Millennium Post

Madan Mohan: The King of Soulful Ghazals

Madan Mohan never won a Filmfare award or any other major honour, and when a National Award was announced for best music for film ‘Dastak,’ he couldn’t believe it, writes Sharad Dutt .

I would always remain indebted to my friend, philosopher and guide, Ustad Mahmud Mirza, the internationally acclaimed sitarist. For, he brought Madan Mohan into my orbit and introduced me to the nuances of his music, and later to the composer in person. Immaculately dressed, with the physique of a sportsman, and so courteous in his demeanour, in the first meeting you couldn't have imagined that here was a man who created such scintillating and haunting melodies. Amongst the musical instruments, sitar was closest to his heart. He had even invited Ustad Vilayat Khan to play for his film Madhosh. Ustad Rais Khan also played for his numerous compositions and so did Mahmud Mirza Saab work with him on a film during his short stint in Bombay (Mumbai).

Born to Chunni Lal Kohli and Saubhayagavati on June 24 of 1925 in Baghdad, Madan Mohan's father was the chief accountant of the police department in Iraq. He was conferred the title of Rai Bahadur by the British Empire. But after Iraq attained Independence from the British, the family moved first to Lahore and then to Bombay. While Rai Bahadur joined the Bombay Talkies of Himanshu Roy, Madan Mohan opted for the Army after completing his education. But he had another call to pursue his childhood passion, and resigned from the forces to enter the portals of All India Radio in Lucknow, as assistant music arranger. And this city of tehzeeb and mausiki proved a boon, as Madan Mohan met the ghazal queen Begum Akhtar, young inspiring singer Talat Mehmood, besides Roshan and Jaidev who later joined films as music director like Madan Mohan.
Rai Bahadur was unhappy with his son on both counts – resigning from the Army and his proclivity for the film industry. After the demise of Himanshu Roy, Rai Bahadur left Bombay Talkies along with S Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar, and Savak Vacha to launch Filmistan. Madan Mohan's father wished that if he were to head a studio, his son wouldn't have to go hunting for a job. But Madan Mohan couldn't care less. He was disowned by his father and subsequently supported by composer Shyam Sundar and writer OP Dutta (father of filmmaker JP Dutta). He recorded two ghazals of OP Dutta for HMV in 1946.
After struggling for almost five years, he got his maiden break as music director with Devendra Goel's film Aankhein (1950). Two numbers of this film, 'Mori atariya pe kaga boley,' set in Raga Pahadi, and 'Preet laga ke maine bahut dukh paya' became immensely popular. Goel held on to Madan Mohan for his next film, Ada, in 1951. Two songs of this film sung by Lata, 'Saanwari surat man bhaee' and 'Preetam meri duniya mein do din to rahey hotey,' had a distinct signature of Madan Mohan.
The same year Homi Wadia's film Madhosh was released. Though Lata's solos, 'Hamein ho gaya hai pyaar,' 'Bedardi balma' and 'Meri nagariya mein aana' became hits, the real winner of the movie was, 'Meri yaad mein tum na aansu bahana.' In Ashiyana (1952), Madan Mohan recorded 'Mera qarar le ja' in voices of Talat Mehmood and Lata separately. This was also the year Madan Mohan got married to Sangeeta Dhingra (the niece of the famed revolutionary Madan Lal Dhingra who shot dead Curzon Wyllie in London).
Between 1952 to 1956, Madan Mohan composed for seven films. Some of the numbers that caught the attention of music lovers were, 'Dukhiarey naina dhundhe piya ko', and a lullaby, 'Laadley so ja' in Nirmohi; lilting numbers of 'Chacha Choudhary', 'Merey piya chedey jiya', 'Meri chham chham o chham baajey payal.'
In Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer, Dhoon, Madan Mohan set two numbers in Raga Bharivi, 'Taare gin- gin beetey saari raat', 'Sitaron se poochho nazaaron se poochho,' and a soul-stirring duet, 'Hum pyaar karengey.' In Ehsan, he invited the ghazal goddess Begum Akhtar to sing 'Hamein dil mein basa bhee lo' written by Kaif Irfani. In Mastana, Mohammad Rafi sang a devotional song, 'Mat bhool are insaan', and a title track, 'Duniya ke saare ghamon se begana main hoon mastana', but the super hit song of the film was a duet, 'Jhoom jhoom ke do deewane gaatey jayein gali -gali.'
Sunil Dutt made his debut in Ramesh Saigal's film, Railway Platform. Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the lyrics and Madan Mohan composed these enchanting numbers: 'Basti basti parbat parbat gaata jaaye banjara,' 'Chand maddham hai aasman chup hai in Raga Malkaus'. After working in his first 'A' grade film Dhoon Madan Mohan signed AVM'S multi-starrer, Bhai Bhai. This film had twelve songs that became chartbusters of the year. The film narrowly missed the silver jubilee by two weeks.
