From Greece to the Gaza strip. Even today, SJ are popular everywhere … Sri Lanka, Russia, China, Japan, Europe, Pakistan & even USA!

Listen to the soulful Rafi number ‘Yaad Na Jaaye Beete Dinonki” from Dil Ek Mandir. And listen to the Spanish ‘original’ Besame Mucho and one is left awestruck! The feel is similar but to the Indian ear - it is the pathos of the SJ-Rafi rendition which touches the heart! This was a typical Jaikishan characteristic. The ability to get inspired by music of all kinds and transform it magically so that the ‘Dil’ remained Hindustani!

And little wonder that the work of Shankar Jaikishan has followers all over the world even today, decades after they created it!

“We are a Yahoo group dedicated to Shankar Jaikishan with more than 500 SJ fans from all over the world!” says Dr. Chander Mehta moderator of the group who is based in Houston, USA. “Every fortnight, we discuss one film of Shankar Jaikishan, the current release is Yahudi!” he smiles. “Last year, we  released a comprehensive database of Shankar Jaikishan’s work which would be available to all SJ fans! Every song they composed, the film, the year, the artistes involved - and that work shall continue. We want to invite and knit together one community of SJ fans from all over the world and our dream is to document and archive their work for future generations.”

For a man who learnt music by singing bhajans in the villages of Gujarat, Jaikishan and his work went a long way! As a teenager, he had fled his village in Gujarat to make it to Mumbai and discover his destiny through music - his story is yet another rags to riches & fame saga.

The late Dattaram Wadkar, assistant of SJ and later an independent music director recalled, “Jaikishan used to visit Shree Sound Studios at Dadar with the hope of meeting a lot of producers and directors! It is here that he met Shankar who was then employed with Prithvi Theatres as a musician. Shankar introduced him to Prithviraj Kapoor - as a talented harmonium player and Jaikishan got his first break as a musician. The duo worked on many Prithvi Theatre productions. When Raj Kapoor made Barsaat, he chose Shankar Jaikishan as music directors. And they made history! Raj Kapoor had also roped in Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri to make the formidable team which was to shape Hindi Film Music for decades to come!”

Shankar Jaikishan poured out the melodies after Barsaat. What followed was Awara which was a score completely different and refreshing; it went on to be a landmark of Hindi cinema! And after that there was no stopping SJ! Sample this excerpt from their work - Daag, Boot Polish, Seema, Shree 420, Basant Bahar, Chori Chori, Anari, Chhoti Bahen, Ujala, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hain, Junglee, Asli Naqli, Dil Tera Diwana, Hariyali Aur Rasta, Professor, Dil Ek Mandir, Rajkumar, Sangam, Gumnaam, Janwar, An Evening in Paris, Brahmachari, Jhuk Gaya Aasman, Prince, Mera Naam Joker & Andaz!

In fact, SJ gave the on screen stars a musical lustre and created a persona for Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar and numerous other stars. Consider these ‘images’!

Bharat Bhushan in Basant Bahar singing Duniya Na Bhaye Mohe.
‘Junglee’ Shammi Kappor cascading down snow clad mountains with Yahoo!
Balraj Sahni humming the dignified prayer - Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hain in Seema.
Rajendra Kumar wooing his beloved with Chashme Buddoor in Sasural!

Net result: Stars shining bright and the box office was ringing in the cash! Films would be lopped up by distributors - just so long as the credits said Music by Shankar Jaikishan!

“I remember Jaisaab was a very simple, yet elegant man.” reminisced Dattaram. “He would wear shorts or a pajama with a shirt. Later, after he was successful and prosperous he became one of the most stylishly dressed, handsome personalities I have seen. He liked the finest clothes, the best cars and of course lived life to the fullest! When I look back, I feel I am blessed to have lived and worked so closely with such a personality!” He adds, “I can never forget a party at a five star hotel where all stars were present including the big three of that era - Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar & Dev Anand who were all at their peak. Obviously they were all mobbed by fans, especially the girls! My boss Jaisaab, walked in a little late and all those girls simply ran towards him deserting those big stars! Such was his style & magnetic charisma!”

No other Hindi Film music director was blessed with such rock star like aura or fame!

Bhairavi Jaikishan with Pallavi JaikishanA fashion designer, Bhairavi Jaikishan offers another perspective! “I remain simply awestruck by that personality! His wardrobe was the best in the world and he was simply good taste personified! He could mix around in the glitterati in style! Some of the accessories he wore are my proudest possessions - particularly a Topaz ring, which I wear on those special moments when I remember him! Celebrities and glamorous people today take great pains & effort to look good! For my dad, I guess it came effortlessly!”

That rare charm & charisma also found expression in some of Jaikishan’s songs which are amongst his daughter’s favorites. “I like many of his romantic melodies like Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padhkar, Aa Ja Sanam, or Kaun Hain Jo Sapno Mein Aaya which is such a fun song … yes I have heard the Elvis original too, or Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi! Another favorite of mine is Baharo Phool Barsao - go for any wedding even today & it is always being played, as if it is an integral part of the celebration … one of the best I like is of course Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din.

Often, I wonder where that style, that charisma and that elegance has vanished … it just seems lost today!”

To this day, many people believe that Jaikishan was one of the finest human beings to have graced the Hindi film industry! Many owe their careers in films to him! In his autobiography, Ismail Merchant, mentions how he was a humble student of Xavier’s College Mumbai. Jaikishan organized many a musical show and helped Merchant to go to the US and make his international career as a film maker! Jaikishan helped scores of people generously, stood by them through hard times, encouraged them and did all this with a smile!

“My image of my dad too is that he was a good soul with a heart of gold. In today’s day of superficial relations, I try hard to make it a point to incorporate these qualities in the kind of person I want to be. I also believe that wherever he may be, he is always looking out for me and I know he will never let harm come to me in any form.” She adds, “In fact, I keep telling my son that as well. He thinks his naanu is sitting up with God and looking at everything he does. If he is a good boy, then naanu is very happy and proud of him!”

When Jaikishan passed away in 1971, Shankar Jaikishan were still at the top. One of his last compositions - Zindagi Ek Safar Hain Suhana from Andaz was a chart topper. Bhairavi reflects “In fact, Hasrat Jaipuri wrote the lyrics of this song based on how my father lived his life! He really lived life to the full and that remains my inspiration too! After all, what else is there to life?” Bhairavi smiles!

Annexure:

Bhairavi’s list of her all time favorite Shankar Jaikishan compositions …
1. Zindagi, ek safar
2. Baharon phool barsaon
3. Ye mere prem patra pad kar
4. Kaun he jo sapno me
5. Mera joota hai japani
6. Badan pe sitaare
7. Aaja sanam
8. Parde mein rehne do
9. Ajeeb dastaan hai ye
10. Jaane kahan gayee woh din
11. Yeh raat bheegi bheegi
12. Barsaat mein