Shailendra (lyricist)

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

Shankar 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 was born in Rawalpindi, and brought up in Mathura.[3] The native place of his ancestors is located in the Akhtiyarpur, Ara district of Bihar.[4]

He came in contact with Indra Bahadur Khare at the Kishori Raman School. 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 fame in Raashtreey Kavita.

Career as a lyricist

Shailendra started his career as an apprentice with Indian Railways in Matunga workshop, Mumbai (then 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).[5] 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 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. [6]

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.[7]

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 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-Jaikishen insisted on Shailendra and the producer had to oblige.[8]

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).

Last years

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.[9] 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.[10]


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" of the song whereas Shailendra completed "antara" 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.[11]

Shailendra's song Mera Joota Hai Japani was featured in the 2016 English-language movie Deadpool.[12]


Shailendra won the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award three times.

  • 1958: "Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai" (Yahudi)
  • 1959: "Sab Kuch Seekha Hamne" (Anari)
  • 1968: "Main Gaoon Tum So Jao" (Brahmchari)

Some of the popular songs written by Shailendra include:

See also


  1. Ashraf Aziz, Light of the universe: essays on Hindustani film music, Three Essays Collective, 2003, ISBN 978-81-88789-07-8, ... Its title song Awaara hoon, written by Shailendra, remains the best-appreciated Hindustani film song in foreign countries ...
  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. "Teesri Kasam lands Bihar CM in trouble". The Times of India. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  5. Dinesh Raheja; Jitendra Kothari (1996). The hundred luminaries of Hindi cinema. India Book House Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 978-81-7508-007-2.
  6. "Maine Puchha Chand Se". hinditracks. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  7. Ashraf Aziz, "Shailendra", Light of the universe: essays on Hindustani film music, Three Essays Collective, 2003, pp. 37–76, ISBN 9788188789078
  8. Madan Gaur (1973). Other side of the coin: an intimate study of Indian film industry. Trimurti Prakashan. p. 69.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. "Gulzar on Shailendra in Naya Gyanodaya". 2011.
  12. Avijit Ghosh. "When Shailendra's 'Mera Joota Hai Japani' went global, thanks to 'Deadpool'". The Times of India.
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