Shankar - Jaikishan were only the second music director duo in Hindi films after Husnalal-Bhagatram (active in 1940s). Their huge success through the 1950s and 1960s set a trend of music composers working in pairs, that has lasted till the present day.
Shankar Ramsingh Raghuvanshi was born on October 15, 1922 in Madhya Pradesh and grew up in Andhra Pradesh. He was adept at playing the tabla and had learnt music under Khawaja Khurshid Anwar.
After moving to Mumbai, he got a job in Prithvi Theatre where he started off as an assistant to Husnlal - Bhagatram. Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal was born on November 4, 1932 in Gujrat into a family of royal musicians and started learning music from his mother as a child. Shankar helped Jaikishan get a job in Prithvi Theatre and they soon teamed up as assistants to music director Ram Ganguly for Raj Kapoor’s debut film as director, “Aag” (1948). Raj Kapoor was impressed by the duo’s work in “Aag” and gave them a break in his new film “Barsaat” (1949). Unlike many successful artists who struggled for years before making it big, SJ’s very first score was a big success. Songs of this film - “Jiya Beqaraar Hai”, “Hawa Mein Udta Jaye” and “Chod Gaye Balam” among others - rose quickly to popularity. All the artists involved in the making of the music were relatively new and “Barsaat” served as a key career milestone for all of them. Music directors Shankar-Jaikishan, singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh and lyricists, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri, went on to become stars in their own right and continued to collaborate for many years to come.
As a result of “Barsaat”s spectacular success, SJ became Raj Kapoor’s favourite music directors. Successful scores followed for Raj Kapoor films like “Awara” (1951), “Aah” (1953), “Shree 420” (1955) and “Chori Chori” (1956) which won them their first Filmfare award. By the mid-50s, SJ had perhaps tired of creating music to align with the simpleton image Raj Kapoor cultivated for his characters and wanted to do something different. For example, they insisted in using Manna Dey for two songs in “Shree 420” although Mukesh was Raj Kapoor’s favourite. However, it was in 1956 with “Basant Bahar” that SJ finally got an opportunity to compose classical music, something they had only flirted with in the past. Their effort resulted in a score that was appreciated by critics as well as the masses. They even had Bhimsen Joshi sing for them in “Basant Bahar”, including the famous song “Ketaki Gulab Juhi”, in which the classical music stalwart “lost” to Manna Dey!
The second half of the 1950s saw SJ maturing as musicians and creating well-rounded compositions with classical, Western and folk influences. The 60s beckoned a very different kind of music - music that was tailor-made for the reigning superstar of that time - Shammi Kapoor. Starting with “Yahoo! Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe” (“Junglee”, 1961), it was SJ that created that exuberant brand of music. Through the 60s, their careers skyrocketed as they scored in several Shammi Kapoor films like “Professor” (1962), “Jaanwar” (1965), “Budtameez” (1966), “An Evening In Paris” (1967), “Brahmachari” (1968) and “Tumse Achha Kaun Hai” (1969).
The 1960s also saw Shankar and Jaikishan’s relationship fall apart. There radically different temperaments and lifestyles was perhaps one reason that contributed to it. Shankar’s preference for the singer Sharda also resulted in differences since Jaikishan still wanted the duo to work with Lata Mangeshkar. It is also said that Shankar became jealous when Jaikishan’s compositions became more successful. The passing away of their favourite lyricists - Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri - did not help either. The last nail in the coffin was Jaikishan’s untimely death on September 12, 1971 due to liver cirrhosis.
Shankar continued to compose music as Shankar - Jaikishan till 1986 but could not re-create the success he enjoyed with his partner. He died on April 26, 1987.