26 April 1987: Shankar Raghuvanshi, Indian music director, died

Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi was born on 15 October 1922. Together with Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, he was one half of the duo Shankar-Jaikishan, a leading music director pair of the Hindi film industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Even after Jaikishan’s death at a rather young age in 1971, Shankar continued to use the name of Shankar-Jaikishan in films. He died on 26 April 1987.

Shankar spent much of his childhood in Hyderabad. He learned the tabla and other instruments and was a student of the musicians Baba Nasir Khansahib and Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. He later dabbled with composing music for theatre.

Jaikishan, seven years younger than Shankar, hailed from Gujarat. His father was at one time a court musician of the ruler of Dharampur. Jaikishan’s teachers in music included Prem Shankar Nayak and Vinayak Tambe. It is believed that the good-looking Jaikishan wanted to be an actor, which was one of his motivations behind coming to Bombay.

Shankar and Jaikishan reportedly first met when they were both waiting outside a film director’s office. They soon became collaborators and helped in composing music for Prithvi Theatres, which was founded by the renowned actor Prithviraj Kapoor.

In the years to follow, Shankar-Jaikishan would become the favourite music directors of Prithviraj’s son, the legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor.

Many years later in an interview, Shankar recalled: “[I] got to learn a lot of things and the opportunity to do a lot of good work in that theatre (Prithvi). And whatever I am today is only because of that. Whenever the theatre used to go for outstation tours, we used to do some extra good work. For example, after the stage shows, whenever some local instrumentalists were available, I used to catch hold of them. . . . So it was my habit to sing-play (instruments), listen (to others) and gain something out of it.”

A musical journey 

Shankar and Jaikishan assisted music director Ram Ganguly in Aag, director Raj Kapoor’s first film. For his subsequent film Barsaat, Raj Kapoor asked Shankar to do the music, and Shankar immediately roped in Jaikishan. Thus the famous Shankar-Jaikishan partnership was born.

The duo struck gold in their debut film, with the music of Barsaat becoming extremely popular. 

Songs like ‘Hawa mein udta jaaye’ and ‘Jeeya bekrarar hai’, both sung by Lata Mangeshkar, are classics of Indian film music. The young Mangeshkar sang as many as nine songs in the film, seven of them solo. Along with Shankar-Jaikishan, the film’s lyricists Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra would also become a part of many future Raj Kapoor ventures.

“Shankar-Jaikishan reproduced the waltz ‘Blue Danube’ on the violin. It was played by Jaikishan and so impressed was Raj Kapoor that it became RK Banner’s theme music. At Raj Kapoor's request, Shankar Jaikishan included a part of this piece in the first and third antaras of ‘Chod gaye balam’ rendered by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar,” Ranjan Das Gupta wrote in The Hindu.

Shankar-Jaikishan teamed up with Raj Kapoor in several films, including Awaara, Shree 420, Sangam, Teesri Kasam, and Mera Naam Joker

Among its many brilliant songs, Awaara also had what is often regarded as the first dream sequence of Hindi cinema. In her award-winning book Awāra, the film scholar Gayatri Chatterjee writes: “One is struck with awe to think how the recording of this piece (the dream sequence) was achieved: Raj’s cry, the yell of the group dancers, the simulated sound of leaping flames, and the several instrumental pieces are all orchestrated together with remarkable expertise.”

Among the most feted music directors, Shankar-Jaikishan won the Filmfare award for Chori Chori, Anari, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Professor, Suraj, Brahmachari, Pehchaan, Mera Naam Joker, Be-Imaan – all films from the 1960s and 70s except Chori Chori

It is striking, however, that some of their most outstanding work of the 1950s was not awarded.

Shankar-Jaikishan were highly paid music directors. They reportedly had creative and personal differences in the mid-1960s but their name continued to appear together in the credits. After Jaikishan’s death in 1971 at the young age of 41, Shankar continued to compose music for films, but hits were no longer easy. Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi died in 1987. For millions of fans of Hindi film music, Shankar-Jaikishan remain alive through their unforgettable music.


Also on this day: 

1920 — Srinivasa Ramanujan, legendary Indian mathematician, passed away  

1953 — Moushumi Chatterjee, Indian film actress, was born  

1961 — Hari Singh, last ruling Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, passed away   


  • Awāra by Gayatri Chatterjee
  • Wikipedia


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