by Vishwas Nerurkar An ardent admirer of Madan Mohan's music and author of the book "Madan Mohan - Ultimate Melodies"
Born on June 25, 1924, at Baghdad, where father Rai Bahadur Chunilal was working as an Accountant General with the Iraqi Police, Madan spent the first five years of his life in the Middle East. As a boy of two, Madan Mohan used to spend hours listening to gramophone records and cultivated the uncanny ability to recognize and pick up any record from a pile of hundreds. When his father had guests at home, he would ask Madan to pick a particular record from a pile and he could do so with unerring precision, leaving the visitors wonderstruck as to how a tiny tot, unable to read or write, could accomplish this near impossible feat.
On his second birthday, Madan was gifted a small drum by his parents. Just at that time the Iraq Police Band was marching down the streets outside his house. Madan took his little drum, joined the band and started marching with the musicians. When his absence from home was discovered, his parents set out on a vigorous search and after two hours, the missing child was located at the police depot!
Iraq was soon to win independence from British rule. Rai Bahadur Chunilal was given the option to either take Iraqi nationality or resign his job and quit Iraq. He opted for the latter and returned to India. He took his family to his home town, Chakwal in Jhelum district of Punjab, now in Pakistan. Madan Mohan's grandfather, Hakim Yograj was a famous doctor there. His bungalow was known as Yog Ashram.
Rai Bahadur Chunilal soon left Chakwal and went out in search for employment. At that time, Madan was around five years of age and he attended school there for the next six years. It is said that from his mother, who was a poet and great admirer of music, Madan inherited his talent for music. His father was not very musically inclined, but grandfather Hakim Yograj and his younger brother, Prakash were staunch connoisseurs. In Madan's presence, they used to discuss the subtleties of a recital or composition, such as the aaroh and avroh of the ragaa they loved.
By the time he was seven, Madan became known as the singing prodigy of Chakwal. He was always in great demand as many wanted him to sing at religious gatherings and community functions.
Chakwal was a small town and educational facilities there were not of a high standard. Rai Bahadur Chunilal,therefore, decided to shift his family to Lahore. Subsequently when he started Bombay Talkies with Himanshu Rai and settled down in Bombay, he brought his family down from Lahore. When Madan came to Bombay, his father bought him a small radio. Very soon he was able to pick up any tune, however intricate the taal or raga and reproduce it without a flaw.
The family stayed at a building on Marine Drive, very close to Chatteau Marine, the famous abode of Jaddan Bai and later, of her equally famous daughter Nargis. In those days Jaddan Bai, herself a noted singer and exponent of classical music, used to hold musical soirees at her home. Madan, unknown to his parents, used to sneak into these gatherings late at night. Watching distinguished musicians of the country performing in person thrilled the boy's heart. Well past midnight, or rather early in the morning, Madan would return to his home through the back door, almost like a thief. His parents could never know that the boy had not slept in his bed for the best part of the night.
During his school days, Madan took active part in children's programmes on A.I.R., Bombay. One day, at the studio, he found another fat and handsome boy who was the center of attraction. The newcomer was very talkative and Madan, being inquisitive, wanted to know more about him. So he enquired from the station director and came to know that the newcomer was none other than Raj - son of the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor. They soon became good friends and jointly participated in many programmes.
One day, he brought to the studio a little, nine year old girl to audition for a radio programme. He told the programme executive that the girl could sing well. But when all the children and others present requested her to sing, she broke down and began sobbing. Madan wiped her tears and took her away. Next week, he again brought the girl with him and this time, he succeeded in making her sing. She sang well and everybody cheered her enthusiastically. She was later to thrill millions of her countrymen with her soporific voice. Yes, Suraiya was that girl.
After passing the Senior Cambridge examination from Bombay's St.Mary's High School, Madan joined Colonel Brown's Military High School in Dehradun at his father's insistence. After completion of military training, he joined the army in the year 1943 (If he had his way, he would have joined films promptly after school). Neverthless, he took to military life as a duck takes to water. Personal traits like courtesy, endurance, discipline, physical fitness and punctuality were all fostered in him during those years. He considered the stint as a fruitful period of his life. Most willingly, he underwent the rigours of his hardy soldiering. Once, during a night march of 20 miles, Madan could not, in his hurry, put on the pair of regulation stockings. The march was hardly half way through when not unexpectedly, his stockings gave way. Blisters began plaguing him, to grow more and more painful as they marched farther and farther. But with the intent on testing his endurance, he kept pace with the rest in spite of the unbearable agony.
