Shakeel Badayuni: A tribute,on his birth centenary, Part I - - By Siraj Syed

Shakeel Badayuni: A tribute,on his birth centenary, Part I - - By Siraj Syed
Think of Shakeel Badayuni and you immediately recall his romantic verses from hit film after hit film, as well as his non-film ghazals, immortalised by, among others, Begum Akhtar. You cannot but think of his 24 year-long association with music maestro Naushad, who discovered him at a mushaira (where up to 20 Urdu poets congregate and recite, with a sadr-- president and a nazim--moderator/compère, over two to four hours) in 1946. In Shakeel, Naushad, the museeqaar-e-azam (greatest of composers) had a geetkaar-e-azam (greatest lyricist, a well-earned title that was bestowed on him posthumously) for company.

Born in Badaun (also spelt Badayun) on 03 August 1916, he died in Mumbai, prematurely, on 20 April 1970, before turning 55. Rings a bell? The man who gave vocal immortality to hundreds of Shakeel songs, Mohammed Rafi, also died in his 55th year. Naushad, Shakeel and Rafi was a combination that almost always ensured songs that were hits, full of rich poetry, blended with a magic baton and flowing from god-gifted chords. On his 100th birthday, we pay tribute to Shakeel Badayuni, the shair with the magic pen.

Badaun is a small town in Uttar Pradesh, known for its peda (a flat, round sweet). My own father liked it so much that he tried to source it from the manufacturers and sell them in Bombay, back in the late 1960s. As a teenager, that was all I knew about Badaun. Of course, I knew that there was a great song-writer called Shakeel Badayuni, Shakeel being his first name as well as his nom de plume (taqhallus) and the second half of his name denoting his native town, a common practice among Urdu poets—‘Sahir’ Ludhianvi, ‘Majrooh’ Sultanpuri, ‘Qamar’ Jalalabadi, ‘Hasrat’ Jaipuri, ‘Asad’ Bhopali. I had developed a liking for good film poetry rather early in my life, and his songs in several films had captured my imagination.
It, therefore, came as a pleasant surprise that his children were studying in my college, and I got to know Najma, Shakeel Sahab’s soft-spoken, ever-smiling daughter, who never let her locomotion challenges dampen her spirit. Son Javed, too, was in the same college. And then, within a year, both Shakeel Sahab and Najma were gone. My heart went out to the family that had received these two double, fatal blows. Javed went on to join the travel and tourism industry, and continues to lead tours, instead of calling it a day, as most persons his age might. Of the five Badayuni siblings, only the two sons, Javed and Tariq, and the eldest, Razia, survive.

Co-incidentally, Javed could not be in India on the day of his father’s birth anniversary, and will return only a couple of days later. I had hoped to drop in at his Bandra residence and pick-up a few threads. But that could not happen. Yet, thanks to mobile phone technology, he keyed in some responses to my queries, in between leading a conducted tour in HongKong. His one-time immediate neighbour, Rehman Naushad, eldest son of Naushad, was available, to revive memories, ‘live’, instead.  

Shakeel Badayuni was born Shakeel Ahmed Qadri to a Maulana (Muslim priest) and learnt Urdu, Persian and Arabic while still at school. His childhood teacher was ‘Lutf Badayuni’, who was equally adept at Urdu and Mathematics. Though nobody in his family was a poet, Badaun did have a literary environment. Aligarh Muslim University was the bedrock of Urdu poetry titans, back in 1936, when he came there to pursue a graduation degree. Hakim Abdul Waheed 'Ashk' (tear) Bijnori became his ustaad (teacher/tutor/guru), and ‘Jigar’ Moradabadi, already a name to reckon with, was his other master. 
While still a student, he started participating in college and university mushairas, impressing hordes of fans, and a few doyens too. Gifted with a sense of melody, he used to recite his kalaam (verses) in tarannum (in tune). Employment meant a shift to Delhi, as a Supply (Rations) Officer, under the British government. But Bombay beckoned.

Shakeel moved to Bombay in 1946, hoping to write songs for films. He was among the poets invited to present their poems at an annual mushaira, in central Bombay, where Jigar and ‘Khumaar’ Barabankvi (another Jigar disciple) were reciting too. Luck smiled, when Naushad and producer-director A.R. Kardar heard him there, and Naushad foresaw a bright future for the poet in films. Since he was under contract with A.R. Kardar, who was planning Dard at the time, Naushad asked Shakeel to come down to Mianjee (Kardar’s film fraternity moniker)’s office. A contract was signed, and Dard marked the painless transition, from mere shairi (poetry for poetry’s sake) to geetkaaree or naghmanigaree (professional song-writing). 

