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.
Shailendra won the Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist thee times.
* 1958 Yeh mera deewanapan hai (Yahudi)
* 1959 Sab kuch seekha hamne (Anari)
* 1968 Main gaoon tum so jaao (Brahmachari)
Shailendra's most popular songs
* Ramaiya Vastavaiya (Shri 420)
* Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh (Shri 420)
* Mera Joota Hai Japani (Shri 420)
* Aaj Phir Jeene Ki (Guide)
* Gata Rahe Mera Dil (Guide)
* Piya Tose Naina Laage Re (Guide)
* Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya (Guide)
* Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (Sangam)
* Dost Dost Na Raha (Sangam)
* Sab Kuchh Seekha hamne (Anari)
* Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe/Jeen isi ka naam hai (Anari)
* Dil Ki Nazar Se (Anari)
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 heartaches and it was also the ultimate cause of his death. But what bothered him was not the film's failure at the box-office, but that his investment in friends he trusted and loved went wrong. Shailendra was admitted to the hospital on December 13 1966, but on his way he decided to stop at the famous cottage at the RK Studios to call on Raj Kapoor, where he promised R.K. that he would complete the lyrics for Jeena yahan marna yahan for Mera Naam Joker. That was one promise he could never keep, for Shailendra died on the following day, which also happened to be R.K s birthday. Reading the following lines from 'Anari' can see his obsession for death:
"Ke mar ke bhi kisi ko yaad aaenge
Kisi ke aansuon mein muskuraenge
Kahega phool har kali se baar baar
Jeena isi ka naam hai"
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.
The Best of Shailendra
Ramaiya Vastavaiya Shree 420
Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh Shree 420
Shaam Gayi Raat Aayi Shree 420
Barsaat Mein Barsaat
Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Guide
Gata Rahe Mera Dil Guide
Piya Tose Naina Laage Re Guide
Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya Guide
Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega Sangam
Bol Radha Bol Sangam
O Mehbooba Sangam
Dost Dost Na Raha Sangam
ASab Kuch Seekha Anari
Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe Anari
Dil Ki Nazar Se Anari
Mera Joota Hai Japani Shree 420