Madan was still a teenager then. An artillery man, he received his commission (emergency) in 1943 and was stationed in Bangalore for nearly two years.
But his heart was in films and he dreamed of the day when he could be part of the fraternity he was accustomed to during his growing up years. His father was the only stumbling block. Much as he was one of the main pillars of Bombay Talkies, he refused all encouragement and support to his son on joining the film industry.
Today, it may be difficult to picture Madan Mohan in a soldier's uniform handling rifles, mortars, hand grenades and Tommy -guns. Reflecting on those days, Madan once said "I was serving in the army as a lieutenant. I was physically fit to serve the army but temperamentally, my heart was somewhere else. Once, on my way from Bangalore to Bombay, I dropped in at Prabhat Studios and met the famous music directors Husnlal and Bhagatram, who were then on the threshold of a glorious career. I sat at the organ and played some melodies for them. I took a pledge, there and then, that one day I would be a music director myself. I am mentioning all this to tell you that the creation of film music is not a mere mechanical and business proposition, but has its roots deep down in the past of a man - in his very sensibilities, upbringing, emotions, ambitions, hopes, loves and desires... all of which go into making the man he is. If I had not taken my pledge at Prabhat Studios seriously, in those days of army life, I would not be what I am today.
Madan's passion for music followed him into the Army mess and he found himself organizing small programmes to entertain his brothers-in-arms. They proved much more popular than anyone could have expected.
ALL INDIA RADIO
In 1945, with the end of World War II, Madan Mohan resigned from the Army and joined A.I.R., Lucknow as a programme assistant. He was just 21 years of age. "I was lucky to get a post at the Lucknow broadcasting station in spite of the fact that I was not a graduate"he was to narrate later. Although he was never formally trained, his past exposure and dabbling in music since his school days held him in good stead. The job brought him in close contact with musicians and instrumentalists. The frontiers of his musical knowledge were now widened. Music now surged in his blood. As he was to comment, the dormant muse within him found its release at last.
During those days at A.I.R., the artistes to be featured frequently on classical music programmes were well known personages like Ali Akbar Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Ramnarain, Begum Akhtar, Vilayat Khan, Roshanara Begum, Talat Mehmood and the late Fayyaz Khan. In the course of his duty of requisitioning artistes, Madan gradually tried to express his musical flair by composing tunes for and conducting orchestra. "They all used to like me, especially on account of my devotion to music" Madan was to recall. He experienced his proudest moment when the sarod maestro Ali Akbar khan, of his own accord, offered to take part in an orchestral broadcast to encourage the young enthusiast.
Madan had his own opinion about learning music. "Though, knowledge of the principles and basic rules of music is essential, it is not necessary to learn music in a conventional way, at the feet of a master. I believe that music can be learnt by the ear, provided one has the desire to learn. Music, much more than any other art, can never be hammered into reluctant pupils or doled out in daily tuition classes. The opportunity of working with stalwarts of classical music gave me a closer knowledge and understanding of music. Very subtly but insidiously, music strengthened its grip on me. Without quite knowing when or how, my ears began to echo with the rich melodies I heard everyday. And that was how I actually learnt music.
The musical environment at A.I.R., Lucknow w as contagious and before long, Madan started composing, bits and pieces at first, then small musical features which were acclaimed by listeners.
In time, Madan was transferred to the Delhi station of All India Radio, where he was called upon to do more table work than anything creative. This was a far cry from his job at Lucknow, where he had to prepare musical items, sing in them and also compose music. When he realized that his work profile was setting limitations to his development as a musician, he resigned his job. By then, he had met Shekhar and Raj Mehra, who were planning to go to Bombay to try their luck in films. So in 1947, the three of them decided to shift to Bombay to try their luck in films.