It also meant the dawn of a new era in the life of Shakeel in independent India, as Dard was released in 1947, the year of India’s independence from colonial British rule, and became a big musical hit. Debutant Uma Devi (Tun Tun) rendering his first film song, ‘Afsana likh rahee hoon’ actually sang the story of Shakeel’s successful pen and his enduring partnership with Naushad. Besides the 10 songs, that had the voices of Suraiya, Shamshad Begum and Uma, a story-set was also released on gramophone records, of the 78 r.p.m. variety, that featured dialogue pieces too.
As an in-house team of A.R. Kardar, Naushad and Shakeel went on to create the songs of 
Dillagi (11 songs, including ‘Too mera chaand maen teree chaandnee’)
Dulari (12 songs, including ‘Suhanee raat dhal chukee’)
Dastaan (9 songs, including ‘Tarari arari—Yeh mastee bharee rut’)
Jadoo (9 songs, including ‘Roop kee dushman paapee duniya’)
Diwana (9 songs, including ‘Tasveer banaata hoon teree’)
Along with these successive hits, a turbulent decade was passing by and 1951 was round the corner, and a revolution was brewing.

First, it was the Dilip Kumar-Nargis-Ashok Kumar-Nimmi starrer, Deedar (1951), in which the duo created ten songs, and it is difficult to choose which one pips the others at the musical goal-post. A completely different kettle of fish was to create a tidal wave in 1952. Naushad had worked with the Bhatt Brothers (Shankarbhai and Vijay) before joining Kardar. Now, they wanted him back for the story which was all about music itself, Baiju Bawra. Legend has it that Baiju was a disciple of Swami Haridas, in the time of Emperor Akbar, and, when confronted with Akbar’s royal musician Tansen, held his own. 

Naushad, who swore by Indian classical music, a few aberrations notwithstanding, had proved his mettle in this genre with Rattan, his first box-office ripple, and Bhatt wanted him to weave the magic once again. Kavi Pradeep was to write the lyrics, keeping in view the bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) that formed an essential part of the narrative. For reasons to which we have no definitive access, Pradeep could not deliver the lyrics for some time, till a worried Vijay Bhatt asked Naushad for an alternative writer. Naushad named Shakeel, with a rider that he should be asked to deliver within a short deadline, and if the song was not up to the mark, they would look for someone else. 

Now, if you have heard the songs of Baiju Bawra (who hasn’t?), you know what happened next. Forget the chart-topper romantic duet, ‘Tu Ganga kee mauj’. Savour these: 
‘O duniya key rakhvaaley’, 
‘Aaj gaavat man mero jhoomkey’ and 
‘Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj’. 
Electrifying! Want an encore? Click on 
‘Madhuban men Radhika’ (Koh-i-Noor).

A dilemma of a different sort emerged during the making of Mughal-e-Azam. Anarkali, with the same subject, was completed and released much before K. Asif’s magnum opus, which was 13 years in the making. Asif had a song situation that was noticeably similar to the one in Anarkali, in which Bina Rai had sung ‘Mohabbat men aesey qadam dagmagaye, zamana yeh samjhaa key hum pee key aaye’, which got quite popular.  

Naushad suggested that Asif drop the situation and work on another idea, lest it become repetitive and lose novelty. Asif would have nothing of it. He did his bit by creating the Sheesh Mahal (glass palace) set and the mirrored reflections that are the subject of folklore, 60 years later, while Naushad and Shakeel set to work for a full 12 hours on what was to become the ultimate ode to fearless love, ‘Pyar kiya to darnaa kya, pyar kiya koyee choree naheen kee, chhup chhup aahen bharnaa kya’.

Though Naushad was once or twice loaned out to other producers (Anmol Ghadi) by Kardar, who trumpeted Naushad as his big asset in his trailers, after 1951-52, Naushad and Kardar went their own ways. Age was catching-up with Kardar, and he made only a handful of films in the next 14 years. Shakeel and Naushad returned to their parent fold for Dil Diya Dard Liya, which was not the swan song that Kardar would have liked for himself. The film was a miserable flop, though it boasted of some great performances—Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman and Pran. When it came to music, DDDL was a sound-track to relish. 

Try this: A servant-turned-prince wants to win back the once wealthy mistress/beloved who had spurned him, but she is married now, and nothing can buy him the happiness he yearns for, 
‘Maen koyee patthar naheen insaan hoon, 
kaesey kah doon gham sey ghabrata naheen; 
Koyee saaghar dil ko behlata naheen, 
beqhudee men bhee qaraar aataa naheen.’

