Article Hindi

How Shakeel Badayuni-Naushad made the most impressive team in Hindi film music

Shakeel Badayuni was a lyricist with an innate understanding of music and Naushad a composer with a penchant for Urdu poetry. On the 101st birth anniversary of the lyricist (3 August), we look at his collaboration with the great composer.

Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni

Shriram Iyengar

Through the history of Hindi cinema, few composer-lyricist partnerships have continued with as much fidelity while delivering as much quality as that of Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni. Some of these were the composer's, and the lyricist's, most successful works.

It was, in fact, Naushad who offered Shakeel Badayuni his debut in Hindi cinema with Dard (1947). From then on till Badayuni's death in 1970, the duo delivered with such amazing consistency that it defied belief.

Of the partners, Badayuni was older. Born on 3 August 1916 in Badaun in the erstwhile United Provinces, he went on to graduate in Arts from Aligarh Muslim University. His fame as a poet brought him to Bombay in 1944. The journey to success was not easy though. Giving up his job as a supply officer meant he had to make a provision for his family back in UP soon. It was then that a fortuitous meeting with Naushad opened the door to Hindi cinema.

In his biography of Naushad, Naushadnama, critic Raju Bharatan writes about a conversation he had with poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar on the relationship between Naushad and Badayuni: "Naushad always treated Shakeel Badayuni with a certain fellow feeling."

Over a period of 21 years, the two worked in 22 films together. Starting with the brilliant songs of Dard (1947), they went on to write and compose for films like Dulari (1949), Babul (1950) and Deedar (1951) before the musical apogee of Baiju Bawra (1952) was achieved. It was a synthesis of poetry, music, and vocal brilliance that has not yet been surpassed.

Shakeel Badayuni defined himself with the verse:
'Main Shakeel dil ka hoon tarjuman,
Ke mohabbaton ka hoon raazdaan.
Mujhe fakhr hai meri shayari,
Meri zindagi se juda nahi.'

(I am Shakeel, connoissieur of the heart, keeper of love's secrets. I am proud that my poetry is not separate from my life).

Shakeel Badayuni's lyrics were often a product of the angst and romance born out of his own life experiences. While his contemporaries Sahir Ludhianvi and Shailendra wrote lyrics that often reflected their own political ideologies, language and style, Shakeel Badayuni's verses were a reflection of such lyricality that they moulded themselves to music. Whether it is 'Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki' from Dulari, or the soaring romance of 'Mere Mehboob' from Mere Mehboob (1963), the combination of Naushad and Shakeel resonates through lyricism.

While the lyricist did successfully collaborate with other music composers, notably Ravi for Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1961) and Hemant Kumar for films like Bees Saal Baad (1962), it was with Naushad that he delivered some of his greatest works.

The first sign of their immaculate synchronisation was in Baiju Bawra. For a film about a very devout Hindu singer, the two provided the highest evidence of the 'Ganga-Jamuna' culture that Lucknow was home to. Whether in the angst of 'Ae Duniya Ke Rakhwale' or the anguished cry of 'Man Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko', the two were in supreme form.

The third musketeer of this team was another icon of Hindi film music, Mohammed Rafi. Our astonishment at three devout Muslims joining hands to compose this beautiful bhajan only highlights how far we have fallen today from the ideal of secularism.

Though Rafi's first film under Naushad's baton was Dillagi (1948), he soon became an inseparable part of the team. Songs from Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Kohinoor (1960), Mere Mehboob (1963), Leader (1964), and Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966) were some of the trio's biggest hits.

Each of these films, true to the team's defiant spirit, contained songs that were rousing and rebellious. While the music Naushad brought to the songs was classical and based on ragas, Shakeel Badayuni brought a lyrical Urdu spirit that enhanced their appeal.

As Raju Bharatan says in Naushadnama, "You understood the Shakeel-Naushad music better if you grasped the shades of the Urdu language. Even if you did not grasp them, you were humming along in an Urdu language of your own literary fashioning!"

Sample 'Duniya Me Hum Aaye Hain To Jeena Hi Padega' from Mother India, or Lata Mangeshkar's 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' and Rafi's rousing anthem, 'Aye Mohabbat Zindabaad' from Mughal-e-Azam. There is also the Independence Day favourite, 'Apni Azaadi Ko Hum' from Leader that follows this same pattern.

But it was not always defiance, and not always Urdu. Despite their passion for the language, Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni combined for some very pleasing songs written in the dialect of Khari Boli. From Baiju Bawra, where the lyricist had to write all songs in chaste Hindi, to Mother India's 'Holi Aayi Re Kanhai', or 'Mohe Panghat Pe' from Mughal-e-Azam, or Vyjayanthimala singing 'Dhoondo Dhoondo Re Saajana' in Gunga Jumna (1961) they would often adapt folk songs to suit the mood and the scene.


Even the iconic 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' was based on a folk song from UP 'Pyaar Kiya Hai, Kya Chori Ki Hai'. It was evidence of their musical supremacy that they were able to amalgamate such compositions into mainstream films without seeming to be out of step.

It is a surprise that the three consecutive Filmfare awards (1960, 1961, 1962) for Best Lyricist that Shakeel Badayuni won came not under Naushad's music direction but under composers Ravi and Hemant Kumar.

But this did not hinder the friendship between the two. When the lyricist was rendered immobile by tuberculosis and admitted to the sanatorium in Bombay Hospital, it was composer Naushad who raced to help. With him, the composer brought three projects, Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Aadmi (1968) and Sunghursh (1968). They were enough to help the lyricist survive possible bankruptcy caused by his illness.

In turn, when Naushad wrote the story for Palki (1967), there was no doubt who would be his lyricist. Together, they composed a beautiful ode to the city of Lucknow, 'Ae Sheher-e-Lucknow Tujhe Mera Salaam Hai'.

Sunghursh proved to be the last collaboration between the pair. While the film's music never matched up to the previous records set by them together, it was a beautiful and lyrical signing off by one of the most prolific lyricist-composer duos in Hindi cinema.