Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Mania Called Madan Mohan

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”!!


  1. Great piece, Arghya. Madan Mohan also remained bereft of Filmfare Awards for Best Music direction, even though he was nominated 4 times and cut out of nominations once.

    In the year 1962, Madan Mohan was nominated for the Filmfare Award for the best music direction for the film "Anpadh". The award however, went to Shankar Jaikishan for their score for "Professor".
    In the year 1964, he was nominated for the Filmfare Award for the best music direction for the film "Woh Kaun Thi". The award however, went to Laxmikant-Pyarelal for their score for "Dosti".

    In 1966, "Mera Saaya", was originally nominated, (along with "Guide" and "Suraj") and then was removed from final nominations, owing to a disagreement with the magazine and the award policy. It was replaced in nominations by another Raj Khosla directed film, DO BADAN. Of course , the award finally went to SURAJ.

    In the year 1976, Madan Mohan was nominated for the Filmfare Award for the best music direction for the film 'Mausam'. The award however, went to Khayyam for his score for "kabhi kabhie"

    Not getting the popular award over so many years, despite appreciation and success of his music, did disappoint him. He lost interest in awards. Thus, when he heard that he had got the National Award for "Dastak", he, initially, refused to go to Delhi for the function. Sanjeev Kumar, who also won the award for Best Actor for the same film, cajoled him to attend, and only then Madanji accompanied him to Delhi.

    In the year 2004, Madan Mohan was nominated, posthumously, for the Filmfare Award for the best music direction for the film 'Veer Zara'. The award however, went to Anu malik for his score for "Main hoon na"

    Is it because of the perception ( or reality?) that he was a music director of the classes, not masses?

    1. "If you want to cater to the class, be as classy as Madan Mohan"- this is how I would depict this master composer. Filmfare awards or for that matter any Award, is governed by so many "outside" factors, it is very difficult to judge a person's claiber based on them. Suraj winning over Guide is outrageous. It is good that MM never got into that rat race, we need something in our lives which should be untouched by external contamination. Something well cherished, preserved and kept bottled like an old wine perhaps..:) MM is like that for me, keeps on tasting better over the years!

  2. Excellent write-up Arghya..I remember one more incidence where his son said that Titli udee, ude joh chali winning over Mera Saaya...As you rightly said, perhaps he never got his due..And more so, when awards were started to be "purchased" in those times as well, wont mention any names here though...

    For me, he was a sheer melody maker, cant really categorize as versatile, but i still almost hold him next to SD Burman in terms of pure melody/sweetness...Nicely summed article..

    Thanks & Regards

    Abhinish Kale

    1. Thanks Abhinish and aptly put. Madan Mohan was a melody maker and "versatility" is not necessary everywhere perhaps. Although I could see Madan Mohan's prolific command on arrangement in many of his works, it was the pure compositional aspect which attracts me a lot to him. He did not get his due, like many of his contemporaries. When you have too many talents around, some people do get deprived.

  3. That's true...Versatility shouldn't be the only yardstick considered...Personally i too adore few such composers in high regards despite their repetitive patterns...Finally Melody should be the core gauge...