Rai Bahadur Chunilal had already made a name for himself in the film industry. When he learnt about his son quitting the A.I.R. job and packing his bags for Bombay, he was furious. He did not allow Madan to enter his house. Rai Bahadur had, in the meantime, remarried an educated doctor, Pritam . While, in those days, this was legally an d socially permissible, it had possibly distanced him from his family a bit. Consequently, Madan had to spend the next three years "struggling" to join the film industry and unwilling to use his father's name, sustained himself by occasional performances in radio plays and programmes. He became a casual artiste on A.I.R. and started singing semi-classical songs and acting in plays. But the money he made was not sufficient to provide even for his basic needs. He remained hungry on days, slept on the pavements and often wandered about aimlessly in the nights. In spite of all these hardships, he never sought his father's help even once. Recalling those trying times, Madan was to say "At one time, I was doing so badly that I had to starve for five days at a stretch, but not for once did I think of going to my people for help. I had come to Bombay to join the film industry, not as a music director but as an actor. People producing films did not think of me as capable of acting". Undaunted, he continued to struggle till he got his break.
Those were the days when actors wanted to be like Kundan Lal Saigal, a singing star. Madan too wanted to be one. He had a distinctive resonance to his voice. Initially, he got a chance to sing some private ghazals penned by Behzad Lucknowi and Deewan Sharar. HMV released 78 rpm records of those ghazals. Subsequently when he was doing a small role in Filmistan's Shaheed (1948), he got the opportunity to sing a duet with Lata Mangeshkar - to be picturised on him and his younger sister in the film - under the baton of legendary composer Ghulam Haider. Ghulam Haider was a big name in the industry then. Getting a chance to sing for him was no small credit. The song was Pinjare Mein Bulbul Bole, Meraa Chhotaasaa Dil Dole. But after the recording, it was neither included in the film nor released on disc. During the recording of that song, Madan was so enamoured by Lata's singing that he decided right then to exploit her voice to the maximum in his compositions.
Subsequently, when he started composing for films, Madan Mohan lent his voice to some screen characters to fulfill his wish of becoming a full-fledged playback singer. He had sung four film songs, all composed by him; one each in Ankhen (1950), Shabistan (1951), Dhoon (1953), and Fifty Fifty (1956) Though he sang all these songs very well, he did not gain any recognition as a playback singer.
Sadly, he was not successful as an actor either. He started his acting career by acting in Filmistan's Shaheed. Subsequently, he got to play the main lead in Parda. Neelam was the heroine and he, the hero. Shekhar too had a small part in the film. Their association during those days had developed into a bond of friendship and it was this kinship that helped him survive the many trials and tribulations. Later, he tried his luck with films such as Ansoo (1953) and Munimji (1955).[ Though Munimji wass released in 1955, Madan had played his role a few years earlier, as the film took a while in completion] But all his efforts to establish himself as an actor failed. Today all these films are remembered for just their nostalgic value and nothing else. But Madan never missed an opportunity to jokingly declare: "In my having become a music director, the films have lost a very fine artiste".
On his decision of switching to music direction, he had an explanation: "The mysteries of the mind, the interpretations of dreams and the monumental probing into certain aspects of my thoughts provoked me to concentrate on film music. Music was in my blood. Nothing could curb it from coming out. Destiny decided that I part with my musical gift to music lovers".
He continued his struggle. In the midst of all the heart-breaks and disappointments, he found a friend, philosopher and guide in music director S.D.Burman who met him at Filmistan Studios. S.D.Burman encouraged him and predicted that some day he would be a great music director. He was the first to assure Madan that he had the stuff in him to make it big on his own merit. Madan assisted S.D. Burman in the film Do Bhai.
He also assisted composer Shyam Sunder, in the films Actress and Nirdosh, and spent a lot of time in his company.
A contrasting incident held another important lesson in life: "I remember the day I came to Bombay - unemployed, in search of a job, any job. A producer refused to even see me. Years later, the same producer signed me for his picture and when I reminded him of the day when I first came to seek an interview from him, he didn't remember or perhaps he didn't want to remember.
All along, Madan continued to compose music and as he could write poetry, he began to write the lyrics as well. Many detractors however, doubted his ability to compose music for films. Even Rai Bahadur Chunilal had no confidence in his son's musical talents. But Madan was unmoved by the criticism and decided to have his way - to compose music he wanted to and adhere to his own individual style.
