Shankar-Jaikishan: The two decided to team up after assisting Ram Ganguly, then the music director for Prithvi Theatres' plays who also composed for Raj Kapoor's debut as a filmmaker, Aag. Raj Kapoor's close relative Vishwa Mehra let Kapoor on to the secret of how extensive was the two young assistants' contribution to his debut film, and he signed S-J as a duo for Barsaat. Shankar came from a ballet background and was a trained musician, and Jaikishan, also trained, was the son of a musician to royalty in Gujarat.
The duo split in the mid-'60s but continued to work separately under the baton of Shankar-Jaikishan, collaborating only on a few films like those of Raj Kapoor and select others. Jaikishan passed away in 1971 and Shankar's career, despite Lal Patthar and Sanyasi, reached a trough. The last film with the S-J name was Gori (1992), which only managed to release five years after Shankar's death in 1987.
Hasrat Jaipuri: Hasrat Jaipuri was 'discovered' by Raj Kapoor's father Prithviraj Kapoor at a mushaira. He had come down to Mumbai and was working as a bus conductor. He was the first of the two lyricists to be signed and recorded.
Hasrat kept his job for a while even after Kapoor put him on a salary without any restrictions on outside work, but after Barsaat there was no stopping him. He is the lyricist who probably worked with the maximum number of big and small composers' right till the late '90s. He passed away in 1999.
After Shailendra's death, however, Hasrat did a negligible quantum of solo films with S-J since others lyricists like Rajendra Krishan, Neeraj, Indeewar, S.H.Bihari and many more came in. The trend continued after Jaikishan's death and there were several films done by Shankar that did not have Hasrat in them at all.
Shailendra: Shailendra, a railway employee, was noticed by Raj Kapoor even earlier at a similar mushaira but being a Left activist and a member of the Indian People's Theater Association had refused to commercialize himself and had turned down Aag. He later approached Kapoor himself when he needed the money as his wife was pregnant.
Shailendra was a major force like the other three and their quartet reigned till the late 'Sixties when Laxmikant-Pyarelal-Anand Bakshi overtook them. Shailendra himself produced a film, Teesri Kasam, which won critical acclaim but made him lose money and his peace of mind. Poignantly, this man who also formed hit teams with S.D.Burman and Salil Chowdhury and worked with many more passed away on Kapoor's birthday in 1966.
That S-J are legendary as composers is axiomatic. Rightly termed the fathers of modern film music, their school has been followed even now, covertly or otherwise. Even the supposedly-divergent schools of R.D.Burman and A.R.Rahman are essentially nothing but tweaked versions of S-J's universally-appealing school.
With their debut film itself, S-J, forever, changed the path of Hindi film music. They refined orchestration, gave film music its own distinct identity, made songs cheerful and 'alive' and brought in so much variety that the monotony of the pre-S-J era was junked. Music directors who were big names when they arrived had to adapt and reinvent or fade away.
A lot of the musical innovations in both composition/vocals and arrangements were mistakenly credited to later composers were actually pioneered by this supremely talented duo that thought nothing of doing ten films at a time when the norm was do two or three films and still yield higher quality and variety. They were unbeaten at the box-office too, and no one could overtake them for over 15 years till the two parted ways for reasons more speculated than confirmed.
S-J not only gave Raj Kapoor and RK Films their signature stamps but also made Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh in particular forge their original paths rather than emulate their respective idols Noorjehan and K.L.Saigal, while maintaining their soft corners for Mohammed Rafi in particular and also Manna Dey. Shammi Kapoor instantly took to them and they formed redoubtable teams also with filmmakers like Amiya Chakraborty, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, F.C.Mehra, Shakti Samanta, Lekh Tandon, Bhappi Sonie and many others, including Sohanlal Kanwar later.
Besides Raj and Shammi, Rajendra Kumar, Saira Banu, Sadhana, Nargis, Nutan and Vyjayanthimala were the big stars whose hit parades were led by the duo. They composed, apart from the all-hit debut Barsaat, also Awara (whose title-track was the first to become a Hindi cult song abroad), Shree 420, Aah, Boot Polish, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Mera Naam Joker and Kal Aaj Aur Kal for the RK banner alone. Of the approximately 125 films they did in Jaikishan's lifetime, the many other highs included Anari, Chori Chori, Asli Naqli, Love Marriage, Arzoo, Dil Ek Mandir, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Daag (Dilip Kumar), Junglee, Sasural, Brahmchari, Ayee Milan Ki Bela, Suraj, Arzoo, Rajkumar, Janwar, Professor, Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan, Shikar and many more: an amazing mine of melodies that have long proved their timelessness and were also chartbusters that made their movies run to packed houses. Alternatively, even S-J's flops like a Raat Aur Din, Nargis' home production – remain cult musicals!
Showing their astounding range and justifying their high price (they reportedly charged Rs 16 lakh for Arzoo – Rs 8 lakh each!), the inimitable duo was the first choice both for glamorous films shot abroad (Singapore, Sangam, An Evening In Paris, Love In Tokyo) that needed a Western tang as well as classically-demanding subjects like Basant Bahar and Amrapali besides folk stories like Teesri Kasam.
The Special Bond
The chartbusters were legion. Who does not know 'Mera Joota Hai Japani' (Shree 420), 'Bol Radha Bol' and 'Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padh Kar' (Sangam), 'Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh' (Dil Apna…), 'Yahoo' (Junglee), 'Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche' (Brahmachari), 'Baharon Phool Barsaao' and 'Titli Udi' (Suraj), 'Paan Khaaye Saiyyan Hamaro' (Teesri Kasam), 'Nakhrewali' (New Delhi), 'Aasmaan Se Aaya Farishta' (An Evening In Paris), 'Sur Na Saje' (Basant Bahar) or 'Parde Mein Rehene Do' (Shikar) to mention a miniscule number of drops in the S-J ocean?
All these songs were penned by either of these two gentlemen, and there is good reason to believe that Jaikishan preferred Hasrat and Shankar Shailendra, even though this was not an exclusive arrangement. S and J, even when together, were said to compose and arrange songs independently. This, if it led to ease when they split, also got vested interests to credit the great compositions of one to the other after they passed away!
When S-J signed their first film without their pets, College Girl (1960) with topper Rajendra Krishan, Shailendra was furious and convinced Hasrat too not to work with S-J, even though both were working for other composers! S-J quickly patched up with a historic bhelpuri-eating outing at Chowpatty and never looked outside again till Shailendra passed away! But they loyally stood by their writers, losing assignments like B.R.Chopra's Waqt because they did not want to work with anyone else, in this case, Sahir Ludhianvi!
The bond remained personal throughout, with both the lyricists' progenies recalling affectionately their parents' unshakeable dosti and the music duo repeatedly on social networking sites to the day. There was a general impression that Hasrat wrote the lightweight rhymes and Shailendra was the man with the depth as well as range, but it was Hasrat who wrote a 'Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana' (Andaz) and Shailendra who penned the frothy 'Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche' (Brahmchari)! So formidable was their range and so speedy were they at work that it became unimportant who wrote which and how many songs in a single S-J film. In fact there are a few albums in which the lyrics are not even separately credited!