Skip to main content

Raj Kapoor and Shailendra: The most iconic combination of Hindustani cinema


By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Shailendra, poet and lyricist of extraordinary ideas and a weaver of words, the man who immortalised himself with Raj Kapoor’s collective team of geniuses such as Mukesh, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas and Shankar Jaikishan, passed away on December 14th, 1966. Ironically, December 14th is also Raj Kapoor’s birthday. Raj Kapoor always referred to Shailendra as Kaviraj and that title suits him so well as none in the Bombay cinema come close to Shailendra in terms of range of his poetry and its impact on the masses. Cinema in fact was completely dominated by Urdu speaking elite, and of course Shailendra himself was not unknown to it. It is said that Shailendra made “Teesari Kasam” with great zeal and hope but after the failure of the film he was crestfallen and suffered a lot as his health got impacted. Raj Kapoor got the same with the failure of “Mera Naam Jokar”, as he adjusted himself, changed his perception, and rebranded his RK banner. A filmmaker can do that but a poet cannot. Shailendra did not have the option like Raj Kapoor to change, though many of the old time veteran poets have changed for the sake of surviving and therefore ended up writing vulgar lyrics. Shailendra suffered as he was uncompromising.
Shailendra started writing in Hindi though Urdu was actually the language of cinema and romance. Hindi can never come near to it in those expressions and feelings but Shailendra brought the ideas and vocabulary of the Hindi heartland into cinema and poetry of cinema. I still do not wish to refer to Shailendra merely a ‘lyricist’. In fact, it is the greatest harm done to him by confining him to merely a ‘geetkaar’ when he was a legendary poet, supremely talented and far superior to those who we have been given to read and recite in our Hindi text books because Shailendra was a poet of change. It is also true that the elite circle of ‘literature’ never really acknowledged Shailendra that way as it acknowledged ‘others’ in the cinema. Was it because Shailendra hailed from Dalit community? I think not, but it may also be true that Kaviraj was not comfortable with revealing his identity to the people those times perhaps because he might have feared discrimination. Hindustani cinema was progressive, but on the issue of caste, it still remained highly prejudiced.
Shailendra’s poetry actually flourished under Raj Kapoor’s pro-people cinema. Two giants who come from Peshawar in Hindustani Cinema were Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, who turned 98 just a couple of days back. Look at their friendship, relationship and achievements. Dilip Kumar remains an art in acting and any one who is in the cinema and acting can not really work anything unless he knows about Dilip Kumar. Unlike his friend Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor was a genius of collective work and encouraging talent. I would say, Raj Kapoor represents the collective success of a team of deeply committed artists. He was the first one who understood the importance of music and poetry for his cinema and that is the reason Shailendra became inseparable from RK films, though he was not confined to it. Some of his absolutely stunning poetry happened with Navketan banner of another legend Dev Anand for “Kala Bajar” and “Guide” — like “Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai, aaj phir jeene kee tamanna hai” and “Gaata rahe mera dil.” Of course, Shailendra’s romantic poetry under Salil Chowdhury’s enchanting composition of film “Madhumati” was one of the biggest hits of Dilip Kumar and Vaijayantimala, with unforgettable “Suhana safar aur ye mausam Hansi’ and Dil Tadap Tadap ke kah raha hai aa bhi jaa”.
Art, cinema and poetry flourish according to the social and political climate of the country. So when the under nation has an inspiring leader and the political climate is pro-people, poetry is futuristic. It also gets strong in the times of dictators and authoritarian regimes, but it is more to give people hope. Shailendra grew up in Nehru’s India which was idealistic and secular in its approach. Raj Kapoor’s film and vision of “Sir pe laal topi rusi, fir bhi dil hai hindustani”, gave him more ideas of this futuristic vision. There is no doubt that each word written by Shailendra actually gave many people a voice – especially to those who were choking within our social system. In my youthful days, when I had no opportunity to read to big writers or philosophers, it was Shailendra’s poetry that actually saved me from deep dejection. Somewhere, I started loving his pathos like “Ye mera deevanapan hai”, “Aaja re ab mera dil pukaara”, “Jhoomati chali hawa, yaad aa gaya koi” or “O jaane waale ho sake to laut ke aana”. Shailendra remains most enlightening in his philosophy of life which are reflected through his songs such as “Mera naam raju gharana anam, bahati hai ganga jahaan meraa dham”, “Hum us desh ke waasi hai”, “Jis desh me ganga bahati hai”, and “Sab kuchh seekhaa hamne na seekhi hoshiyaari”. But the masterpiece and all times was “Kisi ke muskuraahato pe ho nisaar,/ Kisee ka dard mil sake to le udhaar,/ Kisee ke vaste ho tere dil me pyaar,/ Jeena isee kaa naam hai”, which lifts you to life and gives your life a new meaning.