RISE TO FAME
Madan's first recorded song for a film was Preet Lagaa Ke Maine Ye Phal Paayaa in Ankhen (1950), sung by Mukesh. Shekhar, his friend from Delhi was the hero. The film was directed by Devendra Goel who, like him, was making his debut. Devendra was also the producer of the film. Madan was doubtful about the possibility of completing the film. He knew some distributors and ultimately he found a way out of the situation. He got Devendra to invite distributors over tea at a Churchgate restaurant and afterwards they would go out and sit on the Marine Drive rampart. There Madan would sing the songs he had composed for the film. The distributors used to get so impressed that they agreed to sign the contract for the distribution rights of the film in their territories.
That was how Ankhen was made. By giving a vocal demonstration of the possibilities of the songs, Madan literally helped to sell the territorial rights of the film. "When Ankhen was being produced, everyone discouraged us - the studio staff, even the technicians working in the film. I approached Lata Mangeshkar to sing for me. I don't know the full details, but I believe some people went to her and said that I was no good as a music director and she should not sing for me. I failed to persuade her to accede to my request. Later, she sung my compositions in Madhosh (1951) and she was so pleased with the songs and the music that she complimented me and apologized for not singing in my first film".
After completing Ankhen, Madan invited his father to a private preview of the film and hear for himself the music he had composed. When the film was over, Rai Bahadur Chunilal didn't utter a word. His profound silence expressed his emotions most eloquently. Madan came out with his father to reach him till his car. As his father took his seat, Madan could see tears rolling down his cheeks. His father said "Son, you have proved that you not only know music, but have musical feelings. I am convinced that you have chosen the right career. I shall pray for your success". Rai Bahadur claimed that he never regretted anything in life, but in those few moments, he expressed a genuine regret for not giving his son a chance in one of his own productions.
Two months after this incident, Rai Bahadur passed away. In those two months, he re-established contact, often praising Madan's work enthusiastically and announcing that he knew his son would make it good in life. From then onwards, Madan has worked tirelessly towards justifying the faith his father had reposed on his talent during those few weeks before his demise.
In 1952, the family had received a marriage proposal from Amritsar. Madan went there and met Sheila Dhingra, niece of the freedom fighter, Madan Lal Dhingra and instantly liked her. His family also approved of the liaison. However, due to sudden and untimely death of Rai Bahadur Chunilal, their marriage was postponed by one year. Finally, in January 1953, Madan Mohan got married to Sheila. Theirs was an arranged marriage.
Talking about their marriage, Madan Mohan's wife once described him as a very caring husband: "He's a family man. He has given me all the comforts of life. He always has time for his family. Many a time, he would take the whole family out for picnic or for dinner at some nice spot. He's been fond of sports - billiards in particular. And of course, he's always engrossed in music. At times, he gets up in the middle of the night and starts composing a tune that could have flashed in his mind then, on the harmonium. This also happens while driving the car. He would suddenly stop and start writing some lyric on a piece of paper kept in his pocket. I used to get irritated by his behaviour. I keep telling him that while doing a particular work, say while having food, one must relax and enjoy it and not think of music and work all the time".
She was highly appreciative of his cooking abilities: "He was a very good cook. At times after coming back from recording, he would go inside the kitchen and prepare some special dish for the family. He used to remember the birthdays of all the people for whom he cared. On the birthday of any of our children, he would decorate the house himself and bring valuable gifts. He was fond of people. He had a large circle of friends and well wishers. I had the privilege of being the first listener of many of the melodies composed by him. His music was melodious and soulful. People liked it and admired it during his lifetime".
The success of Ankhen brought Madan a new assignment - J.B.H.Wadia's Madhosh. It threw up a different kind of challenge: "When I was doing Madhosh (1951), Mr.Wadia came up with a situation where he wanted a powerful lyric depicting the emotions of a betrayed lover. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was writing the lyrics for the film. He was also sitting with us. He mentioned that he had written a song some time earlier and that may suit the requirements of the situation. He took out his notebook from his pocket and recited the lines. In less than five minutes, I tuned the song and played it to Mr.Wadia. He was extremely happy with it and the song went on to become very popular. It was Meree Yaad Mein Tum Na".
