By Devansh Patel
Passionate, in fact, is the first word that comes into Sanjeev Kohli's head when he talks about his father, the legendary music composer of Indian cinema and an instinctive genius, Late Madan Mohan. And it's not just music; you can see that it's also his fellow colleagues, his spools, his LP records, his cupboard and his drink. It is impossible not to admire Madan Mohan's verve and energy in whatever he did. Be it coming home after work and cooking his own food, decorating the house on birthdays or even smashing the glass door of the recording studio only to finish the incomplete track he so desperately wants people to hear. UK's Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent Devansh Patel brings you a special journey of our national treasure: a man who was so used to succeeding, a maestro who believed that his music was incomplete without Lata Mangeshkar's voice, a deserving giant who never won an award in his living career, a junior who surpassed his seniors and a magician who cast his musical spell by believing that music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music. BH takes this opportunity in commemorating and presenting you the life and work of Late Madan Mohan on his 85th birth anniversary today.
Musical maestro – Madan Mohan
My father, Late Mr Madan Mohan and his fraternity which comprised of music directors and singers were never a focus of visual attention. Back then, there were very few magazines and interviews. All the interviews taking place were largely to do with film stars and the same happens even today. Today's music directors are more media personalities, not because of their work, but because of reality shows, interviews, judges on television, the making of the music, etc. I call it default. A.R. Rahman is an exception. The accessibility to their creation and awareness was very rare in the past. The only time you could hear the songs in my fathers era was on the radio and that too if the record was released. But because I've worked for HMV, I know that a lot of records of films weren't released. At that time, they had very limited capacity. Then slowly Doordarshan came in and a music show called Chayageet started. In the 1950's and 1960's, the records of only hit films would release.
Madan Mohan's unsuccessful success:
My father suffered from one aspect. He didn't have too many successful films. He was a super successful song maker but the films didn't do too well. May be he didn't have any big banner films, he didn't have any big stars acting in his films too. But today, when you talk of great classic films, you talk of Dilip Kumar starer Mughal-E-Azam, Amitabh Bachchan starer Sholay, SRK starer DDLJ, Raj Kapoor film Sangam, etc. My father had heroes like Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar. He also had one or two Dev Anand starer films that flopped, one or two Raj Kapoor films that were complete disaster and had not a single Dilip Kumar film. It were only his songs which worked in films. You can call it destiny. There were so many of his songs people don't even know who they were picturised on. There was a song called 'Woh bhulee dastaan' from Sanjog which was a huge hit. In the same film there was a song sung by Mukesh titled 'Bhulee huyee yaadon' which went unnoticed. His best songs were picturised on Priya Rajvansh in Chetan Anand's films. Dharmendra starer and the first war film 'Haqeeqat' directed by Chetan Anand was a big hit with his song 'Kar chale fida jaan watan saathiyo' is still remembered. That's what a hit film does to you.
Madan Mohan – an inspiration:
Late Mr Madan Mohan started his career in the year 1950. He was the junior most among that magical generation of music directors which had seniors who started their career in 1948 like Naushad, Roshan, Shankar Jaikishen, etc. Then some of them passed away and he became the only survivors of that generation into the 1970's. S.D.Burman was the only one alive but was too ill to do any work. He too passed away in the same year as my father did, in 1975. R.D.Burman completed S.D.Burman's film Aradhana. The next generation was R.D.Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Kalyanji Anandji who started the commercial music. Society had changed in the 1970's, our exposure to the West increased, the films were different too, and along with the films, the music changed too. There was no place for a classical song. A little bit of cabaret and rock and roll began too. My father tried to sail with the tide but his songs were out of place. I must say this, when my father died in 1975 he thought that he did not get enough success what his calibre deserved. Everybody in his fraternity spoke about Madan Mohan being superior to them. Naushadji came to Madan Mohan when his songs from the film Anpadh were released and said, “The score of these two songs in the film are equal to everything that I've done in the past.” When my father gave music for Heer Ranjha, S.D.Burman came up to him, hugged him and said, “You've surpassed everything that I've done.”
