Shankar-Jaikishan, along with other artists, wrote "everlasting" and "immortal melodies" in fifties and sixties. Their best work was noted for being "raga-based and having both lilt and sonority"
Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi (25 October 1922 – 26 April 1987) born in Punjab moved to Hyderabad while Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal (4 November 1929 – 12 September 1971) belonged to Bansda (Vansada), Gujarat.
During his formative years, Shankar played the tabla and learned the art formally from Baba Nasir Khansahib. For many years, Shankar studied as a disciple of the legendary composer Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, in whose orchestra he performed. Jaikishan was adept at playing the harmonium. Subsequently, he obtained his musical lessons from Sangeet Visharad Wadilalji and later from Prem Shankar Nayak. After moving to Bombay, he became a disciple of Vinayak Tambe. Shankar started his career with a theater group run by Satyanarayan and Hemawati, before shifting to Prithvi Theatre where he played tabla and performed some minor roles in plays. Shankar worked as assistant to the leading composer duo of Husnlal Bhagatram.
Apart from working at Prithvi theaters, Shankar used to frequently visit the office of a Gujrati director Chandravadan Bhatt who had promised Shankar that he would give him a break as a Music Director as and when he produced a film. It was outside the office of Mr Bhatt that Shankar saw `ek dubla patla sunder 'ladka' also sitting a number of times. Although they never spoke to each other, one fine day, Shankar took the initiative of starting the conversation and then discovered that his name was Jaikishan and he too used to visit the same producer in search of some work related to music and that he was a Harmonium player. Shankar later recollected that their vibes were right from the very beginning i.e. right from their first meeting itself they developed liking for each other (rather than any feelings of rivalry which could have been natural since both were visiting Mr Bhatt for similar reason) and it was he who then and there assured Jaikishan of the job of a Harmonium player at Prithvi theaters (without asking Prithviraj Kapoor, fondly referred to as 'Papaji'). Of course, later, Papaji honoured Shankar's selection and gladly accepted Jaikishan as a Harmonium player at Prithvi. Soon, the two of them developed very close friendship to the extent that the people started refererring to them as `Ram-Lakshman' ki jodi and by several similar-meaning nick names. It was during this phase that Shankar and Jaikishan developed a very deep bond of friendship, mutual understanding and regard for each other and made up their mind to work together as a musical team. Apart from following their musical pursuits, they also used to play significant roles in various plays including the famous play "Pathan".
While working in Prithvi Theaters, Shankar and Jaikishan, apart from working in the music department there, used to compose tunes and were in touch with Raj Kapoor, who was working as an assistant to the famous director Kidar Sharma and was aspiring to be an actor/director. Thus, the three had met at Prithvi Theater, run by Raj Kapoor's father, Prithviraj Kapoor.
Then Raj Kapoor made his debut as a director with the film Aag in 1948. While the film received a mixed response at the box office, its musical score (in which the music director Ram Ganguli was assisted by Shankar and Jaikishan) proved to be quite popular. However, during the recording of some song for his new venture Barsaat, Raj Kapoor had some serious differences with Ram Ganguly, the music composer of the film and decided to assign its music to Shankar who insisted on taking Jaikishan as his partner and thus came into existence the new pair of music directors(MD) named 'Shankar-Jaikishan' who gave landmark, path-breaking and trend-setting music for the RK production Barsaat in 1949.
Himself being a trained singer (he and Mukesh learned vocal music from the same Guru) and having an ear for good music, Raj Kapoor thus, took on board, a completely new team of composers Shankar and Jaikishan and lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri (a former bus conductor). On the insistence of Shankar, he and SJ co-opted the upcoming singing talent Lata Mangeshkar, and repeated Mukesh as Raj Kapoor's ghost voice for the various songs of Barsaat. In due course, this team was to prove to be one of the most successful musical combinations.
Barsaat was a super hit, both commercially and more so musically. Among other things, it established Lata Mangeshkar as the undisputed queen of Hindi film music. It also had the distinction of giving two firsts to Hindi cinema – a title song ("Barsaat Mein Humse Mile") and a cabaret ("Patli Kamar Hai"). The film propelled Shankar-Jaikishan on the road to musical super-stardom and to a stature that remains unmatched to this date.
