Shailendra – Profile
While the constant composition of songs based on the fragile conundrums of love reduced most lyricists to retail merchants of words, Shailendra’s songs always dazzled with their lyrical lustre. In more than 170 films, he wrote warm souled poetry. Like the straight-from-the-heart `Aaja re pardesi … main toh kab se khadi is paar’, Shailendra’s songs were in simple, yet extremely effective Hindustani.
In all fidelity to true art, Shailendra refused Raj Kapoor when he offered him a chance to write the songs of Aag. Kapoor had heard Shailendra, an Indian Railways employee, recite an inflammatory poem, lJalta hai Punjab’, at a function and had been highly impressed. But Shailendra, a mechanical engineer and a member of the left wing Indian People’s Theatres Association, was wary of mainstream Hindi cinema. However, the birth of his son, Shaily Shailendra precipitated a need for money and now it was Shailendra who approached Kapoor. For a sum of Rs 500, Kapoor had Shailendra write two Barsaat superhits `Barsaat mein humse mile tum’ and ‘Patli qamar hai’.
Though an insecure Shailendra did not quit his ‘safe’ Railways job for the next five years, it was clear that he had found his vocation in life. When he penned `Awara hoon, ya gardish mein hoon aasmaan ka taara hoon’, Awara’s writer K A Abbas could scarcely believe that the poet had encapsulated the character sketch of the protagonist in such few words. Shailendra now became part of the Raj KapoorShankar Jaikishen team and engendered such emotionally resonant classics as `Mera joota hai Japani’, ‘Sab kuchh seekha hamne’ and ‘Bol Radha bol sangam hoga ke nahin’.
An introvert and a chain smoker (he habitually played with his matchbox while narrating songs), Shailendra’s natural form of self-expression was writing. His acute sensitivity and emotionalism were responsible for deeply-felt lines like `Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, aaj phir marne ka iraada hai’.
Besides Raj Kapoor, Shailendra formed a close association with Bimal Roy through films like Do Bigha Zameen (’53), Madhumati (’58) and Bandini (’63). He even wrote the dialogues for Bimal Roy’s Parakh (’60).
In 1962, Shailendra started the ill-starred production of the Raj Kapoor-Waheeda Rehman starrer, Teesri Kasam. Shailendra had wanted to make a film of artistic merit but had little knowledge or aptitude for film production. The film dragged on for four years and Shailendra became increasingly disillusioned with the film industry. He did not even attend the premiere in Delhi in 1966.
Death had been a recurring motif in many a Shailendra song (Aise veerane mein ek din ghut ke mar jayenge hum’, `Khud hi mar mitneki yeh zid hai hamari’, `Apni kahani chhod ja, kuchh toh nishaani chhod ja’, `Ke marke bhi kisiko yaad ayenge’). Shailendra’s end seemed almost fated. The poet’s soul could not take the crash of his debut production and to the ironic strains of Teesri Kasam’s `Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamar’, Shailendra chose to leave the world.