How Raj Kapoor and his poet friend Shailendra became a classic in Indian cinema

Both stalwarts share the day December 14.

 |  3-minute read |   14-12-2016
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The two stalwarts of Bollywood, actor-director Raj Kapoor and lyricist Shailendra, share the day December 14. While the former was born on this day, the latter passed away on that day. In fact, on December 14, 1966, the film Mera Naam Joker was in production and there was an atmosphere of festivity prevailed as employees were celebrating the legendary filmmaker's birthday. During the commotion, Raj Kapoor was twice called to attend the telephone.

On the other end was singer Mukesh, giving real-time updates from the hospital that Shailendra had been admitted to the previous afternoon.

Calls kept pouring in: in coma; on oxygen support; blood transfusion. Finally, minutes later, the singer called in only to inform that the prodigious lyricist had passed away at the age of 43.

Raj Kapoor and Shailendra shared a fantastic camaraderie and a highly productive working relationship. But above all, they were friends. Raj Kapoor fondly referred to Shailendra "Pushkin" or "Kabiraj". In fact, the legendary actor-director was often at the latter's house.

The sudden and premature death of Shailendra shocked Raj Kapoor, who wrote an open letter in Filmfare magazine mourning the death of his friend."A part of my soul has gone. It is not fair. I break down and weep at this snatching away of one of the fairest roses in my garden. What a noble and selfless person he was, what a vital part of my being! Now he is gone forever and all one can do is weep for him, cherish his memory."

Raj Kapoor and Shailendra worked together on several movies, around 21 films in total. The most notable among them would include all-time hits such as Mera Naam Joker, Teesri Kasam, Sapno Ka Saudagar, Sangam, Anari and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai.

Raj Kapoor greatly admired Shailendra's insightful yet simple lyrics. No wonder, the lyricist ended up penning several title tracks of the legendary filmmaker's movies, including "Barsaat mein hum se mile tum" from Barsaat (1949), "Awara hoon" from Awara (1951), and "Sajan re jhooth mat bolo" in Teesri Kasam.

Shailendra started his career writing for Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and it was during one of the events hosted by the body that he met Raj Kapoor. The actor-director had already heard him recite one of his poems on Partition (Jalta hai Punjab). Taken in by the lyricist's felicity to express himself, he asked Shailendra to write the songs for Aag (1948), his directorial debut. Shailendra, who used to work with the Indian Railways, declined.

However, later on, while Barsaat was being made, Shailendra approached Raj Kapoor for greater financial stability as he was expecting his first child. Both the songs Shailendra wrote for the film, "Barsat mein" and "Patli kamar hai", were hits.

After that there was no looking back. It kick-started a successful collaboration of Raj Kapoor, singer Mukesh, music composer Shankar-Jaikishan and lyricist Shailendra. The association gave birth to several evergreen songs. And after Shailendra wrote a song, Raj Kapoor would say: Wah Pushkin, what a song you have written!


Muqbil Ahmar Muqbil Ahmar @muqbil_ahmar

The writer is a theatre activist, film critic and blogger who wants to bring harmony in society. Music, poetry and food are his passions.

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