Soon after, Madan Mohan composed music for Aashiana (1952) which catapulted him to the top of the ladder. He considered that film to be among his bests, for the magical quality of its tunes - particularly, the song of Talat - Main Paagal Mera Manavaa Paagal, which took him as long as a month to compose.
During this period, his younger brother met with an accidental death. Prakash Kohli was a very talented young man. His voice was very good and he used to sing possibly better than Madan. He also used to accompany Madan on the tabla. When Madan began to taste success as a composer, Prakash turned his attention to camerawork and soon became one of the most promising cinematographers of the time. He was sent to England to gain practical training at Technicolour Laboratories and was probably the first Indian technician to have had the opportunity of working and assisting some of the world's top cinematographers. And when he returned to India after training, his first assignment as a cinematographer was with Ramanand Sagar, for the film Mehmaan (1953). Although the film was in black and white, Prakash hoped to get assignments in colour in which he had specialized. But it was not to be. Prakash was traveling to Bombay in a first class compartment of the Frontier Mail after attending his friend, Kuldeep Singh's marriage in Delhi. He was alone in the four berth compartment as other co-passengers booked by the same coach failed to join him. During the journey, a mentally unstable boy found him alone and shot him through the chest. The boy was apprehended and when he was sent to jail at Aligarh, Madan Mohan and few others met him. The assassin admitted that Prakash was his third victim and the only time he felt sorry was when he read about Prakash Kohli in the newspapers. His incident badly shattered Madan Mohan and he could not pick up his harmonium for more than a month. He was not in the mental frame to compose. His wife, Sheila, had a miscarriage due to the shock of this incident.
The musical score of Ashiana so excited Raj Kapoor that he exclaimed "If only I had that kind of musical score in my film, I would make it run for ever". Though his music was appreciated by audiences everywhere, the film flopped miserably at the box office. It was many years later, when some of the films for which he scored the music were re-run and proved to be hits, he earned recognition as a top ranking music director.
After Ashiana, some of the notable films Madan composed for were Nirmohi (1952), Baghi (1953), Dhoon (1953), Mastana (1954), Railway Platform (1955), Fifty Fifty (1956), Pocket Maar (1956) and Bhai Bhai (1956). The last named film did tremendous business and its songs too proved to be extremely popular. In the film industry nothing succeeds like success and likewise, nothing fails like a failure. With the success of Bhai Bhai contracts started pouring in for Madan Mohan.
Much as he was a hard worker, Madan Mohan had no set method of conjuring a tune. New tunes floated into his head at the most unexpected moments - while going up a lift, driving his car, or sometimes while leaning over the balcony of his Pedder Road flat to watch the traffic below. According to his associates, just as he was fond of the sitar, violin, sarod and sarangi, his favourite ragaas were Yaman, Bhairav, Jhinjhoti, Bhairavi, Darbari and Khamaj. At the same time he had no inhibitions about employing western elements in his compositions. He even believed that imbibing the "foreign system of music has done us a lot of good". In particular, harmony and counter-melody were western music's valuable gifts to Indian film music.
Madan averaged just about three films a year and this was what enabled him to sustain his class. He created, never manufactured. Justifying his stand of taking up only a few assignments at a time, he said: "Working at a stretch, day after day, is not my way of working. I need at least an interval of two months to abandon the mood of one film and take up another".
In 1957, Madan composed the music for Dekh Kabira Roya. It was a small budget film with all new faces introduced on screen. But the director Amiya Chakraborty provided Madan very inspiring song situations, which resulted in a fabulous musical score. The music was a smash hit. Songs like Hamse Aaya Na Gayaa, Kaun Aayaa Mere Man Ke Dwaare, Meree Veena Tum Bin Roye became chartbusters of the year. Slowly but surely, Madan started shaping his musical style which become famous as Madan Mohan style in the following years.
On June 16, 1957, he recorded one of his "highest musical feats". He conducted Lata Mangeshkar and a chorus of 50 male and female voices accompanied by an orchestra of seventy musicians for a song Log Kahe Mere Nain Baaware. The song featured in an opera sequence and was shot on Nutan in the climax scene of Chandan (1958). It was recorded in 12 parts by sound recordist Ishan Ghosh at Raman Studios, Madras. The rehearsal of the song lasted well over 20 days and before the final recording, three more rehearsals were taken. The recording lasted for nearly 12 hours. Before this, Madan Mohan had recorded songs with as many as 40 musicians.
