It was a momentous moment when maestro Naushad, lyricist Shakeel Badayuni and singer Mohammed Rafi, came together to create the iconic bhajan, Hari Om… man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj for Baiju Bawra. Based on raag malkauns, it’s an ode to India’s priceless Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.
Regarding the bhajan sacrosanct, it’s believed that Naushad asked his team to attend the recording only after ablution. It also bespeaks of the inviolability of their art and the reverence they accorded to it.
Mughal-E-Azam remains another monumental collaboration between Shakeel and Naushad that captured the passion, poetry and politics of love.
Truly, love was at the heart of his art – making Shakeel the only lyricist to have won three consecutive Filmfare Awards for his verses in Chaudvin Ka Chand (1960), Gharana (1961) and Bees Saal Baad (1962).
The mood in newly independent India was that of iconoclasm and idealism. But Shakeel unlike his peers and progressive poets Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and others, remained a romanticist.
While his songs for films were situation bound, his non-film ghazals delved into the minutiae of emotions, the thwarted and the tragic. So much so that the venerated Begum Akhtar gave voice to his lament and longing in her handpicked ones, Mere humnafas mere humnawa being one such…
Shakeel Badayuni was born in 1916 in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, where mystical poetry and Sufism thrived. Shakeel’s early inspiration was his relative Zia-ul-Qasiri Badayuni, a spiritual poet.
Shakeel attended Aligarh University in the 1930s, where poets Neeraj and Jigar Muradabadi influenced his writing talent. He became a star in mehfils and mushairas. After working with the government’s supply department in Delhi, Shakeel came to Bombay in 1944 to pursue his calling.
SHAKEEL & NAUSHAD
Shakeel met music composer Naushad at a mushaira in 1946. At the event, Naushad asked Shakeel to introduce himself in verse. “Hum dard ka afsana duniya ko suna denge / Har dil mein mohabbat ki ek aag lagaa denge,” Shakeel thus expressed himself. An alliance that spread across two decades and over 22 films was forged that moment.
Shakeel’s lyrics set to tune by Naushad for Kardar’s Dard (1947) were hits especially Uma Devi’s (Tun Tun) Afsana likh rahi hun. The duo treated listeners to a sumptuous fare in films like Dulari (Suhani raat dhal chuki), Mela (Yeh zindagi ke mele), Deedar (Hue hum jinke liye barbad), Mother India (Duniye mein hum aayein hai ), Kohinoor (Do sitaron ka zameen), Leader (Apni azaadi ko hum), Mere Mehboob (Mere Mehboob tujhe), Dil Diya Dard Liya (Guzare hain aaj ishq mein), Sunghursh (Mere pairon mein ghungroo) and more between 1949 -1968.
Vijay Bhatt’s Baiju Bawra (1952), based on the legendary musician was a milestone for the two. Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj sung by Rafi, Ustad Amir Khan and DV Paluskar’s Aaj gawat man mero (raag desh) and the melodious Tu Ganga ki mauj (raag bhairavi), sung by Rafi… celebrated Shakeel’s grip over Hindi.
Mention must be made of Shakeel’s usage of the Khari Boli dialect. Holi aaye re kanhai (Mother India 1957), Mohe panghat pe (Mughal-E-Azam 1960) and Dhoondo dhoondo re saajana (Gunga Jumna 1961) were folk songs. Shakeel used Bhojpuri words in Nain lad jai hain to manwa ma to reflect the setting of Gunga Jumna.
The music of Mughal-E-Azam was a catalogue of Naushad and Shakeel’s ingenuity – Pyar kiya toh darna kya based on the folk song Pyaar kiya hai, kya chori ki hai; the bhajan Mohe panghat pe borrowed from the mythical lore of Lord Krishna and Radha, the qawwali Teri mehfil mein kismet , the classical Shubh din aayo raj sung by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and the sublime Bekas pe karam kijiye… were royal offerings.
SHAKEEL & RAVI
Shakeel teamed up with composer Ravi for 15 films including the 1961 Gharana (won both Shakeel and Ravi the Filmfare Award), Ghungat, Grahasti, Nartkai (all in 1963), Phool Aur Patthar and Do Badan (both in 1966). Shakeel proved to be Ravi’s lucky mascot, as the composer got his big break with Guru Dutt with Chaudvin Ka Chand (1960). Shakeel won the Filmfare Award for Best Lyrics for the same.
Few would know that the line Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftab ho came from Ravi to which Shakeel’s rejoinder was… Jo bhi ho tum khuda ki qasam lajawab ho! Between the two Waheeda Rehman’s exquisiteness was documented forever.
Their other popular songs include Mori chham chham baje payaliya (Ghunghat) and Lo aa gayi unki yaad (Do Badan), which earned the Filmfare Award for Ravi.
SHAKEEL & HEMANT KUMAR
Shakeel wrote the Filmfare Award-winning Kahin deep jale kahin dil and others for Hemant Kumar’s Bees Saal Baad (1962). Lata Mangeshkar won her second Filmfare Award for the haunting comeback refrain after a spell of asthma.
The Shakeel-Hemant pair reached its zenith with Sahib Bibi Ghulam (1962). The dreamy Piya aise jiya mein, the imploring Na jao saiyan and the evocative Chale aao are situational. The film owes as much to Meena Kumari’s yearning as to Shakeel’s elegies that translated her turmoil.
Some of Shakeel’s films with S.D. Burman include Kaise Kahoon and Benazir (both in 1964). With C. Ramachandra he wrote for Zindagi Aur Maut (1965) and Wahan Ke Log (1967). While he collaborated with Roshan on Bedaag (1965) and Noorjahan (1967).
Shakeel had little interest in political ideology or social causes. Romance remained his preoccupation. The legendary Jigar Moradabadi described Shakeel as ‘Shair-e-fitrat’, someone whose poetry was an extension of his personality. After hearing the ghazal, Na milta gham, from Amar, Sahir Ludhianvi couldn't help calling Shakeel the best ghazal writer.
Shakeel too wrote about himself:
Mujhe fakhr hai meri shayri
Meri zindagi se judaa nahi
(I am proud that my poetry
Is not disconnected from myself)
Shakeel’s ghazals, a level more intricate than film lyrics, dealt with the intrigues of love, which is why exponents of the art form patronised them. Begum Akhtar favoured rendering his poetry, including the iconic Mere hamnafas, mere hamnawa and Aye mohabat tere anjam pe rona aaya on radio and in concerts.
In the late ’60s, Shakeel was left indisposed due to tuberculosis and admitted to an infirmary in Panchgani. To salvage his sinking morale and finances, Naushad leveraged three handsomely paid projects, Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Aadmi (1968) and Sunghursh (1968) for the poet. Loyalist Naushad never worked with any other lyricist in Shakeel’s lifetime.
53-year-old Shakeel succumbed to complications caused by diabetes on 20 April 1970 leaving behind his wife, two sons and two daughters. His young daughter Najma passed away soon after his demise. His well-wishers formed the trust, Yaad-e-Shakeel, to assist his family.
Shakeel’s poetry continues to be patronised by enthusiasts of Urdu and vintage music.
A library under his name in Badaun stands as a tribute to the humble bard.