Chalta Rahe Yeh Karwan: Celebrating the Music of Shakeel Badayuni

Remembering Hindi cinema’s legendary lyricist and poet Shakeel Badayuni on his birth anniversary.

4 min read
Chalta Rahe Yeh Karwan: Celebrating the Music of Shakeel Badayuni

(On the occasion of Shakeel Badayuni’s birthday, The Quint is republishing this article from its archives. It was first published on 3 August 2015.)

Harshr tak garmi-e-hangaama-e-hasti hai ‘Shakeel’
Silsila khatm na hoga mere afsaane ka

When the historical town of Budaun in UP was blessed with Shakeel Ahmed, no one could’ve guessed that modern, independent India would come to identify the city of Budaun with the name of its son, who grew up to become Shakeel Badayuni, one of the most legendary lyricists of the Hindi Film industry. On his birth anniversary, here’s looking back at his life and his everlasting words.

During his early years, the academic ambience at home lead Shakeel to learn many languages like Persian, Arabic & Urdu and got him inclined towards poetry. At Aligarh Muslim University, while pursuing a BA degree, he started attending inter-collegiate mushairas and was soon being recognised as an emerging voice in poetry. During those days, he met the famous poet Jigar Moradabadi and became his protégé.

It was 1946, when he arrived in Mumbai. The Indian film industry had lost Lahore, one of its pillars, to partition and also many great artists who preferred to settle in Pakistan. Around this time, Shakeel was noticed by film maker AR Kardar and music director Naushad at a mushaira, who were in search of a new lyricist for an upcoming film Dard (1947). Naushad impressed by young Shakeel’s poetry, offered him the film.

It was just the beginning of a great professional partnership as the duo formed an everlasting bond. The Naushad-Shakeel jodi has been one of the finest showcases of artistic collaboration in the Hindi film industry till date. The duo worked together in 27 films and produced some of Hindi cinema’s most memorable tunes together, which not only were incredible melodies, but were also the reason behind the commercial success of most films that they featured in- Aan (1952), Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Kohinoor (1960), Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Mere Mehboob (1963) to name a few.

The good old days: Mohd Rafi with Shakeel Badayuni. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@manojdialogue)

Shakeel also established a good rapport with music director Ghulam Muhammad and penned many unforgettable gems for him. Also, Shakeel’s association with music director Ravi fetched him two of the three consecutive Filmfare awards for the ‘Best Lyricist’, in 1960, 1961 and 1962. Shakeel remains the only lyricist till date to have made such a hat-trick at the Filmfare awards!

While most of his contemporary writers, like Sahir, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Zafri and Majrooh Sultanpuri had political inclinations, Shakeel restricted himself to writing for films. The factionalism somehow affected his output and he did merely 90 films in his career. One of the great things about Shakeel’s writing is that while he used high quality Urdu in his literary works, he kept his filmi lyrics simple enough for the masses to understand, without ever compromising on the quality his poetry. He is also one of the finest ghazal-kaars of Hindi film music.

Guru Dutt was so heavily affected by the intensity of Mili Khaak Mein Mohabbat from Chaudhavin Ka Chand, that he heard it from Shakeel and Ravi for hours during the music sitting for the film, Ravi ji told me. Guru Dutt wanted a sad mujra song for the film and Shakeel came up with words Jiyarwa uljhan mein ho. Guru Dutt felt that it was too intense for the situation and asked them to come up with a lighter number. Shakeel immediately turned it into Dil ki kahaani rang laayi hai, allah duhaai hai duhaai hai.

Shakeel also shared a deep bond with the legendary ghazal singer Beghum Akhtar. She was in love with his poetry and many of her most popular renditions were penned by Shakeel. Most notable of all is Ae Muhabbat Tere Anjaam Pe Rona Aaya.

Shakeel succumbed to an early death due to diabetes and TB. He spent his last years at the TB sanatorium in Panchmarhi. Even during his isolation, Naushad continued to work with Shakeel and got him three films, Aadmi (1968), Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and Sunghursh (1968). Sunghursh was the duo’s last great offering. The song Jab dil se dil takrata hai is considered to be one of the finest romantic songs for its intensity.

Interestingly, Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala were not on talking terms during the filming of the song. But Shakeel’s lyrics brought out the best onscreen romance from the duo. Shakeel passed away at the age of 53 in 1970. His magical words laden with the fragrance of his poetry, will stay with us eternally.

Sab karishmat-e-tasavvur hai ‘Shakeel’
Warna aataa hai na jata hai koi

(The author is a technologist by profession, who lives and breathes Hindi film music and cinema. You can follow him on Twitter: @p1j)

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