Shailendra considered his life as his real poetry. He used to derive inspiration from his walks along Juhu beach every morning. He wrote songs for almost all occasions of life, let alone ordinary situations. Those lyrics were vibrantly alive, in the sense they went far beyond the context of the film situation for which they were intended, and lived on long after the film itself had passed from memory. There is a Shailendra song for any emotion, any situation, from birth to death, such was his versatility.
Shailendra was born in Rawalpindi on 30th August 1923 as Shankardas Kesrilal Shailendra. He was the eldest of the four sons of Parvati Devi and Sri Kesrilal. During his childhood days his family moved to Mathura for good but the accidental death of his mother after the shift caused a deep pain for Shailendra, which almost turned him an atheist. Shailendra started his career with the orthodox method of joining the government organization and lead his secure life.
His job in Indian Railways brought him to the city of Bombay in 1947, when the Indian freedom struggle was at its best. The stereotype and technical aspect of his job was totally out of line with is artistic nature. He spent more of his duty hours writing poetry than toiling in the workshop. His Incharge always used to complain about his working habits and was the cause of general resentment.
Raj Kapoor with whom Shailendra gave his best, heard him in a 'Kavi Sammelan' when he was reciting one of his poem. Raj Kapoor saw an emerging star for Indian history and expressed his desire to buy his poems. Shailendra, the young patriot blood refused to do so. But due to some domestic reasons and responsibilities, Shailendra approached Raj Kapoor and agreed to his terms. His first project was 'Barsaat'. Shailendra wrote his first song 'Barsat Mein Tum Se Mile Hum Sajan..' for Raj Kapoor. Eventually, Barsat was also the first film for the emerging music director duo Shankar-Jaikishan
. The film proved very successful and after the success of Barsaat Raj Kapoor, Shankar-Jaikishan
and Shailendra always worked together.
No doubt, Shailendra gave his best with Shankar-Jaikishan
, but he shared equally pleasant rapport with musical giants of those days, like Salil Chowdhary
, S. N. Tripathi
and S.D. Burman
. He was an active member of Progressive Writers' association and one of the founder members of Indian Peoples' Theatre (IPTA). Shailendra won the Filmfare Award
for Best Lyricist thrice. Out of the three two were won in consecutive years. The first came in 1958 for the song 'Ye Mera Deewanapan Hai..' from the film Yahudi, and the second in 1959 for 'Sab Kuch Seekha Ham Ne..' from Anari. In 1968 Shailendra won it again for the third time for 'Main Gaaoon Tum So Jao..', from the film Brahmachari.
It is quite ironical that for the man who loved life so much, the spectra of death always haunted him. He was obsessed by death. There was no fear involved, but a kind of helplessness drew him towards it. His producing Teesri Kasam caused him several heart aches and it was also the ultimate cause of his death. Shailendra was admitted to the hospital on December 13, 1966. Shailendra died on the following day, which also happened to be Raj Kapoor's birthday. Lyricist Shailendra is most remembered for his outstanding achievements with Raj Kapoor and Shankar-Jaikishan
in almost all the R.K. films.
His death on December 14, 1966 saw one of the leading lights of the film industry extinguished.