"The situation for a song should inspire the music director to compose original tunes" he went on to explain. "If the song situation is good, any music director whose compositions are usually of a good standard will be able to do full justice to it and turn in a tune which has every chance of becoming a hit. Basically I am an emotional man and any song with an emotional approach inspires and spurs me to do something great". He added "A song gets a very big push from a genuine situation and even an average song correctly placed and picturised has chances of becoming very popular. If the song situation is good, then the people too who are seeing the film feel the necessity of the song and become emotionally attached to it".
After Dekh Kabira Roya, his music in Gateway of India (1957) was also appreciated to a great extent. The film had an unusual story with a wide scope for musical experimentation. Madan Mohan stood up to the challenge and scored tunes for all the situations depicting his versatility over his craft.
The famous "Madan Mohan style" was established in the true sense with Adalat (1958) when he composed some outstainding melodies - Jaanaa Tha Hamse Door, Yoon Hasaraton Ke Daagh, Unko Ye shikaayat Hai, Jaa Ja Re Jaa Saajanaa, Zameen Se Hamein Aasmaan Par... so many great melodies in one movie. This was the movie which made Madan Mohan the uncrowned king of ghazals. After this, he composed many ghazals and with each composition, he attained great heights of popularity and fame. A situation came when every producer wanted him to compose at least one ghazal for his film.
During this period, O.P.Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan stormed the film industry with their unique brand of music making. Their success caused much concern to many film producers, who could not afford to take O.P.Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan, started pressurizing other music directors to compose music of their style. Madan Mohan also faced this demand. He made some compromises and scored O.P.Nayyar style music for films like Night Club (1958), Khazanchi (1958) and Khota Paisa (1958). But that phase lasted for a short span and Madan Mohan came up with flying colours by getting back to his elements with melodies like "Woh Bhooli Daastaan, Bhooli Huyi Yaadon, Chalaa Hai Kahaan, Badali Se Nikala Hai Chaand... all for the film Sanjog (1961).
With Sanjog, Madan Mohan changed his orchestration style dramatically. It was more refined, more melodious and with a unique musical arrangement. Anpadh (1962), Manmauji (1962), Aap Ki Parchhaiyan (1964) and Ghazal (1964) witnessed this transformation of his musical style. This new style of Madan Mohan was more soulful and widely followed in the industry. Other composers of the day now started getting influenced by him.
According to Madan Mohan, the life of the music director is very hard but "good if you prosper". The task of a music director becomes hard because in every film the music is supposed to be the major factor. "Unlike the foreign films, we don't have films made as purely musicals. Here every film is made with all the entertaining ingredients, music being the major one, whereas it is not so in the case of films made in other countries. Seventy percent success of our films depends solely on the merits of the musical score. But it is still very exciting to be a music director".
In Madan Mohan's initial period, the trend of film making was for heroine-oriented subjects which gave him ample scope to improvise upon his talent. Some even called him a "ladies composer". Moreover, he had composed comparatively more catchy tunes for female singers than male. After 1960, hero-oriented films became the trend. But during this period also fortunately the subjects which came by Madan Mohan's way had more scope for female songs than male songs.
Consequently, Madan Mohan could manage to produce some outstanding pathos-based melodies which created a special place for him in the hearts of music connoisseurs. As he put it: "One must remember that a sad song, once it gets popular, has more chances of surviving and remaining popular for a long time than a light song. A light song, even the most popular one, hardly lasts for a year while a sad song survives for decades".
