Yesterday, on 25th June, while driving to my office, I found that the FM radio stations out of their sheer over enthusiasm of planning to celebrate R D Burman’s birthday on 27th, had completely overlooked Madan Mohan's birthday! While there cannot be any question on Pancham’s Greatness and he deserves all the hype and following his legacy enjoys today; Madan Mohan remained an underachiever even during his lifetime and now, after 38 years of his untimely death as well. In fact, I seriously doubt, had there been no such vehement endorsements from Lata Mangeshkar of late, the legacy of Madan Mohan might have become obscure like many of his other colleagues today.
|A Classic in the making|
For me, Madan Mohan has always been “The Composer”, in fact much much higher a “composer” than a “music director”. His compositions pertain to a period when melody making was of the top most priority. His tunes, vintage and lush, might not rave up your night parties but enlighten your dark and gloomy evenings; might not delight you in gathering but mesmerize you in seclusion.
Although he composed a wide range of songs, it was the sober, shallow mood songs where I think, he could connect himself the best as a composer. Yes, he gave us something as brightening as “Tum jo mil gaye ho”- where he rose above the minimalist approach in arrangement and perhaps hired a whole lot of RD camp musicians to create a sound which is sensual and romantic.
It was a sheer understatement when someone in a music forum wrote around 2-3 years back that “Leave out Lata, and what precipitate you have in Madan Mohan’s portfolio are some handful of Talat and Rafi songs”. You cannot be more wrong than this, but unfortunately, this remains the irony of Madan Mohan’s career. People seem to simply deny everything other than those mind-blowing Lata gems from Madan Mohan. Of course, he was the best composer for Lata Mangeshkar- who can easily boast of getting the best compositions from all the contemporary composers- but Madan Mohan was much more than that!
“Jhumka gira re” remained the most popular number of Asha Bhosle for a long time until “Dum maro dum” happened. You can always blame Madan for coming back to Asha only for peppy numbers, especially post-1960, but the productivity he gave with Asha Bhosle can never be overlooked. In fact, you will get swayed away once you listen to something like “Ja dekhi teri preet re” or “Saba se yeh keh do” – the earlier work of Madan-Asha in the 50s.
Or even for Talat Mehmood, in spite of having hardly 30 songs recorded together, Madan nitpicked his compositions for Talat. In fact in the 50s, Madan stuck to Talat even for the songs picturized on Shammi Kapoor. In Jahan Ara(1964), he fought with the producer for using Talat Mehmood, who by that time, had started going into hibernation following a drastic change in the style and trend of music from early 60s(read, Yahoo mania).
Madan Mohan never had the privilege to get a superstar endorsement. I don’t recall any of his movies with Dilip Kumar, in fact I am not sure whether he at all worked with him ever. For Raj Kapoor also, Ashiyana is too obscure a thing to recall(again, a movie where Madan used Talat for Raj Kapoor!!). He worked with Dev Anand in three movies- Pocketmaar, Sharabi and Sahib Bahadur. None of the movies fared well. However, the music was uncompromised. Sharabi, particularly, needs a special mention here. Mohd Rafi was used in the most beautiful way, contrary to the high pitch shrieks he started delivering that time, Madan contained him along with S D Burman, in the controlled, soft and silky way. “Kabhi na kabhi, kahi na kahi” is supreme Rafi from Sharabi. And “Sawan ke mahine mein” is one of the best “Sharabi” songs I have ever heard. The antaras were exceptionally well composed with intermittent Sax pieces ornamented the whole thing. Sahib Bahadur, a movie released after Madanji’s demise, had perhaps the best Madan Mohan composition for Kishore Kumar- “Rahi tha main awara”.
Sanjeev Kumar was perhaps the only superstar who got ample movies with Madan Mohan music, right from Naunihal(remember “Tumhari zulfon ke saaye mein”?) to Dastak to Koshish to Mausam to Chowkidaar to the obscure Inspector Eagle. And then, there was Dharmendra in his younger and more romantic days crooning Madan Mohan compositions on screen like “Ek haseen sham ko” and “ Yehi hai tamanna”(a composition where Madan Mohan showed clear inspiration from S D Burman’s “Thandi Hawayein” in initial lines).
And then, there was Sadhna, the most coveted heroine in the 60s. Sadhna can clearly boast of having some of the finest Lata-Madan outputs in films like Manmauji, Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya.
Veer Zara(2004) revived Madan Mohan’s music for all of us. It gave as a reminder call. Lata Mangeshkar crooning those vintage melodies and taking us back in time. Madan Mohan Mania amongst genuine music lovers still live on! We listen to him and ask- “Tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan”!!