Madan Mohan The Ghazal King
Though he had no formal training in classical music, he reportedly sang rather well and recorded two Bahzad Lucknawi ghazals in 1947, followed by two more by Deevan Sharar the following year after leaving the army after World War II (1945) when barely 21. The same year he recorded a duet with Lata Mangeshkar, Pinjare mein bulbul bole, for composer Ghulam Haider’s in Filmistan’s Shaheed (1948) without the knowledge of his father Rai Bahadur Chunilal, the formidable boss of Bombay Talkies who had been strictly against his elder son joining films, though he later sent his younger son, Prakash abroad to master colour photography. Since this handsome lad had no formal training in music despite having worked with All India Radio Lucknow and Delhi (46-47), Madan Mohan had always aspired to be an actor. But destiny had different designs.
In a career span of 25 years (during which he recorded a song each in Aankhen (50), Shabistan (51), Dhoom (54), Fifty-Fifty (56) and Dastak (70); played the hero opposite Neelam in Parda, directed by Rajkumar with music by Shyam Babu Pathak with lyrics by Indivar (it never got made)and did stellar roles in Aansoo (53)and Munimji (55). He composed music for 106 films (two posthumously), beginning with Aankhen directed by another debutant Devendra Goel with Mukesh singing the number, and recorded 677 songs, including 505 solos and 145 duets, many of these remained unreleased. Although he regularly composed music for various films, he came into major reckoning after Nargis, Pardeep Kumar starrer, Adalat. It was with this film that Madan Mohan found his real calling, and not long thereafter acquired the crown of ghazal king. Even when played now, every composition from the film fills one with sense of the unusual, complete music for the soul.
Since he himself was a good singer, he would record a rough cut in his own voice before passing it on to a singer. He made Mohd Rafi render, when the singer had lost confidence in the wake of the Kishore Kumar wave, the Hanste Zakhm’s (75) slow melody Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho which now finds a place in every Rafi collection. Had it not been for Madan Mohan and Naushad, who brought his confidence back, the singer might have even contemplated suicide. Few also know that producer-director Raj Khosla, who had essentially come to Bombay to be a singer, recorded his first and last song Rail Mein Jiya Moraa Sananana Hoye Re for the composer’s debut film Aankhen (50). The twosome came together again years later, first for the super hit music of Woh Kaun Thi? (64), Mera Saaya (66), Chirag (69), though a certain bitterness had cropped in when Madan Mohan refused to work on the maker’s Anita which was nothing but a rehash of their first two films together.
He rendered Rafi through a difficult song Yeh Duniya yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahi from Heer Ranjha (70) which, unsure, the singer had rendered somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps one of the reasons the famed composer never really composed music for a big banner, or a popular hit, though his music was always the redeeming factor, was his uncompromising nature, and adhering to strict discipline while at work. This also made him unpopular with some lyricists like poet Majrooh Sultanpuri. His assistant, Ghanshyamlal Sukhwal, who joined him in 1955 during the recording of Railway Platform’s background score and remained with him till his death, recalled: “There are two methods of compositions. One where the tune is set first and then the lyrics are written. The other is where the lyrics are written first and then the melody is prepared. Madanji had mastered both these methods. Additionally, he had an extremely good understanding of poetry. Out of the songs he had composed, 70 per cent have sign lines written by Madanji.” Sign line is the opening words in a song. “If he did not like a word written by the lyricist, he would ask the person to change it.” His favourite lyricist, Raja Mehndi Ali Khan once gave him the sign line Aap ki nazron ne samjha pyar ke kabil mujhe, which had been rejected by OP Nayyar. Madan Mohan not only okayed it on the spot but composed the whole song rightaway as the lyricist went on supplying the remaining lines. The composition from Anpadh (62) continues to be blurted out from every radio station even now.
His personal and professional equation with Lata started when she recorded a song for him in Madhosh (51), and continued till after his death. It is believed that he would dummy record songs for her, and then give her a free hand, “now the song is yours, sing it the way you want to.” Younger son Sameer recounted: “My father never had to explain any song in minute detail to Lataji. Both of them knew what to expect from each other.” The sentiments are endorsed by Ghanshyam Sukhwal: “When he explained a song to a singer musicians like Rais Khan and Hariprasad Chaurasia would make it a point to be there to listen to what he said. They all called Madanji ‘Harkaton ka badsaah’ (the king of variations). When Lataji was not available for recording he used to record the song in his voice and later Lataji would dub it in her voice. In fact, there are two such songs that are available even today in his voice, Maee Ree Mein Kasse Kahoon and Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim, naina barse.” He can even recount the compositions that were recorded but are lost forever, including a qawwali for Jahanara (64), Ek din chaand aur taaron ne jaa ke allah se shikayat ki for which Madan Mohan roped in all the four Mangeshkar sisters (Lata, Asha, Usha and Meena) together for the first and the last time.
Hazarron saal nargis apni benuri pe rooti hai, tab chaman mein hota hai deedawar paida. Born on 24 June 1924 in Baghdad-Died 14 July 1975 of cirrhosis of liver in Mumbai at the young age of 51. Actress Anju Mahendru is Madan Mohan’s niece.
By Suresh Kohli