King of Ghazals- Madan Mohan

Was watching an old programme on the unique music maestro, also known as “ King of ghazals”, Madan Mohan and came to know that he died on 14/7/1975, exactly 45 years ago!

His life would make an interesting study and can be a theme for a Bollywood biopic on him. He was a child prodigy, who never had any formal training of Indian classical music, had a strict and domineering father who sent him to army, but he came back to what he loved- music! His father took offence to his son’s defiance and though he was by that time a big name in film industry, being a 50% partner in Bombay Talkies, he challenged his son to prove his mettle on his own and threw him out of his house. A young Madan struggled for three years by sleeping on the pavements and going without food on several occasions, yet his passion and love for music saw him through this period of extreme adversity. Sachin Dev Burman, who knew Madan and who hired him as his assistant, advised Madan, who at that time was trying his hand at several disciplines like acting and singing, to focus on composing music. How he got his first break and went on to score some iconic music that has stood the test of time and how his father acknowledged his son’s talent just before breathing his last are the stuff that can make Madan’s biopic a blockbuster.

He simply adored Lata, whom he treated as his younger sister. In a way, Lata was his muse, his inspiration. Whether it’s Aar Paar, Adalat, Anpadh, Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya, Haqeeqat, Laila Majnu, Dastak or Mausam, seldom a music director is born who based most of his music on Hindustani classical ragas and raginis and folk and that too without any formal training! Much before Jagjeet, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota brought ghazals closer to common man, there was Madan Mohan, who composed pure pearls such as Unko yeh shikayat hai, yun hasraton ke daag, aapki nazron ne samjha, hum hai mata-e-kucha, Zara si aahat – it’s an endless list. He could also compose highly popular folk based numbers such as Jhumka Gira re. Much before fusion music caught fancy of the listeners, Madan experimented with it in his rare ditty from Hanste Zakhm, “ tum jo mil gaye ho”.

Bit of trivia. He was very firm headed. When Talat had almost gone into oblivion and Rafi ruled the roost, he revived Talat’s career by making him sing the songs of Jaha Ara. Unfortunately, the film bombed or Talat might have made a great comeback. This he repeated during Laila Majnu when it was Kishore all the way, but he insisted that only Rafi could do justice to Majnu!

In spite of creating some of the finest music, he received very few honours and awards. In fact, National award for Dastak came his way only in 1971, some 20 years after he started as an independent composer. He was totally a jilted and crestfallen person by then at the lack of recognition of his work! Excessive drinking and depression led to his death by heart attack at a raw age of 51. More sadly, he didn’t live to see the blockbuster success of his swan song, Laila Majnu.

When Lata was away, he’d wait for her return and advise film director to go ahead and picturise the song based on the version recorded in his voice, which would then be dubbed by Lata upon her return. Some of these recordings can be occasionally heard. His rendition of Mai ri main kaase kahun from Dastak captures pathos in his voice that in a way surpasses the timeless beauty sung by Lata.

Politics around awards, recognition, groupism in Bollywood can be heart breaking for some, though some of more intelligent and evolved stars of this generation, Aamir Khan being more pronounced, have called the bluff of these awards by conspicuously avoiding such ceremonies. If purity of Madam’s music and his emotional heart could understand this bluff, we could have had more of his timeless melodies, a few of which were revived by his son Sanjeev Kohli in Veer Zaara, the songs of which were based on unused compositions of the Maestro.

Knowing about Madan’s life, though sad in parts, paved way for celebrating something – his music, in these dark times of Corona when even Mahanayak of this century along with several of his family members have been infected by this contagious and never ending malaise. Let’s wish speedy recovery to India’s megastar and pay obeisance to great Madan Mohan on his 45th death anniversary on Tuesday.

2 thoughts on “King of Ghazals- Madan Mohan

  1. A lovely memoir on Madan Mohan, the maestro.
    He had produced some rare gems in film music
    that has remained as fresh even today. The songs had such hunting quality & lilting melody.

    Must make a mention of ‘Dil dhund ta hai’- almost prosaic lyrics by Gulzar that Madan Mohan converted into a hunting melancholia by his sheer touch, and use of right instruments.

    Listene to his- ‘ Yeh Deewane ki zid hai’ by Rafi from Laila Majnu. The dewangee and the zid of Majnu goes on into a crescendo with arabic tune, couldn’t have been more pronounced. Utterly lovely.. On last Eid was tried singing that. It’s quite difficult.

    You have written with so much passion and love. Only a true lover of music can do that.
    Hats off..

    Madan Mohan, was a true Mohan..


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