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Shailendra (lyricist)

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Shankardas Kesarilal Shailendra
Shailendra on a 2013 stamp of India
Background information
Born(1923-08-30)30 August 1923
Rawalpindi, Punjab, British India
(now in Punjab, Pakistan)
Died14 December 1966(1966-12-14) (aged 43)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
Years active1949–1966

Shailendra (30 August 1923 – 14 December 1966) was a popular Indian Hindi-Urdu Poet, lyricist and film producer.[1] Noted for his association with the filmmaker Raj Kapoor, singer Mukesh, and the composers Shankar–Jaikishan, he wrote lyrics for several successful Hindi film songs in the 1950s and the 1960s.[2]

Birth and early life[edit]

Shankar Shailendra was born on 30 August 1923 in Rawalpindi, Punjab - now in Pakistan.[3][4] His ancestors belonged to Ara district of Bihar.[5][better source needed] He was born into a Chamar family [6][7] and lost his mother and sister at a young age. His village in Akhtiarpur, Arrah, Bihar mostly comprised agricultural laborers and Shailendra’s father had shifted to Rawalpindi to find work at a military hospital.[citation needed]

Shailendra came in contact with Indra Bahadur Khare at the Kishori Raman Vidyalay (Now Kishori Raman Inter College) Mathura. Both started composing poems, sitting on the rock located on the bank of a pond in between railway 27 quarters and railway line near to Mathura station. Afterwards Shailendra moved to Bombay for films and Indra Bahadur Khare got his fame in Raashtreey Kavita.[citation needed]

Career as a lyricist[edit]

Shailendra started his career as an apprentice with Indian Railways in Matunga workshop, Bombay in 1947. He started writing poetry during these days.

The filmmaker Raj Kapoor noticed Shailendra, when the latter was reading out his poem Jalta hai Punjab at a mushaira (poetic symposium).[8] Kapoor offered to buy the poem Jalta Hai Punjab written by Shailendra and for his movie Aag (1948). Shailendra, a member of the left wing Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), was wary of mainstream Indian cinema and refused. However, after his wife became pregnant, Shailendra himself approached Raj Kapoor in need of money. At this time, Raj Kapoor was filming Barsaat (1949), and two of the film songs had not yet been written. For 500, Shailendra wrote these two songs: Patli kamar hai and Barsaat mein. The music for Barsaat was composed by Shankar–Jaikishan.[9][10]

The team of Raj Kapoor, Shailendra, and Shankar–Jaikishan went on to produce many other hit songs. The song 'Awara Hoon' from the 1951 film Awaara, written by Shailendra, became the most appreciated Hindustani film song outside India at the time.[11]Shailendra had penned down plenty songs lyrics for Raj Kapoor's film. Shree 420 released in 1955 is one of them. All songs of this film were super hits and till date people sing in various occasions. One can easily understand the power and magic of Shailendra's lyrics from the song "Pyaar hua iqaraar hua hai, Pyaar se phir kyo darta hai dil", is till date evergreen golden classic song of Bollywood.[12]

In the days when composers would recommend lyricists to producers, Shankar–Jaikishan once promised Shailendra that they would recommend him around, but didn't keep their promise. Shailendra sent them a note with the lines, Chhoti Si Yeh Duniya, Pehchaane Raaste Hain. Kahin To Miloge, toh Poochhenge Haal ("The world is small, the roads are familiar. We'll meet sometime, and ask 'How do you do?'"). Shankar–Jaikishan realised what the message meant and having said sorry, turned the lines into a popular song. The song, sung by Kishore Kumar, was featured in the film Rangoli (1962), for which the producer Rajendra Singh Bedi wanted to sign up Majrooh Sultanpuri as the lyricist. However, Shankar–Jaikishan insisted on Shailendra and the producer had to oblige.[13]

Apart from Shankar–Jaikishan, Shailendra also shared a rapport with composers such as Salil Chowdhary (Madhumati), Sachin Dev Burman (Guide, Bandini, Kala Bazar), and Ravi Shankar (Anuradha). Apart from Raj Kapoor, he shared a rapport with filmmakers such as Bimal Roy (Do Bigha Zameen, Madhumati, Bandini) and Dev Anand (Guide and Kala Bazar).[citation needed]

Shailendra also wrote lyrics for several Bhojpuri films. Avijit Ghosh mentions in his book, Cinema Bhojpuri, that Shailendra penned songs for Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (the first Bhojpuri film), Ganga, Mitwa and Vidhana Naach Nachave. In page 184, Ghosh also writes that Shailendra received the best lyricist award for Ganga Maiyya... for all Bhojpuri and Magadhi films released till then at a function held in April 1965 in Calcutta.