Shankar-Jaikishan made a significant contribution in promoting Indian classical music throughout their career. It was their established practice to have at least one song in a movie based on semi-classical style. These included songs like `Jhanak-jhanak tori baje payaliya' (Mere Huzoor), `Chham chham baje re payaliya' (Jane-anjane), `Radhike tune bansari churayi' (Beti Bete), `Manmohana bade jhoothe' (old `Seema'), `Koi matwala aya mere dware' (Love in Tokyo), `Ajahu na ayae baalma, sawan beeta jaye' (Sanjh aur Savera), `Lapak jhpak tu aa re badarwa' (Boot polish), `Ye barkha bahar sautaniya ke dwar' (Mayur pankh), `Re man sur mein ga' (Lal pathar), `Sooni sooni sans ke sitar par' (Naina), `Kate na kate raina' (Mera naam joker) and numerous others. Their music in `Basant Bahar' and Amrapali both of which had every song based upon Indian classical music. While "raga Bhairavi" remained their perennial favorite, SJ used a variety of Raagas in their compositions.
Shankar Jaikishan also used the western classical-based waltz rhythm in a number of songs.
Shankar-Jaikishan gave a new style and meaning to the genre of sad songs by composing them on a fast tempo. Songs like "Zindagi Mein Hardam Rota Hi Raha" (Barsaat), "Tera Jana Dil Ke Armanon" (Anari), "Haye Tu Hi Gaya Mohe Bhool Re" (Kathputli), "Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal' (Daag) and "Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raate" (Patita) demonstrated this. The last two songs, along with many others (notably "Awaara Hoon" from the film Awaara), also demonstrate the composers’ use of musical instruments – a harmonium is used to produce the effect of a piano accordion.
Jaikishan died in 1971 due to cirrhosis of liver, a disease caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. At the time of his death, the duo enjoyed an unparalleled popularity which was underlined by a massive turnout at his funeral procession. Gaylord, a restaurant at Churchgate (Mumbai) where Jaikishan used to be a regular visitor, mourned the death of its illustrious patron by lighting a candle on his favorite table for one month and keeping it out of bounds for other guests with the sign "Reserved for Mr. Jaikishan".
After Jaikishan's death, Shankar carried on with the banner of Shankar-Jaikishan alone (as per their mutual understanding made during their lifetime that in case of the demise of any one of them, the surviving partner will continue to work with the same team name). He was clearly hampered by numerous reasons such as the departure of his soul-mate Jaikishan his favorite lyricist Shailendra, betrayal of Raj Kapoor, continued Shankar-bashing and false propaganda by his rivals and lack of motivation on his own part due to which his music appeared to suffer in comparison to S-J's own high standards. Also, in spite of his continued experimentation on music, the projects themselves for which he worked did not turn out to be commercial successes due to which even his good scores went largely un-noticed.
According to Lata Mangeshkar herself, it was the late Mohd. Rafi who brought about a rapprochement between the two and she did start singing again for Shankar starting from Sohan Lal Kanwar's `Sanyasi' and several other films later. Although Shankar's creations during this period for Lata as well as other singers like Rafi, Kishore, Manna Dey were quite good, most of these went un-noticed due to non-descript status of such films which bombed at the box office. His most-successful musical hit was Sanyasi in 1975 for which he scored all songs and the entire background score based upon SJ's favorite Raag Bhairavi to prove the point that SJ' Bhairavi was as much Shankar's as that of Jaikishan !
After Sanyasi, although some of Shankar's later songs did exhibit flashes of the old maestro's brilliance, overall, these films (Aatmaram, D-Jhooth, Garam Khoon, Papi Pet Ka Sawal Hai, Chorni, Eint ka Jawab Pathar etc.) did not succeed in endearing him to leading production houses, though there were some exceptions. For example, actor Dharmendra had signed Shankar to compose the score for his film Bichchhoo, however, since Shankar did not accept Sai's (who was more keen in having Raj Kamal as MD) intereference in his work, he opted out of the project. Eventually, the project itself was abandoned by producer-to-be Dharmendra.
Shankar was in the running for Raj Kapoor's film Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), but was overlooked in favor of Laxmikant Pyarelal whose candidature was supported vigorously by Mukesh. Ironically, Mukesh owed his standing in the film industry primarily to S-J's compositions.
Shankar was also considered for Raj Kapoor's proposed film Param Vir Chakra (his case was supported by Raj Kapoor's sons), but the project did not see the light of day and Shankar never returned to the RK camp.
Shankar died in 1987. His death received nominal media coverage and his funeral was attended only by his family and some friends. The film industry was hardly represented at his funeral (even Raj Kapoor did not attend), thus reinforcing the stereotype of its fickle-natured loyalties.
Raj Kapoor later paid glowing tributes to the colleague of his salad days in a televised interview. However, it was only after Raj Kapoor's own death in 1988 that the significance of his association with S-J was brought out in great detail.