Another important film of the time was Haqeeqat (1964). It hardly had any scope for film music. But this was one music director who could embellish it with such polished gems as Main Ye Sochkar Uske Dar Se Uthaa Thaa, Zara si Aahat Hoti Hai, Khelo Na Mere Dil Se, Hoke Majboor, and Ab Tumhare Hawale Wattan Sathiyo Significantly, this was also the film that rekindled Madan Mohan's interest in acting. (Actually, after Parda was shelved, he lost interest in acting, barring a few appearances in films like Munimji and Ansoo) With Chetan Anand offering him a role in Haqeeqat, he grabbed it. "I was so excited about the offer that I brushed aside a dozen obstacles, worked overtime to finish my assignments and flew to Delhi to join the unit on its way to the location at Ladakh". Clearly, his dream was to don the army uniform once again and be the soldier in reel life this time. But that dream remained unfulfilled as he waited at Srinagar for almost a week for the weather to clear out and make flying possible. Once during this long wait, Madan managed to persuade a top army officer, who was to drive up to the front the next morning to take him along. The officer agreed. But the weather turned from bad to worse and even this trip had to be abandoned. "I had hoped to return from this trip with memories to cherish", he recounted. "Instead, all I brought back with me were a few cotton clothes I purchased from Delhi where I had least expected to hang on".
The year, 1964 witnessed eight releases in a row having Madan Mohan's compositions, including Aap Ki Parchhaiyan (a love story), Ghazal (a musical), Haqeeqat (war film), Jahanara (costume drama), Pooja Ke Phool (family drama), Suhagan (social theme) and Woh Kaun Thi? (mystery). Madan Mohan handled each subject gracefully and came out with many all-time hits for these films. The last mentioned actually became a trendsetter for haunting melodies. The tune of Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim from Woh Kaun Thi?, had originated in Madan Mohan's mind some 12 years earlier. For want of a fitting lyric and effective film situation, he had put it on the back burner for so long. His decision to fit it in this film highlighted his understanding of song situations.
The following years saw the release of Rishte Nate (1965), Dulhan Ek Raat Ki (1966), Mera Saaya (1966) and Naunihal (1967) full of typical Madan Mohan melodies. A highly elated writer-producer Sawan Kumar Tak noted: "Madan is one whose rare artistic sense and incomparable compositions have enriched Naunihal. And how he has helped me complete the film is another story. That was the time when strict orders were issued not to exploit Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's name in any manner".
Now, the story of the film revolved around a boy whose sole ambition was to meet Chacha Nehru. When he finally succeeds in reaching Delhi to meet his idol, he witnesses his cortege being taken out in a funeral procession. "The climax of my film was the funeral procession of Panditji", continues Tak. "How could I help it? Will the film be banned? Up came my music director Madan Mohan to my help. He reassured me not to bother and to continue making the film. But how? I was the writer of the film also. The climax has to have Panditji's funeral procession or else? Madan fixed the next recording and told me this would be the song to change the fortune of the film. The song was Meri Aawaaz Suno. This was a background song, supposed to be sung by the soul of the Panditji as his last message".
Continued the filmmaker: "while I was undergoing unbearable mental torture and distress was writ all over me, this song filled me with that rare joy of sorrow. The rhythm in it seeped into my veins and its melody made my blood run faster. The words in it made me feel as if Panditji has just departed and the procession is going on from Raj Path and the song is being sung from the skies. - the last message of the man who symbolized the Red Rose. I started feeling confident. I thanked Madan Mohan and took the tape to Delhi. There I arranged a meeting with Panditji's daughter Indira Gandhi, our then Prime Minister. In her presence I played the tape. She had tears in her eyes. The song had brought flashbacks of the funeral and the great loss to her life and our nation. When I asked her permission to use the song in Naunihal, she said she had no objection. Earlier, I had narrated the subject in a nut-shell. She assured me of her whole hearted co-operation. This was the time when in my heart of hearts, I started thanking Madan Mohan and my respect for him took a firm foundation".
The composer had his own take: "Mohammed Rafi's song Meri Awaaz Suno from Naunihal, was very popular with the public as a disc even before the release of the picture. As the lifeless body of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is carried to cremation, his message is given in this song. It is a message from one of the greatest world leaders to his countrymen whom he loved and for whom he had lived and died. The very novelty of the situation and the context of the song and the beauty of the message itself provided me with an inspiration which made me do my best and my very best. The song has become a unique creation and will remain evergreen in the minds of people for long. The song deserved all the respect due to it and had to be treated with the same reverence as to the great-departed leader. As we all loved him and as an Indian first and last, I was emotionally moved and inspired to do something which I had never done before in my career as a music director. This was also the first time I ever composed a song in a situation like this, which demanded every ounce of patriotism".
