RMIM Archive Article "366".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Remembering Shailendra
# Posted by: Chandrashekhar firstname.lastname@example.org
# Author: Amla Mazumdar
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
Some years ago a tribute to Shailendra was written by his daughter
Amla Mazumdar, who lives and works as an airline executive in Dubai.
On the occasion of the poet's 31st death anniversary, the article is
reproduced here with permission from Amla, who has also added a
favourites list for RMIM (from what she remembers Shailendra telling
her as being among his best lyrics).
Sunsets are beautiful, as long as it is not your own sun that you see
sinking slowly over the horizon. December 14 1966 saw one such sunset,
for my Baba left us that day, never to return. Today I still wonder at
my inability to get over it.
Baba was born Shankardas Kesrilal Shailendra in Rawalpindi on August
30 1923, the eldest of four sons of my grandmother Parvati Devi. My
grandfather Sri Kesrilal originally hailed from Bihar, and already had
a son and daughter from a previous marriage. Some time during Baba's
childhood the family moved to Mathura.
Calamity struck when he was still quite young, when he learnt that his
mother was dying. He often recalled the moments when he walked
barefoot in the scorching sun, his body sunburnt and his feet
blistered, praying for her survival. The day she died, however, he
felt deeply disillusioned and let down, causing him to turn atheist
for practically the rest of his life.
While training in Agra for employment in the Indian Railways, Baba met
and fell in love with the woman who was to become his wife (and my
mother). His affections were returned, but while wooing her he was
generally disapproved of by all her familt except my nanaji, her
father. Nanaji took a strong liking to him and sanctioned their
wedding on the same day that my mother's elder sister was due to be
married. After the wedding Baba made my mother return expensive sarees
and jewellery that she had brought from her father's, saying he would
provide for her in his own way, once he was able to stand on his own
His first full-fledged job with the railways brought him to Bombay in
1947, when India's struggle for freedom from British rule was at its
peak. Technical aspects of his job did not suit his artistic nature,
and he would much rather spend time writing poetry than toil in the
workshop. His colleagues often advised him against absconding from
work to write 'senseless ramblings', but to no avail.
He actively joined the freedom struggle and during one public meeting
his fiery poem "Jalta hai Punjab", when read out aloud, caught the
attention of a film-maker in the crowd - Raj Kapoor. He wanted to buy
the poem and also wanted Baba to write for his new production. Baba
refused to sell the poem, but with the birth of his first child, a son
(my eldest brother Shailey) came responsibility, and things changed.
Baba approached Raj Kapoor and agreed to write for "Barsaat" if the
offer was still open. It was, and the rest is history. Success brought
wealth, and with wealth came a retinue of servants and the influence
of Western culture. Yet he never allowed us to boss the servants
around - he once rebuked me for allowing a servant to carry my books
home from school.
Baba's best known work is with Shankar-Jaikishan, but he was also a
favourite with the other musical giants of those days, like Salil
Chaudhury (Madhumati), S.N. Tripathi (Sangeet Samrat Tansen), S.D.
Burman (Guide and Bandhini, among so many others), Pt. Ravi Shankar
(Anuradha). He won the Filmfare Ward for Best Lyricist in 1958 (Ye
mera deewanapan hai, from "Yahudi"), in 1959 (Sab kuch seekha hamne,
from "Anari") and in 1968 (Main gaaun tum so jaao, from
Baba was a true poet for whom simply being alive was poetry, and life
itself a poem. He derived much inspiration for his more serious work
from long walks on Juhu beach early in the morning, but was equally
adept at writing the most profound lyrics for ordinary film
situations. Those lyrics were vibrantly alive, in the sense they went
far beyond the context of the film situation for which they were
intended, and lived on long after the film itself had passed from
memory. For me there is a Shailendra song for any emotion, any
situation, from birth to death, such was his versatility. Millions of
listeners feel this way about his work.
At the back of his serious work was the deep-rooted dejection he felt
at his mother's death. Lyrics like
Lau aayi sada meri takrake sitaron se
Ujdi hui duniya ki sunsaan kinaron se
Ilahi tu sun le hamari dua
Hamen sirf ek aasra hai tera
Teri rehmay raah roshan kare
Salamat rahe saaya maa baap ka
Maata o maata jo tu aaj hoti
Mujhen yun bilakta agar dekhti
Tera dil toot jata
( "Ab Dilli Door Nahin")
hardly sound like they were written for mere film situations, with
Baba not actually reliving the agony of his mother's death.
Yet he was a true professional, and behind his success as a writer was
his ability to write for a film situation irrespective of his personal
views. For example, in spite of his misgivings about religion he wrote
the rapturously beautiful Bhay bhanjana vandana ("Basant Bahar"). And
there are the witty, fun-loving ones like Laal chadi ("Janwar"), Sooku
sooku ("Junglee"), Nakhrewali ("New Delhi"), Sambhal ke karna, jo bhi
karna, and Matwali naar ("Ek Phool Char Kaante").
Whenever I'm down in the dumps I take heart from these words he wrote
for a song during the freedom struggle:
Tu zinda hai, tu zindagi ki jeet pe yakeen kar
Agar kahin hai swarg to utar la zameen par
Ye gam ke aur char din situm ke aur char din
Ye din bhi jaenge guzar, guzar gaye hazaar din
Yet the spectre of death always haunted him. He was obsessed by
death. There was no fear involved, but a kind of helplessness drew him
towards it. He saw death even in the most romantic moments, as in this
verse from the song Holi aayee pyari pyari ("Pooja"):
Ek baras mein ek din holi jag do din ka mela
Tan ka pinjra chhod ke ek din panchi jaae akela
Do ghadi muskaaye phir jeevan hi phulwari.
And then there's my favourite:
Ke mar ke bhi kisi ko yaad aaenge
Kisi ke aansuon mein muskuraenge
Kahega phool har kali se baar baar
Jeena isi ka naam hai
The story of how his producing "Teesri Kasam" led to various problems
and his untimely end is well known, but what bothered him was not the
film's failure at the box-office, but that his investment in friends
he trusted and loved went wrong. After a particularly bad bout of
despondency my mother could take it no more, and on December 13 1966
he was to be admitted to the Northcote Nursing Home. On the way he and
my mother stopped at the famous cottage at the RK Studios to call on
Raj Kapoor, and Baba promised Raj that he would complete the lyrics
for Jeena yahan once the December 14 tamasha (Raj's birthday
celebration) was over. That was one promise he never kept, for he died
on Raj's birthday.
Baba loved the seashore. He wrote, "I am the early morning light. I
cast no shadows, I leave no shadow behind. The sun is my father..."
The world has his poetry, but I would much rather have him.
Shailendra's favourites, as told to Amla at various times:
Mat ro maata | (Bandhini)
Ab ke baras bhejo| (Bandhini))
Koi lautade mere beete hue din (Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein)
Sajanwa bairi ho gai hamar | (Teesri Kasam)
Sajan re jhoot mat bolo |
Jin raaton ki bhor nahin hai (Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein)
Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai (Guide)
Aawara hun (Aawara)
Mera joota hai japani (Shri 420)
Sub kuch seekha hamne (Anari)
Dharti kahe pukar ke (Do Bigha Zameen)
Do send your comments, if any, to me at email@example.com I'll
pass them on to Amla (I don't have her e-mail contact handy)