Article Hindi

Anniversary special: Five Shankar-Jaikishan songs that celebrate folk culture

On the 30th death anniversary (26th April) of Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi, one half of music composing duo Shankar-Jaikishan, we revisit five of the classic Shankar-Jaikishan tracks that prove why the composers gave a new purpose to folk music in Hindi cinema with their compositions.

Mayur Lookhar

The golden era of Hindi music is synonymous with the rise of the duo of Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, better known as Shankar-Jaikishan. The duo composed several great melodies, especially for Raj Kapoor, since making a mark with Kapoor’s film Barsaat (1949). The duo ruled the world of Hindi film music for 20 years, until the untimely death of Jaikishan in 1971 left Shankar on his own.

While the quality of their compositions is never questioned, a relatively underrated aspect of their work is the influence of folk themes. Often an unknown artist, not the lead heroine, was the centre of their songs. These songs carried a strong folk culture, with village folks dancing on hills or streets. In a way, these songs not only gave fillip to folk music, but it also bridged the class divide. Little surprise then that these joyful tracks were cheered by one and all.

Shankar Singh passed away on 26th April, 1987. On his 30th death anniversary today, we revisit five of the classic Shankar-Jaikishan that celebrate folk culture.

Barsaat Mein Humse Mile - Barsaat (1949)

Creative differences with Ram Ganguly led to Raj Kapoor replacing the composer with Shankar Singh. It was Shankar who urged Kapoor to bring Jaikishan on board. The film was Barsaat (1949). True to its name, the film rained melodies. Lyricist Shailendra penned a golden track 'Barsaat Mein Humse Mile' with Lata Mangeshkar lending lending her voice. This was actress Nimmi’s debut film. She played Neela, one of the two mountain girls, the other played by Nargis. Shankar Jaikishan scored tunes that beat through the humble hills. The song carries a very heavy folk influence. If the music doesn’t get you, then Nimmi’s tears sure will move your heart.

Aaj Maana Na Mora Jiya – Badal (1951)

The girls from the golden era were natural beauties. They had an innocence which resonated through their humble, rural characters. The 1951 film Badal had actress Purnima, who is a perfect example of such beauty. The film also had another beautiful actress, Madhubala. Shailendra penned this joyful number 'Aaj Maana Na Mora Jiya' that was picturised on Purnima. The innocent voice of Lata Mangeshkar adds to the graceful movements of the actress in the song. The music, the lyrics, the choreography are majestic. It is arguably one of the more memorable folk tracks by Shankar Jaikishan.

Jhanan Jhanan Ghungharwa Baje -  Aah (1953)

Raj Kapoor and Nargis were privy to this rollicking show put up by the village girl, played by actress Aruna. It’s a name forgotten in time, but she is the heart and the soul of the 'Jhanan Jhanan' track.  Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics tilted towards the classical, but Shankar-Jaikishan’s excelled in scoring a riveting composition that brought the folk rhythm to life. 

Ramaiya Vastavaiya – Shree 420 (1955)

Raj Shree 420 Kapoor couldn’t bear the sight of the urban tunes crooned by Maya (Nadira), and so he finds solace in the humble celebration of the people on the street, led by noted dancer Sheela Vaz. 'Ramaiya Vastavaiya' is one of the finest compositions by Shankar Jaikishen. The key refrain of the song 'Ramayya Vastawaiyya' is actually a Telugu phrase, and enhances the simple rhythms of Shankar Jaikishan. 

Main Baharon Ki Natkhat Rani – Boot Polish (1954)

Not all dance compositions by Shankar-Jaikishan were set in the villages. Dance is an art that can be enjoyed by people from all strata of society. Raj Kapoor produced Boot Polish (1954) saw Chand Burque play the chaachi who entertains men from her slums, while her little nephews polished the boots of the lusty men. This was not quite a folk song, but Burque pulled the desi thumkas and jhatkas with a swag that only she could. It was sung by the iconoclastic Asha Bhosle.