In the mid 60s, Shakeel was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and admitted to a sanatorium in Panchgani, a hill-resort, 6-7 hours’ drive from Mumbai. Former mentor and now a family friend, Naushad got him assignments even in his poor health, went up to Panchgani often, and encouraged him to continue writing. Income from his sunset years’ songs helped support his medical expenses. But he also had diabetes, and was once too often careless in his diet. In particular, he could never resist khichda, a dish that requires a robust constitution to digest. Earlier, he had almost lost his voice, and, as was inevitable, he lost his life too. 

Though he died in 1970, some films that were delayed in release had his name in their credits even 3-4 years later. It all added up to over 105 films and 900+ songs. Of these as many as 30 films were with Naushad, who, in his 65 year career, composed music for a mere 65 films. Five deevans (compilations) were published, of his non-film shairi, ghazals and nazms. They have now been amalgamated into one compendium, titled ‘Kulliyaat-e-Shakeel’ (complete works of Shakeel). A special place was reserved in the hearts of Shakeel aficionados for his last ghazal, reverberating his state-of-mind, as he lay on his death-bed, truly immortalised by Begum Akhtar, 
‘Merey humnafas merey humnavaa 
mujhey dost bankey daghaa na dey,
Maen hoon dard-e-ishq sey jaan ba-lab
mujhey zindagee kee dua na dey.’

The bulk of his oeuvre was with Naushad, but since Naushad was never prolific, Shakeel had the opportunities to work with Ghulam Mohammed (a former Naushad assistant), Sajjad, Ravi, Hemant Kumar, C. Ramchandra, S.D. Burman, Roshan, and even the odd Kalyanji-Anandji and Shankar-Jaikishan pairing. Early film awards did not acknowledge the contributions of lyricists. In the context, the three highly coveted Filmfare (magazine) awards he won on a row are indeed commendable:
1961 for ‘Chaudhvin ka chand ho’, Chaudhvin Ka Chand
1962 for ‘Husnwale tera jawab nahin’, Gharana
1963 for ‘Kaheen deep jaley kaheen dil’, Bees Saal Baad
They gladdened Shakeel no end, but one cannot but miss the irony that none of these three were tuned by Naushad. What is worse, even Mughal-e-Azam, released in 1960 did not receive any Filmfare award.

Bandra was also home to Dilip Kumar, Johnny Walker, Mohammed Rafi and S.U. Sunny (producer-director, Mela, Kohinoor), and along with Wajahat Mirza, Azm Bazidpuri (two veteran writers) and Khumar Barabankvi (lyricist, later court poet of the Nizam of Hyderabad; Khumar and Shakeel both contributed songs to Ruskhsana, 1955), Shakeel became a member of the group that loved to play badminton, go on picnics to hilly spots around Bombay, made hunting trips and flew kites. At the time of writing this tribute, Dilip Kumar is the only member of that club who survives. Though he travelled widely in India, the only time Shakeel went abroad was to perform a pilgrimage, in Iraq. By contrast, his son Javed is among the most extensively travelled persons around.

While pure romance is more the exception than the rule when you look at the writings of Shailendra, Sahir and Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh and Rajinder Krishan could ride any poetical vehicle with perfection. Hasrat and Shakeel, on the other hand, were labelled as poets whose pens were immersed in the elixir of love rather than the blood of reform and revolution. One oft-quoted couplet makes a case for his style, which was sometimes criticised as being too romantic, in an age when progressive-writing was acquiring a rebellious tone.
‘Maen Shakeel dil ka hoon tarjuman
keh mohabbaton ka hoon raazdaan
Mujhey faqhr hae meree shairi
meree zindagee sey juda naheen.’
(Urdu poets usually use their pen-name in the last couplet of their ghazals)
Clip from the film Palki, featuring one of Shakeel's greatest ghazals: Shikva-e-iztiraab kaun karey

Audio from film Pak Daman, 1957, another of his greatest ghazals, Hangama-e-gham sey, which he is himself seen reciting.

Sabri brothers singing ' mere hamnafas mere hamnavaa;'
An old Hindi book on the poet/lyricist,' Shakeel Badayuni Aur Unki Shayari', by Prakash Pandit, provides a good overview of his life and his poetry. The publisher, Shri Gopal Shukla, is happy to share some chapters with us, which can be accessed on this link:








 End of Part I. Await Part II
Siraj Syed is the Consulting Editor of See profile. 
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