Bollywood Dream: Old Songs, New Hit (Excerpts from an article appeared in Billboard USA - issue dated 02 April 2005)
Songs and songwriters are as much the hook in Bollywood cinema as actors and directors. Last year's award-winning "Veer-Zaara," in fact, played up the songs by the late Madan Mohan way above esteemed director Yash Chopra and a spectacular cast including male superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan and top actresses Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji.
"Veer-Zaara," which was named best film at the prestigious Filmfare Awards in February in Mumbai, India, is now available on DVD. But the story of the soundtrack is as powerful a saga as the inspirational love tale at the heart of "Veer-Zaara."
Indeed, the soundtrack was a huge success even before the film was released. It is so unusual that it engendered a novel companion CD, "The Making of the Music," featuring commentaries by Chopra and legendary film music diva Lata Mangeshkar along with decades-old demos by Mohan himself.
The previously unreleased compositions by Mohan, who died in 1975, were discovered by his son Sanjeev Kohli, now CEO of Chopra's Yash Raj Films.
"I had lost the opportunity to learn music and make music my career," he recalls. "But on some days when I missed him, I would listen to his songs on master spools - which we were never allowed to touch as children - and also cleared his 'music cupboards' and found some spool tapes and cassettes of some amazing compositions. Some he played on the harmonium or piano, some he just hummed or used dummy words, some went back to 1958 and were never used for want of an appropriate film. What a waste of such melodies!
So I fantasized: What if I could have these tunes recorded - and they could be a part of a new hit film?"
"I found no time to fulfill my dream, and if I ever thought of it, wondered if my father's tunes would be 'old-fashioned' today," Kohli concedes.
Then, in 1995 he joined Yash Raj Films, India's most successful entertainment company. In 1997 he brought in Uttam Singh to compose the score to Chopra's "Dil To Pagal Hai," which became a huge-selling soundtrack.
"In 2003, Yash Chopra decided to direct a film that needed 'old-world music' - away from the Western influences," Kohli says. "Music that had a strong melody line, with acoustic instruments - music like that of the '60s and '70s. Instinctively, I blurted that I had some old-world melodies on tape, not heard for 28 years."
Incredibly, Chopra and his son Aditya Chopra, who wrote the "Veer-Zaara" screenplay, chose 10 of the songs, and informed Kohli that they wanted to retain the organic sound of the demos.
"It was unbelievable," Kohli says. "Such a big film's score with the biggest producer and director of India and with the biggest star cast assembled in recent years - on my slender shoulders."
"It was a filial duty, and through this entire endeavor I have rediscovered my father - as well as some of what I inherited from him - and I know I didn't let him down. What more could a son ask for?"
'Veer-Zaara': Melody Has A Rebirth In Lata's Voice
We could see this as a son's majestic homage to his legendary father. Sanjeev Kohli recreates his father Madan Mohan's music with such feeling and depth that it makes you think this is what Madan Mohan would do if he were alive. Or we could see this stunning soundtrack as an ode to the nightingale, Lata Mangeshkar, who has made life melodiously meaningful for millions of Indians for nearly 60 years now.
The quaint majesty of Madan Mohan's tunes go straight into our hearts. In an era when music has been reduced to aural coitus, Veer-Zaara comes with a quality of sound that reminds us of how far film music has deviated from its original purpose.
This is what a complete film soundtrack is meant to be. And we cannot thank the A-1 team enough for bringing the staggering progression of film music back on the right track. It isn't enough to say "Veer-Zaara" steers film music back to its original course.
It isn't enough to say "Veer-Zaara" steers film music back to its original course.
It's also important to see how the score spreads itself out to accommodate a whole tradition of popular expression in our cinema. Sanjeev Kohli's recreation takes Madan Mohan's tunes to places where the heart waltzes and the soul sings out in sheer ecstasy.
Film music cannot get any more intimate and resplendent. Not in this day and age. Melody was almost dead. But Madan Mohan has been awakened to revive it...
- Subhash K Jha
Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara is the latest and the biggest talk of the tinsel town currently. It's now a known fact that the film has music composed by yesteryear maestro - the late Madan Mohan. The prolific composer had scored some of the best and the biggest hits from the early 50's to the late 70's. The music legend who unfortunately passed away at a young age had composed a bank of tunes while he was still going great as a musician. Yash Chopra specially selected those tunes from this unused collection that went in perfect sync with his movie theme. These 30-year-old eternal tunes were recreated by Madan Mohan's son - Sanjeev Kohli and recorded in voice of contemporary singers. Incidentally though both Yash Chopra and Madan Mohan were from the same era, they never worked together before this album.
