Musical prince born in Baghdad – Madan Mohan

BY VIKAS DATTA

One morning, this Bollywood music composer was called by none other than “Malika-e-Ghazal” Begum Akhtar, who was so enamored with one of her compositions that she insisted on singing it all to him – via a long distance call. It was the superlative talent – ​​and downfall – of Madan Mohan.

His talent was well proven when he was nominated for two major posthumous awards – nearly three decades after his untimely demise – and won one (IIFA, not Filmfare) for the cross-border romance Shah Rukh Khan-Preity Zinta “Veer-Zaara.”

It featured some of his unused tunes, found and revised by his son Sanjeev Kohli at Yash Chopra’s insistence. In fact, Lata Mangeshkar, who had worked closely with Madan Mohan and rendered some of his most sublime creations, had tears in his eyes while recording.

But why did Madan Mohan, who gave up the gun for the stint, never have the same popularity and opportunity as his contemporaries and turned into a vortex of despair, disillusionment and drinking who caused his death at only 51 years old?

And this despite a work ranging from “Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein” to “Zaroorat hai, zaroorat hai”, “Dil dhoondta hai, fursat ke raat din” to “Koi patthar se na maare mere diwaane ko”, “Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim” to “Jhumka gira re”, and “Ruke ruke se kadam”.

Born June 25, 1924 in Baghdad, where his father Rai Bahadur Chunilal Kohli worked for the Iraqi police, Madan Mohan spent his early years in the Middle East. His family returned to India in 1932 and he completed his elementary education in Lahore, where he also acquired rudimentary musical knowledge, but was never formally trained.

The family then moved to Bombay and there he began participating in children’s programs on AIR from the age of 11. He then completed his studies and joined the army in 1943.

Music, however, proved to be his first – and lasting – love and he demobilized after the end of World War II in 1945, and began his date with Bollywood.

In the meantime, he took a job with AIR, first in Lucknow and then in Delhi, where he came into contact with classical music luminaries such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Begum Akhtar – and they influenced his music. . He started in the film industry in 1948, as SD Burman’s assistant. He got his first break in 1950 with “Aankhen”, where he also started his long relationship with Mohammad Rafi.

Over the next two and a half decades he went on to compose the music for 90 films, most of them obscure or lesser known. In all, Madan Mohan used his penchant for classical music to shape unique melodies and the magic of a host of talented singers and talented songwriters did the rest.

From the start of his career, however, it was apparent that Madan Mohan was “literally going his own way”. Attacked by music purists for his “shallow” use of ragas and by populists for not producing those high-energy, driving numbers that influenced the masses, he stuck to his own path.

And as his compositions show – take “Jana tha humse door”, “Yun hasraton ke daag” and “Unko yeh shikayat hai” from a film, the romantic tragedy “Adalat” – he was the gold standard.

Madan Mohan himself was aware that he would win more acclaim from connoisseurs and peers than from the public – even Lata Mangeshkar once confessed that she struggled to master his compositions – but he persevered on his path. .

And then he sometimes tried too hard and forgot to see if his score was suitable for film – a romantic comedy like “Dekh Kabira Roya” (1958), which had no big stars, had classic-tinged parts like “ Humse aaya na gaya”, “Kaun aaya mere man” and “Lagan tose lagi balma”.

It all took a cumulative toll and added to the predilection of production houses for their favorite composers meant he never got enough work as he deserved.

It was Lata’s “Qadar jaane na more balam”, however, that piqued the fancy of Begum Akhtar, who related it to Madan Mohan over the phone.

“Aapki nazron ne samjha” – from “Anpadh”, a film with a social message, shows all the freshness and promise of summer.

“Lag jaa gale ki phir ye haseen raat ho na ho” – This melancholic tune from the suspense thriller “Woh Kaun Thi”, remarkably evoking the transience of time, life and love, is also arguably one of the of the best of Madan Mohan, for the range of emotions it evokes. It had Lata to voice it and the incomparable Raja Mehdi Ali Khan to provide the lyrics.

‘Kar chale ham fida jaan-o-tan sathiyo’ – The searing ‘Haqeeqat’ (1964), based on the India-China war, is arguably the best war film in Hindi cinema. All his songs, for example, the soldiers’ sincere but slightly mocking exposition of their loneliness in “Ho ke majbur mujhe usne bhulaya hoga”, performed by Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Bhupinder and Manna Dey, or the restrained complaint of their families to the time. house in “Zara si aahat hoti hai”, stand out, but this moving song of the supreme sacrifice gives goosebumps. Rafi does full justice to the vivid images invoked by Kaifi Azmi.

“Phir wohi shaam, wahi gham, wahi tanhai hai” – It’s not hard to see why Madan Mohan was given the title “Ghazal ka Shehzadaa” by Lata. This anguish-filled ghazal from “Jahan Ara” (1964), rendered in Talat Mehmood’s slightly hesitant, slightly quavering voice, compares well with his own “Sham-e-gham ki qasam” from more than a decade later. early and can hold its own in any list of top ghazal movies. The lyricist was Rajinder Krishan.

‘Aapke pahlu mein aakar ro diye’ – It is very difficult to choose from the Sunil Dutt-Sadhna thriller ‘Mera Saaya’ (1966), when other gems such as ‘Nainon mein badra chhaye’ or ‘Nainon wali ne’ are also there. But this one takes an edge with Rafi injecting the right amount of pathos and pain into this male-only song. The able and reliable Raja Mehdi Ali Khan again contributed lyrics.

‘Kabhi ae haqeeqat-e-muntazar’ – Hindi cinema had some of the best Urdu poets of the time writing for it, or otherwise felt free to take their work for its use. This ghazal, by Sir Mohammad Iqbal, is hardly easy to understand, render and set to music with its deep, deep Urdu references, but Madan Mohan pulled it off for Lata with his usual panache. The movie was “Dulhan Ek Raat Ki” (1966) and it is pictured on Nutan.

‘Ye duniya ye mehfil, mere kaam ki nahi’ – Depicting another star-crossed pair of lovers, ‘Heer Ranjha’ (1970) was unique in having all of its dialogue in verse. Bringing out his songs was therefore not easy, but the evocation of the physical and mental desolation that Raj Kumar goes through in this unequivocal expression of deep despair owes it to the music of Madan Mohan, the voice of the lyrics of Rafi and Kaifi Azmi.

‘Ye maana meri jaan’ – A common complaint against Madan Mohan was that he never did anything that would load the masses of movies. But this intricately arranged, qawwali-tinged song from “Hanste Zakhm” (1973) belies the accusation. The voices of Rafi and Balbir and the always electrifying words of Kaifi Azmi are perfect accompaniments.

‘Bainya na dharo balma’ – This sultry song taken from the ‘daring’ film ‘Dastak’ (1970), which won Madan Mohan his only national film award, cannot be overlooked. Lata’s vocals and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s simple, semi-rustic lyrics are enhanced by the classically-tinged score that was Madan Mohan’s trademark.