Through his piece I am not merely remembering Raj Kapoor and Shailendra or Mukesh whom I loved listening to but also to other legends of that era Dilip Saheb as well as Dev Anand. Look at them, such a success would have made them mad but take time to listen to interviews of these greats and you will realise how humble they are or were. I listened to the last interview of Raj Kapoor when he got the Dada Saheb Phalke Award and the only thing he remembered was his friends such as Shailendra, Mukesh, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas saying, “Kal khel me hum ho na ho,/ Gardish me taare rahenge sada,/ Bhoolenge wo, bhuloge tum,/ Lekin tumhaare rahenge sadaa.” Just a few weeks back, I came across Dev Anand’s interview with Simi Grewal and I would suggest everyone watch it. What an incredible man he was, full of life and positivity uncaring about what people think about him and his films. Listen to any lengthy interview of Dilip Saheb and you will see the depth of language, class and thought in him. A few days back, I came across a beautiful interview of Dilip Saheb about making of the film “Mughal-e-Azam”, and he narrated about late Prithvi Raj Kapoor and how he used to be called as “Papa ji”. In this interview, Dilip Saheb informs us how close both were close family friends. For journalists, they were two ‘competing’ actors, but the fact of the matter is, they were very close and had no tantrums of being ‘stars’ or superstars.
Art and poetry is part of our political process. You cannot delink them. If 1950s and 1960s developed class films and enchanting life giving music, much of the credit goes to not only the brilliance of the poets but also their ‘kadradans’ or patrons. Shailendra, Sahir and Majrooh Sultanpuri flourished in the era when the film fraternity was humble, worked hard to speak people’s language and gave them hope and aspirations. Both Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar came from Peshawar and definitely Hindi was not their first language. Look at the films and their language. No Bhojpuri actor can come close to making a classic like “Ganga Jamuna” or “Teesari Kasam”. Who is going to write poetry such as “Nain lad jai hain to manwa ma kasak hoibe kari” or “Chalat musafir le liyo re, pinjade waalee muniyaa.” For good cinema, we need poetry with pro-people ideas and not those who vilify people’s movement. If Shailendra and Sahir are so popular even after so many years, then we must realise that their poetry challenged social norms and social evils at every step. Today our leaders want to control love, about which Shailendra wrote so beautifully, “Pyaar karne waale, pyaar hee karenge, jalane waale youn hee jal jal marenge.” and Sahir challenged the entire notion in revolutionary words in “Dhool Ka Phool” “Rivaajo kee parwah na rashmo kaa dar hai,/ Teri aankh ke faisle pe nazar hai,/ Bala se agar raasta purkhatar hai,/ Mai is haath ko thamna chaahta hoon,/ Wafa kar rahaa hoon, wafaa chaahata hoon.”
Shailendra further strengthens the argument that it is love and love alone which will be remembered by future generations.. Look at this beautiful song from “Shri 420”: “Raate daso dishaao me,/ Kahengi apnee kahaaniyaa,/ Geet hamare pyaar kee doharayengi jawaaniya,/ Hum naa rahenge, tum naa rahoge,/ Fir bhi rahengi nishaaniyaa.”
One thing is clear that art and films stood up with people and raised a banner of revolt against social evil and injustice. Art and cinema can never be a propaganda tool of the power. If it becomes that, it will die and will lose creativity. Raj Kapoor or Shailendra or Dev Anand or Sahir are remembered because they spoke of their mind, stood up with people’s rights and spoke the truth. If cinema today wants to be part of the propaganda machinery to justify social evils and vilify the opponents then it will end up with mediocre films without any mention in the future books. Cinema must remain revolutionary and challenge the popular notions and only then it will be remembered by people.
Raj Kapoor and Shailendra remain the most iconic combination of Hindustani cinema, immortal who gave hope and words to millions of people. Let us celebrate their creative accomplishments.

