A vintage photo of Jaikishan. (Publicity photo)

MUMBAI — Jaikishan’s 50th death anniversary fell on Sept. 12. It is the right time to remember how his dear friend and professional associate Shammi Kapoor remembered him.   

A neat 50-plus of over 80 songs that Shankar-Jaikishan composed for Kapoor proved enduring hits. Jaikishan also enjoyed a deep bond of friendship with the actor that translated into the extra-special rapport reflected in their track (pun intended)-record.

Over to Shammi Kapoor.

“I had a better rapport with Jai only because Jai and I were of the same age – Shankar-ji was older to me. I knew both of them since 1948 when they were both musicians with Prithvi Theatres and I would work there as an actor. Then “Barsaat” happened and they began to go places. I kept working in Prithvi till 1952 and then had my famous phase of multiple debacles in films till 1957 and “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” happened. By that time, S-J were BIG. On a personal level, we had always remained friends, and Jai and I would keep meeting and partying together.

“My first two hits, “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” and “Dil Deke Dekho,” were respectively with O.P.Nayyar and Usha Khanna. So it was a while before S-J and I came together professionally. Our first film was “Ujala” (1959) and my singers were Mukesh and Manna Dey. This was followed by “Singapore,” where for the first time, Mohammed Rafi came in for me under them, though there was a song by Mukesh.

“But it was with “Junglee” that S-J and I struck gold as a team. I had used the term “Yahoo” in my lines in “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” and gave the term to Jai when he was working on “Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe.” He incorporated the expression in musical form. It was destiny, I suppose, that when the Internet came into India and Yahoo soon became a household word, I was destined to be one of the earliest users of the ‘Net in India.

“Jai was very open to inputs and loved to fuse Western music with his classical roots. If he was great at all those rhythmic numbers, he could churn out the soulful “Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh Par” equally effortlessly. And at this point I must say that Shankar-ji was no less a genius. I remember I was in his music room – they always had separate ones and did complete songs individually even before they split, except for in Raj Kapoor’s movies – when he started fingering the keys of his harmonium and came up, in front of me, within a couple of minutes with “Aiyiyya karoon main kya” for “Junglee,” with the expression that he had devised, “Suku Suku” as a starting point!

“Jai was in the habit of calling me after shoots to Bombelli’s restaurant at Mumbai’s Churchgate. It was there that he would present his tunes, usually musically or with dummy lyrics, and I would book them. He would actually hum or sing out to me right there in the eatery, and mind you, most of them were fabulous and went on to become instant and enduring hits.

“Of course with my love and vast exposure to Western music of all kinds, I would give him inputs. But he never copied what I gave him – he would work out a fresh melody around them, improvise and sometimes even turn them on their heads. And whether it was Jai or anyone else, I was always involved from day one in my music. I discussed with the director and writer where they wanted to place the song, then what kind of song it should be and finally in the selection.

“I remember taking Jai to Singapore for the shooting of the film of that name – we travelled a lot together because I would drag him along to Beirut and Paris and so many places! We were watching a cabaret show with Malaysian words in the song. Jai asked a waiter for a napkin and pen and began writing down notations, resulting in the hit song “Rasa Sayang Re” in the film. Jai was very quick.

“He was very quick at background music, and his background music pieces were so good that he often made great songs from them, like “O Basanti” from “Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai” owed its existence to a music piece in “Awara.” His Gujarati leanings made him always pronounce the word snacks as “snakes,” and I have this feeling that it was deliberate! A quirk he had was balancing his glass of liquor on the ankle of the folded leg as he sat! Incredibly, we would all keep watching the glass and it would never fall!

“When Jai passed away, I was severely affected, more personally than professionally, because by that time my career as a hero was over.  I met him the last on September 11– he was in hospital for weeks. When I took his leave, I said, ‘Okay, Jai, see you tomorrow.’ He just kept looking at me and to date I have never forgotten that look.

“A very likeable and outgoing man, Jai never spoke ill about anyone. Always immersed in music, he always celebrated life. I remember I threw a party for him when he got married, and he reciprocated when I married Neela.

“I remember how I was shooting in the mid-town Roop Tara Studios when he told me to come fast to his music room. When I told him that I could not, he drove down all the way, and in his car, made me listen to what eventually became “Tum Mujhe Yoon Bhula Na Paaoge” (“Pagla Kahin Ka”) and “Jab Mohabbat Jawaan Hoti Hai” from “Jawan Mohabbat.” Yes, I would often go to his Gobind Mahal sitting room and sit with him and the musicians Dattaram and Sebastian.

Which brings me to two amusing incidents: As friends, we would argue and fight, but the one time I really clashed with him and almost hit him was when he refused to yield to my request to take back his masterpiece, “Teri Pyari Pyari Soorat Ko” from L.V. Prasad’s “Sasural.” Of course I had to give in, but I was lucky another time.

“This, incidentally, was the only time I saw him seriously upset and on the verge of tears! He came to me once and wanted me to listen to the recorded Rafi-Suman Kalyanpur duet “Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche.” The song was recorded for another hero’s film and had been approved by the film’s team. But the hero was not around and when he came back, he rejected the song because he said that it did not suit his persona! Manmohan Desai was directing me in “Budtameez” and I took the song to him, but he did not care much for it. I played it out to Ramesh Sippy and Bhappi Sonie, with whom I was making “Brahmchari” and it became one of the topmost chartbusters from that film!

“Among our films together there were only two that did not reach the musical level of the rest – “Budtameez” and “Chhote Sarkar.” It’s not that “Budtameez” was not up to the mark – there were a couple of decent songs, but the film was delayed in production and to a certain extent we all had lost interest in the film. As for “Chhote Sarkar,” it came at the fag end of my career as a hero. My knees had given way, I had put on a lot of weight, and Jai was completely down and had become a victim to the fatal combination of alcohol and bad company.

“The split with his partner did affect him, but not all that much, because, as we all know, they were always used to working separately. What affected him was the lack of good work. Many of his banners had left him, mostly for Laxmikant-Pyarelal, but also for Kalyanji-Anandji, S.D. Burman and others. And there were a lot of hangers-on who even influenced him to start drinking all day long.

“So many other composers gave me fantastic songs – O.P.Nayyar, Usha Khanna, Kalyanji-Anandji, Roshan, R.D. Burman and even Ravi. But Shankar-Jaikishan were truly amazing. When I made “Manoranjan” with R.D. Burman, you and so many others said that they loved the music, but somehow I was not happy! Actually, I missed Jai!

Shammi Kapoor with Shankar-Jaikishan (1959-1974)

Singers: MOHAMMED RAFI, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Subir Sen, Prayag Raj

(Hit Music Scores in BOLD)

  1. An Evening In Paris
  2. Andaz
  3. Boyfriend
  4. Brahmchari
  5. Budtameez
  6. Chhote Sarkar
  7. College Girl
  8. Dil Tera Deewana
  9. Jane Anjane
  10. Janwar
  11. Jawan Mohabbat
  12. Junglee
  13. Laat Saheb
  14. Pagla Kahin Ka
  15. Preetam
  16. Prince
  17. Professor
  18. Rajkumar
  19. Sacchaai
  20. Singapore
  21. Tumse Accha Kaun Hai
  22. Ujala

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