Dilip Kumar’s favorite lyricist—Shakeel Badayuni

A solid friendship—Shakeel Badayuni (Sitting) and Naushad in theri early days. Photo: Courtesy Naushad 

Born August 3, 1916, Shakeel Badayuni was composer Naushad’s—and Dilip Kumar’s—favorite lyricist. From 1950 to his death in 1970 alone, the lyricist penned over 35 films of Naushad. He also penned the songs for over a dozen of Dilip Kumar movies, including his home production Ganga Jumna and landmark musicals like Mela (their first collaboration), Aan, Mughal-E-Azam, Kohinoor, Leader, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Ram Aur Shyam, Aadmi and Sunghursh.

The Kohinoor song Madhuban mein Radhika inspired Dilip Kumar so much that he insisted on actually learning the sitar as he had to play it during the song!

Add an oeuvre that includes Dulari, Baiju Bawra, Mother India, Bees Saal Baad, Do Badan, Phool Aur Patthar, Mere Mehboob, Gharana, Grihasti, Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Beti among others and we know why Shakeel is considered among the foremost songwriters of Hindi cinema.

Born Mohammed Jamaal Ahmed Sokhta Quadri in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh, he went through Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hindi tuitions at home itself, and was also fond of reading. An early influence was a distant relative, Zia-Ul-Quadri Badayuni, a shaayar who wrote Islamic religious verse. All these factors along with the environment of the times turned the lad into a poet.

After joining Aligarh Muslim University in the mid-1930s, Shakeel began participating in mushairas, frequently winning at such competitions. He completed his Bachelor in Arts, married distant relative Salma, and went to Delhi on a job as a supply officer.

The mushaira earned him fame at a national level. In the days when Leftist poets like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Jigar Morabadadi and Ali Sardar Jafri ruled and often wrote cynical verse against the system, Shakeel’s poems were more personal and positive with a strong whiff of romance. Angst was replaced by lines like Mujhe faqr hai ki meri shaayari meri zindagi se juda nahin (I am proud that my poetry is not distanced from my personal life) recited with a balance of humor, wit and the literary element.

In 1946, Naushad and filmmaker A.R.Kardar, who had introduced Majrooh in Shahjehan, heard the 30-year-old writer and asked him if he wished to write in films. Shakeel happily accepted. Asked by Naushad and Kardar to encapsulate his skills, Shakeel’s replied, “Hum dard ka afsana duniya ko suna denge / Har dil mein mohabbat ki ek aag lagaa denge (I will tell the world the story of my pain and set every heart afire with love)”.

Shakeel’s first recorded song was Dilwale jal jal kar for Natak (1947). However, it was Dard that released earlier that year, and with its chartbusting song Afsana likh rahi hoon, Shakeel never looked back.

The hits kept coming through a career that was cut short only by Shakeel’s untimely death at 53 on April 20, 1970. Recalls Shakeel’s son Javed Badayuni, “Diabetes and tuberculosis took my father away well before the government could honor him.”

Towards the end, Naushad would go to the TB sanatorium in Panchgani (a hill-station near Mumbai) for his sittings with Shakeel for their last three films – Ram Aur Shyam, Aadmi and Sangharsh. “But though the latter two films released later, it was for Ram Aur Shyam that work was completed last. The last song recorded by Naushad-saab and my father was the Rafi hit for Dilip Kumar, Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salaami le le / Kal teri bazm se diwana chala jaayega (Accept my salute because tomorrow I will not be there in this gathering). It seemed a fitting tribute to the gentle giant.

“For almost 20 years, Naushad-saab worked in every film with my father,” adds Javed. “I recall Vijay Bhatt, wanting Pradeep-ji for Baiju Bawra as devotional Hindu songs were needed. But Naushad-saab was insistent that Bhatt-saab hear my father’s lyrics. After hearing them, Bhatt-saab was overjoyed and so Baiju Bawra went on to become a musical milestone in their careers with unforgettable songs like Bachpan ki mohabbat ko, Jhoole mein pawan ki, Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj, Tu Ganga ki mauj and Mohe bhool gaye saawariya.”

Javed adds, “For 20 years after Andaz (which had Majrooh-saab’s songs), my father never worked with anyone else – a rare phenomenon in Hindi film music. The only exceptions were Saaz Aur Awaz, in which my father had suggested that he work with his friend Khumar Barabankhvi, and Saathi, during which my father was ill and Naushad-saab thought of re-creating the Andaz magic with Mukesh as his main voice and Majrooh-saab’s lyrics.”

A highlight of Shakeel’s career was the creation of Pyar kiya to darna kya for Mughal-E-Azam. The line Chhup na sakega ishq hamara / Chaaron taraf hai unnka nazaraa / Parda nahin jab koi Khuda se / Bando se parda karna kya took days to finalizeNaushad had told me that this last antara was finally “locked” after a session that lasted from 4 p.m. to sunrise the next day on Naushad’s sea-facing bungalow’s terrace. During this time, the composer and lyricist never thought of food and only had water!

Javed recounts how H.S. Rawail, producer-director of Mere Mehboob, told Naushad to use a proper orchestra for the title-song of the film instead of the mere three instruments he wanted. And the composer simply said, “Wait till you hear the song. Iss mein sirf Shakeel-saab ki shaayari ka kamaal hai (This song only has Shakeel’s magical words)! I do not want them to be overshadowed by the music!”

For all his romanticism, Shakeel was versatile. The romantic classics included Na jaao saiyyan (Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam) and Ae husn zaraa jaag (Mere Mehboob). The sad song mastery was seen in immortal classics like Aaj purani raahon se (Aadmi) and Koi saagar (Dil Diya Dard Diya).

But the writer also penned qawwali, mujra, Holi and other festival songs, lullabies, cabarets, patriotic and all kinds of songs needed in Hindi films. A special forte were children’s songs from Nanha munna raahi hoon (Son Of India) to Hum bhi agar bacche hote (Saaz Aur Awaz).

A unique forte was the poet’s genius at devotional as well as other songs with a Hindu ethos. Naushad had once thrown light on this special depth. “Shakeel-saab’s father was a Muslim imam who respected all religions and inculcated those values in his son,” Naushad had once said. “And so Shakeel had made his own study of Hindu culture and mythology. Otherwise, songs like those from Baiju Bawra, Madhuban mein Radhika naache re (Kohinoor) or Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh (Amar) and the Holi songs in films like Mother India could not have been possible.”

Shakeel has also written five books of ghazal (called Diwan) and they were compiled later into the very popular Kuliyat-E-Shakeel. Such was Shakeel’s fame at his peak that luminaries like India’s past presidents Dr Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri would insist on his recitals when they attended cultural events of the literary kind, or even invite him to mehfils.

While Shakeel was Naushad’s musical bulwark, he freely wrote for many other composers. Ravi, Hemant Kumar, Ghulam Mohammed, S.D. Burman, C. Ramachandra, Sonik-Omi, Kalyanji-Anandji, Shankar-Jaikishan and Laxmikant-Pyarelal and were among his other composers, with the last-mentioned’s beautiful lullaby, Mere dil aaj tu mayoos naa ho (Jurm Aur Saza) proving his last release in 1974. Khayyam tuned his ghazals too, but in private albums.

52 years after the lyricist’s death, his songs and poetry remain as fresh and celebrated as ever. The soft-spoken bard lives on.







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