*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Alarming US data on child mental health: Wake-up call to end social malaise

By Bharat Dogra  If 1 out of 2 high school girls feel persistently sad or hopeless and one out of six students plan suicide in a year, isn’t it time for a society so affected to look inwards at what has gone wrong, so that at least, and as a first step, the causes of such a dismal state of affairs can be identified correctly? After all, effective remedial action depends first and foremost on a proper identification of causes. This is all the more necessary in a situation when, as this alarming official data for year 2019 for USA tells us, in addition there is an incredibly high rate of increase of these problems. According to the data of the  (the latest such data available at present and also quoted by the USA Surgeon General in the advisory issued by him in 2021), in 2019 37% of all high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. What is more, within a decade (2009-2019), this had recorded a 40% increasing, rising from 26% to

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

Why foreign diplomats must maintain diplomatic etiquette, protocol in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Foreign governments and organizations are not allowed to dictate how a sovereign country like Bangladesh should run its politics. The 12th national parliamentary elections are drawing near, and the election wind has started to blow in Dhaka. The political parties have already begun to plan their voting strategy through a variety of events. However, this time, the diplomatic community in Dhaka is very active. A number of Western ambassadors frequently meet with government departments, political party representatives, the Election Commission (EC), and members of civil society in Dhaka. At numerous forums, they discuss upcoming elections' management, fairness, and impartiality -- issues that are unquestionably domestic to Bangladesh and in no way fall under the purview of diplomacy. Additionally, it has been noted that diplomats have made public remarks on these subjects in front of the media. It raises the question of how much authority diplomatic protocol h

Bangladesh's ties with Myanmar, Nepal, China need connectivity with India's NE states

By Samara Ashrat*  On 26th November, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is trying to improve trade and connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar on his two-day visit to India's Northeast region. He emphasized the importance of linking Northeastern India to the rest of the nation and reiterated Delhi is working to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region. By taking the G20 presidency India will try to showcase the true spirit of the Northeast to the world, with its tourism benefits. But, the umbilical cord between the Indian mainland and North Eastern Region is Chicken's Neck or Siliguri corridor which brings Bangladesh into the Indian equation of northeastern development. Not only that, Bangladesh has very close relations with West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura in terms of language, culture, and history. These factors make Bangladesh an inextricable element of the development of the northeastern states. Tourism Sector and Con

25 years of CHT peace accord: A glorious chapter of conflict resolution in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Conflicts between the Bangladesh army and Shanti Bahini persisted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for more than two decades. On December 2, 1997, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the Bangladeshi government signed the CHT Accord, putting an end to the violent armed conflict and improving the life of a lot of the people there. It has been made possible through just seven meetings under the worthy leadership of Sheikh Hasina. The historic peace agreement created an atmosphere of peace in the mountainous region. An atmosphere of peace has been established by ending the armed conflict. The geographical features and ethnic diversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are distinctive. The 13,184 square kilometer territory is bordered by Myanmar and the Indian state of Mizoram on the East and Tripura on the North. With its 1.6 million people, it entails great importance to Bangladesh for its geopolitical location. Due to the conflict-prone Northeast Indi

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr