Jay Jhaveri
A Hong Kong-based music aficionado and admirer of Madanji's music

Divine Revelations
A Madan Mohan-esque musical experience defies verbal description. The limited tools of language, no matter how sophisticated, are woefully inadequate in doing justice to a description of that experience.

Yet let me just try and describe what I feel when I hear a Madan Mohan melody: it is a divine revelation, a mellifluous epiphany. You feel that you've just had a fleeting tryst with Eternal Bliss - or param-aanand. And for all I know, they were surely divine revelations to Madan Mohan himself too! How else can one fathom the wherefores of how they were conceived and created?

Just listen to Aapki nazaron ne samjhaa (Anpadh) - it is a work of perfection, of supreme melodic craftsmanship. The total surrender in Lataji's vocals, perfectly aided and abetted by the lush strings and understated percussion, and the two mandolins chipping in in perfect harmony - I must have heard this melody a thousand times, and every time I hear it, I discover some nook or cranny which elicits an "Aha!"

There are so many "Aha" moments in so many Madan Mohan melodies - where does one begin or end?

What about Meri duniya mein tum aayi kya kya apne saath liye (Heer Ranjha) - suffused with sweet nothings? Madan Mohan's genius shows in the way he corrals the notes of Raag Yaman and spins them into what I feel is one of the most sublime love duets ever composed for the silver screen. He makes Rafisaab whisper, and compels Lataji to respond with the trademark Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar murkis (pirouette of notes)- just look at the way she enunciates the word saughaat as she responds to Rafisaab's overtures, and you can feel the anxiety of Heer at the prospect of being caught red-handed! And Ustad Rais Khan's sitar interludes, together with some quick flourishes from Pt. Hariprasad's flute, connive with the vocals to accentuate the romance and the attendant anxiety. The really surreal thing about this song is that many a time - purely by chance -I've heard it being played at sunset on the radio - and my immediate associations on hearing this song are a crimson-blue sky with the sun setting and a gentle breeze - just the right time and setting for Yaman!

Madan Mohan was always there with me as I grew up - my first encounter with him was when my dad played Madan Mohan - A Tribute - a posthumous compilation of his melodies. I was all of seven or eight then, and somehow, whenever that LP graced our turntable, I'd be distracted from my activities. Something in those melodies seemed to arrest my attention - I couldn't quite put a finger on it. However, it was not until the age of 15 that I began to feel the full impact of his music. I was a diehard fan of Lataji, and never missed any programme of hers on radio or TV where she was to appear in person. One of her radio interviews was dedicated to the memory of Madan Mohan, which is when I began to scratch the surface of the beauty of the Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar combine. I also heard that HMV had released an LP titled I Remember Madan Mohan - Lata Mangeshkar. During a family dinner at a restaurant which had a few record shops in its vicinity, I quietly ran off in desperate search of that album, and caused my mother to panic. One of the stores had a sample copy - I remember begging the store owner to let me have it, and in the process emptied my monthly allowance! He looked bemused at a teenager so intently demanding a Madan Mohan LP - instead of the latest pop album.

That night at home, I heard Bairan neend na aaye for the first time. You know one of those times when someone tells you something so incredulous that you ask them to repeat it again and again just to confirm what you've heard? I played that song ten times, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. The next day, I couldn't focus either in class or at a dinner party with friends - they thought I had lost it!! I just couldn't think of anything else but that song. I had never heard such an unusual exposition of Raag Kaafi - Lataji's introductory alaap lays bare the contours of the Raag so beautifully! And the string / sitar interludes leave you ambushed with their unconventional turn of musical phrase!

I feel possessed when I listen to his music - even when I think of it!

Oh, and I can't resist this one - listening to Chhayi barkha bahar, pade anganaa puhaar (Chirag). It was 1984-85 and HMV had just re-issued Chirag on LP. I had somehow pottered into a record store in Fort, and found this one on the rack. I was only aware of the signature Teri aankhon ke siva from this film - so it was pure curiosity that hauled me into one of the listening booths. Another one of those "believe it or not" moments occurred when I played and replayed Chhayi barkha bahar ten times in a row - and I could have continued ad infinitum if the owner hadn't pulled me out of the booth! (He expected me to buy the LP, I didn't have enough in my pocket, and left the store red-faced!)

Let me try and describe the experience of listening to this magnum opus: you don't know what you're in for while the strings and percussion are making their introductory remarks and until there is a sudden twist in the melody leading up to Lataji's flourish. And then Raag Megh dawns on you through Lataji's soaring vocals, as they lift you off your feet (just listen carefully to the way she enunciates chhayi). And then, the strings break into a rapturous celebration with the most incredibly complex paltaas (fast-paced musical passages) I've ever heard in Raag Megh, when Rais Khan's sitar allows them nary a breather while he quickly dips into a flourish in Bhimpalas. The antaraas (stanzas) heighten the excitement - and this joyride continues for a full seven blissful minutes!

It fell on Madan Mohan's muscular musical shoulders to seamlessly weave together the folk and the classical into a collage - a riot of musical colours that leaves you breathless!

Should I tell you of the night in Hong Kong when I heard Sapne mein sajan se do baatein (Gateway of India) for the first time - and went on to play it again and again for four hours? Or how about the time when I left home for studies in Australia, and played Mera saya saath hoga every day for two weeks to overcome the homesickness?

There are so many of those incredible and incredulous memories that this musical and artistic colossus has so generously gifted me - and continues to bestow upon me even today. I feel privileged to have known him through his music in my lifetime.