Shankar-Jaikishan were the greatest musical duo to have graced the world of Hindi cinema. So great was the impact of their creative genius that it had a lasting impact on the music of the Hindi films. Shankar-Jaikishan understood the taste of the masses, were able to cater to them, as well as moulded their tastes. No wonder then that during their tenure as music directors, they were exceedingly popular and 75 per cent of the films for which their scores were reounding hits - many have celebrated silver jubilees.
Shankar was born as Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi on October 15, 1922. His fathers name was Ram Singh Raghuvanshi, while Jaikishan was born as Jaikishan Dayabhai Paanchal on November 4, 1932 in Basanda, Gujrat. Neither Shankar nor Jaikishan were keen on education. Their schooling, as best, may be considered as scanty. Their love for music lured them away from any kind of systematic scholastic persuit.
Shankar's passion was the tabla. He learnt the fundamentals from Baba Nasir Khansahib. Through ceaseless practice and marathon riyaaz sessions, he mastered his skills and developed his own style. Jaikishan's interests were singing and playing harmonium. His first lessons in music were with Sangeet Visharad Wadilalji. He studied clasical music from Prem Shankar Nayak. On moving to Bombay, he studied under Vinayak Tambe. Shankar and Jaikishan, throughout their career, preferred their own favourite instruments: the tabla and the harmonium.
Shankar, initially joined a theatre group run by Satyanarayan and Hemawati. He then become a member of Prithvi Theatres, where he played the tabla and undertook minor roles in the company's plays. Jaikishan was on the lookout for a job related to music and Shankar introduced him to Prithvi thetres as a harmonium player. Susequently, they worked as assistants to the celebrated composer pair Husnlal-Bhagatram and imbibed much of their form and structure, which they successfully employed in a refined style. Shankar-Jaikishan both had a penchant for acting. Initially they happily undertook bit roles in Prithvi Theatres' plays, and, later they both played significant roles in the company's play Pathan. Shankar played a fisherman in R.K films Aag (1948), while Jaikishan acted in two films : Shri 420 (1955) and Begunaah (1957). The popular song 'Aei Pyaase Dil Bezubaan..' from the film Begunaah was picturised on him.
Raj Kapoor introduced Shankar-Jaikishan to the Film world with Barsaat (1949). Barsaat was also the first film for the lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. The team thus formed with Barsaat remained as a unit till the end. Together they gave a number of hits like: Barsat, Aah, Aawara, Shri 420, Chori-Chori, Boot Polish, Anari, Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai, Main Nashe Me Hoon, Aashiq, Deewana, Ek Dil Sau Afsaane, Sangam, Teesri Kasam and Mera Naam Jokar. Shankar-Jaikishan mainly worked with Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. Apart from the personal preference and proximity related to friendship, this division of work was more in accordance with the composition patterns of the two composers. Shankar always loved composing serious thematic songs witha lot of emotional content that only Shailendra could do justice to, whereas Jaikishan was more into composing light hearted romatntic songs that came so naturally to Hasrat Jaipuri.
The superb chemistry between these four was not merely because they were great artists. It was more because they were all great friends and companions who who enjoyed each other's company to the fullest. So many songs came into being, based on their real life co-experiences. Like 'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh' from Shri 420 was an on the spot creation by Shailendra who was teasing Jaikishan for looking back repeatedly at a passer by - a beautiful lady, of course! 'Ramaiya Vasta Vaiya' from the same film sparked off when these friends,going on a walk, happened to listen to a folk song sung by some building workers nearby.
Then came the black day of December 13, 1966 when lyricist Shailendra left the material world. With the sad demise of Hasrat Jaipuri the dream team disintegrated. The remaining three members could never really revive the magic of old and their combined work over the next few years was nothing to cheer about. On 12th September 1971, Jaikishan took his final bow from the stage and left the scene forever. Although Shankar still continued to compose under the Shankar-Jaikishan label for many more years, it wasn't even a patch on the vintage S-J stuff. On 26th April 1987, Shankar also bid us final adieu.
Though today, these four great artists are no more with us, their legacy - the superb songs they made together have become an integral part of every music lover's psyche.