Remembering Madan Mohan, 30 years later

Jul 14, 2005 Subhash K. Jha, Jul 14

Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) Madan Mohan, the talent-extraordinaire who never got his due in his lifetime, is today talked of as a retro-legend of Bollywood music.

As his 30th death anniversary was observed Thursday, the musical emperor in exile was back in the hearts of his admirers - ever more because of his haunting tunes in "Veer Zaara".

"His ghazals have no parallel. But he could also compose every other kind of song like the folk tune 'Jhumka gira re', which my sister Asha sang. Why don't we regard talent for what it's worth when it's with us?" wonders Lata Mangeshkar who sang a majority of Madan Mohan's mind-numbing melodies.

"Madan bhaiyya - he was my rakhi brother - was enormously gifted. His ability to create tunes was like an illimitable ocean. Some of his most loved compositions, for example, 'Aapki nazron ne samjha', came to him in a jiffy.

"He was very, very particular about the sur and other components of the composition. During the recording of 'Naino mein badra chhaye' for 'Mera Saaya', he broke the glass partition in the recording studio because a musician was playing off-key.

"That's why even today his numbers like 'Lag ja gale' and 'Aaj socha to aansoon bhar aaye' sound so fresh. Really, when I think of him today, there are tears in my eye. I remember when he lost the Filmfare award for his very popular score in 'Woh Kaun Thi', I told him he deserved it. His response was a quiet, 'Your saying so is enough'."

His career, which began in earnest in 1950 with "Aankhen", was a litany of 'wows'. Critics and connoisseurs alike raved over Madan Mohan's songs. But the charts told another story. Eighty percent of Madan Mohan's classic melodies went into 'b' and 'c' grade movies. Apart from Chetan Anand and Raj Khosla, no top notch filmmaker gave Madan Mohan a chance to compose in big-banner projects.

His son Sanjeev Kohli recalls how hurt and bitter his father would be by the lack of commercial success.

"I remember while driving for a family picnic, my brother and I were singing all the popular songs of the time like Shankar-Jaikishan's 'Baharon phool barsao' and R.D. Burman's 'O mere sona re'. He just looked into the backseat with a pained look that I'll never forget. It's sad, but despite his obvious talent he had to settle for lesser films. The biggies just went to the others."

Until his death in 1975, Madan Mohan did 104 films. The continued failure of his films and the changing environment in the industry led to depression.

Says Sanjeev: "My dad began to drink heavily. He died when he was only 51. Providentially, in 2004 I was able to trans-create his unused tunes in 'Veer-Zara'. And I have only Yash Chopra who's my boss, guru and a surrogate father to thank for this. Today, when I hear little kids singing 'Aisa des hai mera', I feel my father has come alive again."

Ironically both of Madan Mohan's posthumous scores for H.S. Rawail's "Laila Majnu" and Gulzar's "Mausam" released in 1975 turned out to be money-spinners. The man who composed gossamer feelings dressed up as songs had arrived.

Madan Mohan's 10 Best Songs:

1. "Lag ja gale se" from "Woh Kaun Thi"

2. "Maai ri" from "Dastak"

3. "Aaj socha to aansoon bhar aaye" from "Hanste Zakham"

4. "Hai tere saath meri wafaa" from "Hindustan Ki Kasam"

5. "Dil dhoondta hai" from "Mausam"

6. "Mushqil hai jeena" from "Sahib Bahadur"

7. "Main to tum sang" from "Manmauji"

8. "Who chup rahen to" from "Jahan Ara"

9. "Do dil toote" from "Heer Ranjha"

10. "Meri aankhon se koi" from "Pooja Ke Phool"

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