In the year 1970, Madan Mohan's film Dastak was released. It was like a musical art movie giving full scope to the composer to showcase his talent. The songs Baiyaan Naa Dharo, Mai Ri Main Kaase Kahoon and Ham Hain Mataay-e-Kuchao fetched him the National Award for best music direction for that year. This was the first time that Madan Mohan's contribution got recognition at the national level. Till then, as far as awards were concerned, he was totally neglected by the film fraternity as well as the Government of India.
Dastak was followed by Heer Ranjha, a totally unique experiment nobody dared the way Chetan Anand handled it. Lyricist Kaifi Azmi wrote the dialogues and lyrics of the film. The whole film was like a poetry. Dialogues were also in a poetic form. Madan Mohan handled the subject very sensitively. On the one hand he composed romantic songs like Milo Na Tum To Hum Ghabaraye and Meri Duniyaa Mein Tum Aayi and on the other hand, soulful songs like Do Dil Toote, Doli Chadhale Hee (traditional Heer moulded in his own style) and Yeh Duniyaa Yeh Mehfil. Many producers and composers tried their hand on the subject before and after this film, but nobody could achieve the feat which producer-director Chetan Anand and his composer achieved in combination.
The song Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil from the film is a unique composition of the maestro. It has altogether four stanzas. The tune of all four stanzas and the interlude music attached to them differs from each other and yet, the song arrives smoothly on the sign line after completion of each stanza. It is a unique triumph of form over content - four different melodies in one song and yet it appears as one complete song. Said Madan Mohan "It is usually very difficult for a music director to get unusual song situations and one is quite thrilled and inspired for better composition when a novel song situation turns out to be a novel situation".
Hanste Zakhm (1973) was yet another example of novelty. As usual, the song situation was very challenging. The hero of the film, a taxi driver, tries to convince the heroine, who is a prostitute, of his sincere love. The song starts on a slow tempo where the heroine is not responding to the pleas of hero. In the second stanza, when she starts giving favourable indications, the tempo and rhythm increases a bit. And in the third stanza, when the heroine accepts her suitor's love, the mood of the song changes dramatically with fast rhythm and happy notes. Indeed, it is a very complicated song. A music director of Madan Mohan's caliber only could have handled it so effectively. The song was Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho, rendered very effectively by Mohammed Rafi.
Once, speaking about the method of his work, he said that he composes the outline of a tune in a few minutes or at the most a quarter hour. Another half an hour might be taken up by the arrangement - both vocal and instrumental. He emphasized that more time spent on the construction of a tune, would result in a composition clearly showing the strain of its laboured birth. "In a film where three minutes is all the time given to a song, the foremost requirement of a song is only one thing; it should be capable of capturing the interest of the listeners in a short period and sustaining it in the years to follow".
Clearly, time and again, when Madan Mohan was put to test, he always came out with outstanding melodies. During his last days, he was offered Mausam (1975) and Laila Majnu (1976). Both the subjects and their setup suited Madan Mohan's temperament perfectly. Laila Majnu was a traditional love story for which Madan Mohan composed a very beautiful number Husn Haazir Hai Mohabbat Kee Sazaaa Paane Ko sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Mausam was a very soft romantic subject and was handled with equal softness by Gulzar. Madan Mohan understood the mood of the film composed songs like Dil Dhondtaa Hai (in happy and sad version) and Ruke Ruke Se Qadam, which really helped the film to convey its theme effectively.
In spite of producing such outstanding work consistently over a period of time, Madan Mohan had very few assignments on hand at the end of his career. He was victimized by the politics of the industry prevailing at that time. During that period, only three to four studios were available for song recording. Many top music directors used to book the studios for months together in advance, not allowing their rivals any opportunity to work. If any music director needed a studio, he had to beg the so-called music barons for the favour. This hurt Madan Mohan immensely. A man of a high sense of self-esteem he got frustrated and preferred to spend time by himself rather than beg for studio dates. This had affected his domestic life too, and in desperation, he turned to the bottle. Soon he developed medical problems, only to succumb to cirrhosis of lever.
The King of Melodies, who was at the peak of his popularity, died at the age of 51. He became the third member of his family, after his brother and mother, to die in the month of July. Death is the end of life, but in the case of Madan Mohan it cannot be so. Madan lives in our hearts and will continue to entertain us for all time to come.