Jaikishan — the youthful music man

On music composer Jaikishan's 45th death anniversary today (12 September), we examine his award-winning legacy with musical partner, Shankar.

Sonal Pandya

Jaikishan Panchal, along with Shankar Singh, was one half of Hindi’s cinema’s most successful musical duos. Panchal, who mostly known by his first name, entered the music world as a teenager (there was a 10-year age gap between the two) where he started out playing the harmonium. Shankar-Jaikishan got their first break with Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat (1949) and would go on to becoming his long-time collaborators and went on to become Hindi cinema’s most melodious composers. They were often fond of using the raag Bhairavi in various forms on their soundtracks that Jaikishan even named his daughter after it.

The music composers were the second most-nominated pair at the Filmfare Awards with 20 nominations from 1957 to 1973. Only rivals Laxmikant-Pyarelal beat them with 25 nominations to their name. They won their first Filmfare Award for Best Director for Chori Chori (1956), one of the last films to star Raj Kapoor and Nargis as the leading actors. They dominated the 1960s with five awards for Anari (1959), Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960), Professor (1962), Suraj (1966) and Brahmachari (1967). From 1959 to 1967, they lead the pack with 10 consecutive nominations.

In the 1970s, the duo scored a hat-trick with Pehchaan (1970), Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Be-Imaan (1972) when they received awards in the years 1971 – 1973 for their work on these films. They were the first in their field to do so, beating Laxmikant-Pyarelal and AR Rahman, who won the award four times in row. Laxmikant-Pyarelal won theirs from 1978 to 1981, while Rahman had four wins from 2007 to 2010.

Jaikishan with Shankar

Shankar-Jaikishan would have been the most awarded with nine total wins as well, but Rahman leads the list with 10 wins. However, Rahman’s win for Saathiya (2002) was reused for Mani Rathnam’s Alaipayuthey (2000) when the film was remade from Tamil to Hindi. Technically then, Rahman would be tied with Shankar-Jaikishan with nine wins.

Their last win came from Be-Imaan (1972) shortly after Jaikishan’s untimely death at 41 due to liver cirrhosis. They beat out Laxmikant-Pyarelal for Shor (1972) and Ghulam Mohammed for Pakeezah (1972). The actor Pran, who won for Best Supporting Actor for Be-Imaan, protested their win by returning his award, claiming that Ghulam Mohammed deserved the award more.

After Jaikishan’s death, Shankar continued on composing under their old name, but never could recapture the era that once made them famous. Over 22 years, the partnership composed music for over 125 films, leaving behind an orchestral tradition that continues to captivate Hindi music fans around the world till today.