Music by Naushad, lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni: The great partnership in Hindi film music history

No other composer-lyricist collaboration was as committed to each other, lasted as long, or produced as many outstanding songs.

When you think of Naushad with due reverence, spare a thought for Shakeel Badayuni. For what would Naushad have brought his musical weight to bear on, were it not for Shakeel’s poetry? To acknowledge Naushad’s greatness as composer is to also pay tribute to the genius of Shakeel.

As you traverse the songs he penned for Naushad from Dard (1947) till Sanghursh (1968), you are so amazed at the consistency of Shakeel’s brilliance that you wonder who inspired whom to scale ever-newer peaks in music. No other composer–lyricist partnership was as committed to each other, lasted as long, or produced as many outstanding songs. Shakeel was Naushad’s discovery; it was the composer who got the struggling poet a break in [AR] Kardar’s Dard, ending days of poverty for young Shakeel’s large family. Shakeel never forgot that, and always underplayed his contribution to Naushad’s glory in the 1950s. Unlike Sahir who was wont to shoot his mouth off, Shakeel was content to write good, and often great, poetry for the composer to tune.

Shakeel used his experiences of deprivation with painful intensity in his early lyrics. His poetry stood out most for the quality of despair, giving vent to feelings of dejection, frustration and often a muted anger with the almighty for the plight of his protagonists. This last lent his poetry a blazing intensity, as in the song ‘Beech bhanwar mein’ in his very first film Dard: ‘Bekas ke ghamkhaar tumhi ho/Jo kuch ho sarkaar tumhi ho/Dil ka sukoon jeene ka sahara/Duniya ne sab chheena shah-e-madeena.’ Naushad used the same Raag Darbari to highlight Shakeel’s angry articulation of his grievance in Baiju Bawra where ‘O duniya ke rakhwaale’ bristles with the poet’s intensity. Shakeel’s words contribute as much to the potency of the song as Rafi’s pathos-drenched vocals. Baiju Bawra was a film that required Shakeel to use pure Hindi, and the man came up with trumps, penning a bhajan as authentic as ‘Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj’. It was for Naushad again that Shakeel wrote the ghazal ‘Na milta gham toh barbaadi ke afsaane kahaan jaate’ in Amar (1954, Lata). Was it any wonder that contemporary Sahir considered Shakeel the best ghazal writer in Hindi cinema?

‘O Duniya Ka Rakhwale’ from ‘Baiju Bawra’ (1952).

Shakeel confined all his creativity to love, romance and dejection, resisting all temptation to write about social causes. Among the quartet of Majrooh, Shailendra, Sahir and Shakeel that ruled Hindi film lyrics in the 1950s and 1960s, Shakeel was the only one to steer clear of political leanings. Sahir may have not liked Shakeel’s preoccupation with matters of the heart alone, but he had the grace to admit that Shakeel was truly brilliant in that genre. Nowhere is that brilliance more sparkling than in all the songs of K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam, where Shakeel had to help Naushad surmount the popularity of Anarkali, the same theme that was a musical hit seven years earlier. Shakeel reached his zenith as lyricist in the film, with each song a lyrical cosmos in itself, the line ‘pyar kiya toh darna kya’ easily the most popular. Anarkali challenging Emperor Akbar in his court with her public declaration of love for prince Salim hasn’t lost any of its spirited defiance fifty years on, thanks in no small measure to Shakeel’s words: ‘Aaj kahenge dil ka fasana/Jaan bhi lele chaahe zamana/Maut wohi jo duniya dekhe/Ghut ghut kar yun Marna kya’.

‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ from ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960).

If it was defiance in this song, it was Shakeel’s trademark dialogue with the Lord in ‘Bekas pe karam kijiye sarkaar-e-madeena’, Naushad’s Kedar tune that found a place among Lata’s first list of personal favourites in 1967. While each song leaves you impressed, it is in the other Lata solo at the end of the film, Khuda nigehbaan ho tumhaara/Dhadakte dil ka payaam lelo, that Shakeel’s words, topped by Ram Lal’s Shehnai and Naushad’s Yaman notes, move you to tears.

After Mughal-e-Azam, everything Shakeel wrote seemed less. Of course, there were many flashes of brilliance in later years, the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand being a case in point. Shakeel also wrote ‘Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam’ (Mere Mehboob), ‘Ek shahenshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal’ (Leader), ‘Guzren hain aaj ishq mein hum us makaam se’ (Dil Diya Dard Liya) and ‘Dil ki kashti bhanwar mein aayi hain’ (Palki), all for Naushad, but with the slide in the fortunes of the composer, Shakeel’s poetry went unnoticed. With Mughal-e-Azam, the best of Naushad was over, and all of Shakeel’s verve couldn’t reverse the fortunes of either. His hits for Hemant Kumar in Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam and Bees Saal Baad and for Ravi in Do Badan kept him going, but lyrically, what he wrote for others came nowhere close to the magic he created for Naushad.

‘Bekarar Karke Humein’ from ‘Bees Saal Baad’ (1962).

Luckily for him, death came early, in 1970, and he was spared the redundancy that many stalwarts of music of the previous two decades, including Naushad, had to face. Perhaps he was bidding adieu to the world in his last hit song ‘Aaj puraani raahon se’ in Aadmi, where he wrote with uncanny prescience: Jeevan badla duniya badli, mann ko anokha gyaan mila/Aaj mujhe apne hi dil mein ek naya insaan mila/Pahuncha hoon wahaan nahin door jahaan/Bhagwaan bhi meri nigaahon se’.
Excerpted with permission from Bollywood Melodies A History of the Hindi Film Song, Ganesh Anantharaman, Penguin Random House India.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

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According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

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As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.