In Amiya Chakraborty's Dekh Kabira Roya Madan Mohan's compositions were highly appreciated. His music was as enticing in Gateway of India too. The film Samundar also had a popular duet number, 'Kya saath mera dogey' (Mukesh-Lata). In 1958, Madan Mohan composed for numerous films, and his ghazal-gayaki was noticed in songs like 'Tujhey kya sunaun mein dilruba' (Mohammad Rafi), and a duet, 'Humsafar saath apna chhod chaley' in Akhiri Daav. This ghazal style was, indeed, established with Adalat; a duet, 'Zameen se hamein aasman par' had a true reflection of the composer.
The '50s were dominated by OP Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, SD Burman and C Ramchandra. On producer's demand, Madan Mohan gave music in Nayyar's style in films, Night Club, Khazanchi and Khota Paisa, but for a short while. Soon enough he reverted to his original self with moving numbers in Baap Betey, 'Dil unko utha ke de diya;' 'Sochney ko laakh batein sochey insaan.' In Chacha Zindabad, a memorable Raga Bhairvi-based number in Lata's voice, 'Bairan neend na aaye'. A ghazal in film Bank Manager, 'Saba se ye keh do ki kaliyan bichayei' (Asha).
In the '60s, Madan Mohan came back with a bang giving all-time great compositions. Who can forget the music of Sanjog, 'Bhuli hui yaado mujhey itna na sataao,' 'Chala hai kahan', 'Badli se nikla hai chand,' and a romantic duet, 'Ek manzil raahi do phir pyaar na kaisey ho'. In the super hit Anpadh, Madan Mohan's music played a key role in its success: 'Aapki nazron ne samjha pyaar ke qabil mujhey', 'Hai isi mein pyaar ki abru,' 'Wo dekho jala ghar kissi ka' and 'Jiyaa ley gayo ji mora saanwariya.' Lata was at her best in these songs. After listening to 'Hai issi mein pyaar ki aabru,' Naushad Saab told Madan Mohan, "Meri saari mausiqi is par qurbaan". The film had an emotional rakhi song, 'Rang birangi rakhi lekey aayi behna', as also a humorous number, 'Sikander ne Porus se ki thi ladai to main kaya karoon' in Mahendra Kapoor's voice.
In 1963, only one movie of Madan Mohan was released, Akeli Mat Jaiyo, which had a memorable ghazal, 'Wo jo miltey thei kabhi humse deewanon ki tarah'. But 1964 belonged to Madan Mohan with Aapki Parchhaiyan, which had a Raga Darbari-based number, 'Main nigahein terey chherey se hataoon kaisey,' 'Agar mujhse mohabbat hai to mujhe sab apne gham de do.' In the ghazal, 'Rang aur noor ki baraat kissey pesh karoon,' Madan Mohan also used Sahir's popular nazm Taj Mahal, and another number of the film, 'Unse nazrein mili,' hit the charts. Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat was a war film where Madan Mohan showcased his versatility. It also happened to be Bhupendra's first film as a singer. Comedian turned producer Om Prakash was a lifelong friend of Madan Mohan. He would include Madan in all of his home productions. For Jahan Ara, his first choice was Madan Mohan and Talat Mehmood sang unforgettable ghazals. Another film, Woh Kaun Thi, a silver jubilee mystery of Raj Khosla, had beautiful compositions by Madan Mohan.
Madan Mohan was, somehow, considered an unlucky composer. He seemed star-crossed as his films flopped notwithstanding his outstanding creations. He never won a Filmfare award or any other major honour. And when a National Award was announced for best music for film Dastak, he didn't believe it, though his son Sameer confirmed so. The songs of Dastak are among his best compositions.
The '70s were dominated by RD Burman, Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal. Even during that period, Madan Mohan gave music in films like Parwana, which had Kishore Kumar's number, 'Simti si sharmai si'. He also gave music in Gulzar's Kohsish and Mausam. All the songs of Mausam were chartbusters and especially the two versions of 'Dil dhundhta hai,' a solo in Bhupendra's voice, and his duet with Lata.
Professional failures and personal tragedies perturbed him. His father died of a heart attack while watching a movie at the Odeon Cinema in Delhi. His younger brother Prakash Kohli was shot dead in a train to Bombay after attending a marriage ceremony in Delhi. The last blow was his mother's death a month before he died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 50.
He would remain entrenched in the hearts of millions of music aficionados through his mesmeric melodies. After three decades, in 2005, Yash Chopra and Madan Mohan's son Sanjeev Kohli paid tribute to the legendary composer by recreating the compositions from his treasure trove, for the film, 'Veer Zara'.
(Images: Madan Mohan-Ultimate Melodies)

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