Madan Mohan's biggest successes:
It may sound very strange but it's the truth that my father did not win any award. At that time there was only one award, Filmfare Awards. He was nominated four times but didn't win. What I'm trying to say is that a person gets a little bitter, rightly or wrongly so. But he then took to drink, got a little frustrated and when he finally won the National Award for the film Dastak, he didn't want to go and get it. He had to be cajoled by Sanjeev Kumar who also won the National Award for the same film as an actor. I remember him coming to our house forcing dad to go with him. They both finally went and received the award. His biggest successes which he didn't live to see were after he died, 'Mausam' and Laila Majnu'. 'Koi patthar se na maare mere deewane ko' from Laila Majnu ran for eleven weeks. It was the first ever time that his song was on number one in the charts. He was always number two. I remember the song 'Jhumka gira re' was on number two for many weeks.
Madan Mohan's secret cupboard:
Even while I was in college, my friends used to know all the commercial composers. They were unaware as to who Madan Mohan was and what was his music like. I used to tell them that my father was a great composer too. I was still in college before he died. At his funeral, we had Amitabh Bachchan, Rajendra Kumar, Vinod Khanna, etc. Even the singers were present. But in The Times of India the next morning, in bold 'Madan Mohan is dead' story it had a picture of Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna carrying my father. So when I went to the college after ten days I was more popular than before. Only after his death, I managed to open his cupboard and found out a beautiful spool tape recorder. Those days everything used to be recorded on spools, there were no cassettes. They were imported and were not made available in India. Whenever he used to come home, he used to cook his own food, invite some friends over to hear the song and play it on the spool. That cupboard was something that I always wanted to open and get my hands on.
Madan Mohan's re-birth:
After I inherited the cupboard, I listened to some of the spools and found out a lot of songs which I had not heard before. They were sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mehmood, etc. I could hear the announcement of the film but not the name of the film they were from because those times they only had working titles. But for some reasons, those songs never saw the light as the film was shelved for reasons nobody knew. I thought those were a rare treasure which needs to be heard. The second spool I found was of my father singing to himself. One of two haunted me all the time. I was eighteen years old and thought if only he had an Amitabh Bachchan film and a Yash Chopra banner, his lost songs could've been born again. Couple of months after his death, it was at the Mausam film premiere that I over heard Yashji say, “Madanji ka music kamaal hain”. Mausam was dedicated to my father. But I felt that day if only he could've given music for a Yash Chopra film. The dream came true thirty years after his death when Veer Zaara released. It was his re-birth and I was also working for Yash Raj Films.
Madan Mohan's only award:
Lata Mangeshkar was Madan Mohan's muse. Without her the circle was incomplete. People and critics also questioned Lataji's existence in his songs. She had sung every song of his. A lot of the industry people and my seniors were not happy on me reviving my father's music in Veer Zaara because they thought that I was pushing them down. The proudest moment for me was when he won the IIFA Award for Veer Zaara and I went to receive it in Amsterdam.
I also found some of the songs already recorded by my father and I had made an album out of those ten songs titled 'The Treasure Revealed'. These ten songs were edited for an LP record at that time. Now the same songs are in its full form and I've put an extra five more to make a total of fifteen for an album titled 'Tere Bagair'. I've added a little music because it had to sound fresh. I mean, some of them are recorded in 1964 and the tabla will not be nicely heard as it should be today. I don't think that this album is only for a Madan Mohan fan because it has seven songs of Mohammed Rafi and a Rafi fan would get his hands on to the album. Then here is one song of Kishore Kumar which no one has heard before and a Kishore fan would go and purchase that album. There are three Lata Mageshkar and three Asha Bhonsle songs too. Through Tere Bagair, I'm keeping Madan Mohan alive.