Career as producer[edit]

The only film Shailendra produced is Teesri Kasam (1966). Directed by Basu Bhattacharya and starring Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman, it was an adaptation of Phanishwar Nath Renu's famous short story Maare Gaye Ghulfam.[14] The film is today regarded as a cult classic and won the National Film Award For the Best Film.[15] However, the film was a box office bomb and resulted in a financial crisis for Shailendra.[16]

Last years[edit]

In 1961 Shailendra invested heavily in the production of the movie Teesri Kasam (1966), directed by Basu Bhattacharya and starring Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. However, the film was a commercial failure.[17] The falling health resulting from tensions associated with film production and anxiety due to financial loss, coupled with alcohol abuse, ultimately led to his early death on 14 December 1966.[18]


Shailendra's son Shaily Shailendra also became a lyricist. At the age of 17, Raj Kapoor asked him to complete his father's song Jeena yahan, marna yahan for the film Mera Naam Joker. Shaily Shailendra completed the "mukhra" (lit. "face," or chorus) of the song whereas Shailendra completed the "antara" (verses) only before his demise. Lyricist, writer, and director Gulzar has stated on many occasions that Shailendra was the best lyricist produced by the Hindi film industry.[19]

Shailendra's song Mera Joota Hai Japani was featured in the 2016 Hollywood movie Deadpool (2016).[20] A street in the Dhauli Pyau locality of Mathura was named after Shailendra on March 9, 2016 - Geetkar-Jankavi Shailendra Marg – Mathura. Shailendra spent 16 years of his early life in Mathura before moving to Mumbai to work for the Indian Railways in 1947.

Shailendra's wife is Shakuntala Shailendra and his five children are Late Shailey Shailendra, Manoj Shailendra, Mrs.Amla Mazumdar, Late Mrs. Gopa Chandra and Dinesh Shailendra.[citation needed]



Shailendra won the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award three times.


As a producer Shailendra's film Teesri Kasam (1966) won prestigious National Film award of 1967 in the category Best feature film.[21]

Popular songs[edit]

Some of the popular songs written by Shailendra include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gopal, Sangita; Moorti, Sujata (2008). "Introduction: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance". Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 1–62 (22). ISBN 978-0-8166-4578-7.
  2. ^ "Lyricist Shailendra gets road named after him in Mathura". The Times of India. 10 March 2016.
  3. ^ Ashis Nandy (1998). The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-85649-516-5.
  4. ^ Jha, Fiza (14 December 2019). "Shailendra — the Leftist poet genius whose lyrics define beauty of simplicity". ThePrint. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Teesri Kasam lands Bihar CM in trouble". The Times of India. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  6. ^ Jha, Fiza (14 December 2019). "Shailendra — the Leftist poet genius whose lyrics define beauty of simplicity". ThePrint. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  7. ^ Listen to Shailendra (lyricist) ka safer Part 2 from show Main Bollywood - season - 1 on gaana, retrieved 19 November 2022
  8. ^ Dinesh Raheja; Jitendra Kothari (1996). The hundred luminaries of Hindi cinema. India Book House Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 978-81-7508-007-2.
  9. ^ "Remembering Shailendra, the Balladeer of Hindi Cinema". The Wire. Retrieved 6 November 2023.
  10. ^ Vancheeswaran, Ganesh (22 September 2020). "Music and lyrics: How Shailendra gift-wrapped cosmic truths through his songs". Scroll.in. Retrieved 6 November 2023.
  11. ^ Ashraf Aziz (2003), "Shailendra", Light of the universe: essays on Hindustani film music, Three Essays Collective, 2003, pp. 37–76, ISBN 9788188789078
  12. ^ "Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua लिरिक्स - Shree 420". Gana Lyrics. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  13. ^ Madan Gaur (1973). Other side of the coin: an intimate study of Indian film industry. Trimurti Prakashan. p. 69.
  14. ^ Weller, Philip (2002). Gaye. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.o004261.
  15. ^ "Teesri kasam". 100 Bollywood Films. 2005. doi:10.5040/9781838710538.0098. ISBN 9781838710538.
  16. ^ "Teesri Kasam (1966)". The Hindu. 29 October 2009. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  17. ^ Gulzar, Govind Nihalani; Saibal Chatterjee, eds. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. p. 556. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  18. ^ Ashis Nandy (1998). The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-85649-516-5. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Gulzar on Shailendra in Naya Gyanodaya". 2011.
  20. ^ Avijit Ghosh. "When Shailendra's 'Mera Joota Hai Japani' went global, thanks to 'Deadpool'". The Times of India.
  21. ^ "Essay: 55 years of Teesri Kasam". 11 June 2021.

External links[edit]