Remember the voice that beautifully rendered ‘Main Shayar To Nahin, Magar Aye Haseen, Jab Se Dekha, Maine Tujhko, Mujhko Shayari Aa Gayi’? When Raj Kapoor was stitching the threads of ‘Bobby’, he not only gave birth to two upcoming stars of Bollywood in the form of Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia but also chose this unexampled voice that would become the ‘singing voice’ for his son, Rishi Kapoor, on screen. Shailendra Singh was undoubtedly a unique discovery by ‘The Showman’ of India.
Born on 4th of October 1952 in Mumbai, Shailendra Singh was trained at the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) in Pune. He also is an alumni of the St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. In 1971, he was the batch-mate of Shabana Azmi, Kanwaljeet Singh and Zareena Wahab at the FTII. He received his musical training from Master Chote Iqbal.
His father worked as a publicity manager at the Rajshri Productions, who eventually introduced the young Shailendra to Raj Kapoor. Shailendra, the new evolving Ghazal singer sang a few Ghazals to Raj Kapoor and ‘The Showman’ finally found a new voice that he was looking for his upcoming film ‘Bobby’.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal who naturally considered Mohammad Rafi to be the main singer for the male lead in the movie were left flabbergasted by Raj Kapoor when he introduced a 19 year old boy to the duo and announced that he only will be singing for Rishi Kapoor in the movie. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, although not convinced fully, still went ahead towards training, grooming and eventually recording with the new guy.
‘Main Shayar To Nahin’ – Shailendra Singh took almost two weeks to rehearse and get the song right. It was Laxmikantji who trained him initially in playback singing.
‘Bobby’ can be termed as the biggest break for a singer that could have happened to any new budding vocalist. At the tender age of 19, Shailendra Singh got the opportunity to sing with Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey. It is also said that Lata Mangeshkar herself inaugurated the recording of ‘Main Shayar To Nahin’ by cracking the coconut and marking an auspicious beginning for the young singer.
‘Hum Tum Ek Kamre Band Ho’ (Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh), ‘Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai’ (Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh), ‘Jhooth Bole Kaua Kaate’ (Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh), ‘Naa Maangu Sona Chaandi’ (Manna Dey and Shailendra Singh) were all other major hit tracks from ‘Bobby’.
‘Humne Tumko Dekha’ from ‘Khel Khel Mein’ was another super hit track that Shailendra Singh rendered for Rishi Kapoor in 1975. Composed by R. D. Burman, the song was an instant success that made the nation swing along the tune.
‘Anhoni Ko Honi Kar De, Honi Ko Anhoni, Ek Jagah Jab Jamaa Ho Teeno, Amar, Akbar, Anthony!’ – No wonder for even the soundtrack of the song three wonder singers joined together just like the three splendid actors on screen. Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor and Shailendra Singh lent their voice together for the title track of Manmohan Desai’s ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’. While Amitabh Bachchan lip synced to the voice of Kishore Kumar, Vinod Khanna lip synced to Mahendra Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor again was assigned the voice of Shailendra Singh. The movie released in 1977 and was one of the highest grossing movies of the year.
‘Ae Yaar Sun Yaari Teri, Mujhe Zindagi Se Bhi Pyari Hai’ – This would be another tremendously loved duet of Shailendra Singh with Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle. Composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal again, the song was for Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor starring ‘Suhaag’ in 1979.
In 1979, under the banner of Rajshri Productions, Tarachand Barjatya produced ‘Taraana’ starring Mithun Chakraborty. The movie was a commercial success at the box office and the entire soundtrack of the movie consisted of Shailendra Singh’s voice. He only was the major singer for Mithun Chakraborty in the movie. Shailendra Singh was at his best in the song ‘Goonche Lage Hai Kehne’ composed by Raamlaxman from the movie. He also had duets with Usha Mangeshkar in the same soundtrack. He sang ‘Kaisi Yeh Judaai Hai’ and ‘Hum Tum Dono’ with Usha Mangeshkar for the film.
‘Frenny O Frenny’ from Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Khatta Meetha’ sung by Shailendra Singh with Amit Kumar is a notable slow piece composed by Rajesh Roshan in 1981.
Shailendra Singh went on to sing ‘Main Hun Sharaabi’ from ‘Ashanti’ for Mithun Chakraborty in 1982. He also sang notable duets with Anuradha Paudwal and Chandrani Mukherjee for ‘Be-Raham’. The song ‘Yeh Saal Ki Aakhri Raat Hai’ from the movie was well appreciated.
R. D. Burman’s composition ‘Jaipur Se Nikli Gaadi’ from ‘Gurudev’ picturised on Rishi Kapoor and Sridevi was again sung by Shailendra Singh and Asha Bhosle in 1993.
He also worked as an actor in his home production ‘Agreement’ with Rekha casted opposite him. The film starred veteran actors like Utpal Dutt and Asrani as well. The romantic comedy directed by Anil Ganguly didn’t swoon over the box office but was an entertaining watch.
However, his first debut was in the movie ‘Do Jasoos’ starring Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. ‘Do Jasoos’ was directed by Naresh Kumar (brother of Rajendra Kumar) and Shailendra Singh was the prominent recommendation by Rajendra Kumar to Naresh Kumar as the latter was searching for a newcomer.
He also worked opposite Aparna Sen in a Bengali Movie ‘Ajosro Dhonyobaad’. The movie had prominent star cast from Bengal including Ranjit Mullick (The present Chairman of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata). The film failed to make any mark at the box office although its soundtrack is still famous. The movie marked Mohammad Rafi’s first and last Bengali song that he sung for Shailendra Singh. The other tracks included duets of Singh and Asha Bhosle.
Shailendra Singh’s voice suited the most to Rishi Kapoor. May be just like Mukesh was the trademark singer for Raj Kapoor, he wanted Shailendra Singh to be the same for his son, Rishi Kapoor. However, Shailendra Singh had to face an untimely halt in his career. His fame and name were short lived. After a few years of sky height success, he was suddenly thrust into the grounds of failure.
It is blamed that even after offering him with tracks, the plans of the composers used to change overnight and the songs drastically went to other notable singers. Soon, Shailendra Singh’s voice was lost among the crowd of other musical talents.
Apparently, ‘Main Shayar To Nahi’ still continues to rule the chart-busters. The unforgettable and incomparable track was re-recorded again for the movie ‘Hum Tum’ in 2004. The remake of the song was sung by Shaan and Shailendra Singh, where Shaan’s voice was obviously for Saif Ali Khan. But the surprise came along, when the makers left no stone unturned to revive the magic of Shailendra Singh’s voice for Rishi Kapoor again after decades.