Veer-Zaara is a mixed bag varying from a rich collection of love songs to emotional tracks to a patriotic number, a qawalli, a folk song and a ghazal. While the first half of the album is instantly appealing the second half will slowly grow on you. At the end the outcome is pretty likeable.
Take a break from the world of techno music and remix item numbers. Dip into divine melodies with Veer-Zaara.
- Joginder Tuteja (IndiaFM.com)
Melodies from the past come alive...
- The Tribune
If you love classical music, then Veer-Zaara's music will definitely appeal to you.
Yash Chopra returns to the silver screen after a span of almost 7 years. This time, he has roped in Javed Akhtar, a lyricist who has created his own niche in Hindi cinema and is probably the best among the many today. He has also brought in his favorite, Lata Mangeshkar, who has managed to make her presence felt in most films that Yash Chopra has produced and directed. The music has been recreated by Sanjeev Kohli, the son of yesteryear's music director Madan Mohan, whose unreleased tunes have been used for the music of Chopra's latest, Veer-Zaara.
Amitabh Bachchan has apparently found the music for Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara to be unbelievable. As I can imagine, this album will appeal to many individuals from Bachchan's generation as it offers a nice diversion from the techno, bhangra beats that dominate today's music scene. But, I believe the album has something to offer even to my generation. Upon repeated listening, it completely grows on you. Overall, the album has a bit of everything and proves to be another welcome addition to previous Chopra classics.
Madan Mohan's music relies on melody and the tunes fit the story like gloves. Of the songs, 'Main Yahan Hoon', 'Aisa Des Hai Mera', 'Lodi' and 'Aaya Tere Dar Pe' are the pick of the lot. The lyrical value of all songs is rich.
- Taran Adarsh (IndiaFM.com)
Bollywood's ageless master Yash Chopra directs 7 years after 'Dil To Pagal Hai' and the music, one of the most awaited of this year because of the fact that it has 11 unused tunes of the musical genius, late Madan Mohan (selected from over 150 tunes) and features the nightingale Lataji, who turns 75 on September 28.
Now for the conclusion... SUPERB. If you are tired of remixes, synthesized sound and want to listen to the magic of real instruments like sitar, piano, tabla and violin. Go for it, before the limited units that have managed to reach the stores disappear from the shelves.
- Abid (bollyvista.com)
Music of Veer-Zaara is divine from the word GO... seeing that it has been composed by Late Madan Mohan. Yesteryear's music whiz who left the worldly matters at an early age had also left a couple of fallow tunes, which were acknowledged by Yash Chopra, who is now making the most of these tunes in Veer-Zaara. To attain the best of both the worlds, Chopra also managed to rope in none other than Sanjeev Kohli (Madan Mohan's son) and got the music recreated. For Veer-Zaara, Yash Chopra has also brought into play his musical trump card - Lata Mangeshkar for all the tracks and with Javed Akhtar's absolute lyrical support, the music of Veer-Zaara couldn't have asked for more.
Most of the tracks of Veer-Zaara are like timeless classics, but they will need some time before they sink deep into the hearts of the listeners. An elegant publicity by an enormously astute producer with a massive star support will ensure that Veer-Zaara gets a fair chance to prove its grit.
- Raunaq Kotecha (glamsham.com)
The calibre of the late Madan Mohan's music is certainly high grade. Many scenes are elevated by the quality of music.
What happens when Indian Cinemas Idols like Yash Chopra, Lata Mangeshkar and Late Madan Mohan come together? A timeless classical extravaganza that is bound to make people sit up and notice. Madan Mohan created magical melodies years ago and it is back to enchant us with his eternal soulful music. Yash Chopra has used some un-used tunes of Late Madan Mohan for Veer-Zaara. The music has been recreated by Sanjeev Kohli. Javed Akhtar provided the lyrics and voila we have a modern classic waiting to be unveiled. The songs of the movie have been sung by the likes of Lata Mangeshkar, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Gurdas Mann, Roop Kumar Rathod, Ahmed Hussain and Mohd. Hussain.
The music of Veer-Zaara is a novel experience. The music by Late Madan Mohan is melodious, no doubt about it. It touches your heart by the sheer momentum of an emotion called Love; perfect platform for a Yash Raj movie.
In the contemporary times of techno music, digitally generated sounds and awe-inspiring studio effects, the music of Yash Chopra's movie Veer-Zaara brings back the nostalgic memories of melodies that pluck strings at heart with their pure form and content. The album features melodies composed by the late music director Madan Mohan. Yash Chopra selected the tunes from Madan Mohan's unused collection and had the legendary composer's son Sanjeev Kohli to rearrange these melodies into songs that go with the theme of Veer-Zaara. Apart from 'ear-pleasing' melodies of Veer-Zaara, it is the singing of Lata Mangeshkar in many songs that make it a musically rich album.