The Legend

The Legend Madan Mohan is best known through his unforgettable compositions and his songs which will remain etched in film music history. Not much has been known about the person behind the legendary composer. This section attempts to share with his fans an insight into his life through information derived from his living family members and admirers, who have known him or followed his life's journey closely

Madan Mohan - A Snapshot

Name: Madan Mohan Kohli
Date of Birth: June 25, 1924
Birth Sign: Cancer
Place of Birth: Baghdad (Iraq)
Father: Rai Bahadur Chunilal Kohli
Mother: Bhagwanti Devi

Immediate Family:
Madan Mohan had a younger sister, Shanti Kohli, (Shanti Mahendroo, after her marriage) and a younger brother, Prakash Kohli.

In January 1953, in an arranged marriage, he wed Sheila Dhingra (niece of freedom fighter Madanlal Dhingra) from Amritsar (Punjab), and they were blessed with one daughter, Sangeeta (1954) and two sons, Sanjeev (1956) and Sameer (1961).

Education and Career:

  • Madan Mohan completed his Senior Cambridge from St.Mary's Convent, Byculla, Mumbai.
  • At the age of 17, he joined Colonel Brown's Military High School at Dehradun.
  • After completion of one year military training in the year 1943, he joined the Army as a Second Lieutenant and served there for two years. After the end of World War II, he left the Army and returned to Mumbai to pursue his musical interests.

Musical Training:

  • During his stay at Lahore, he learnt the basics of classical music from Shri Kartar Singh for a very short period. He did not receive any formal musical education since.
  • In Bombay, at the age of 11 years, he started performing in children's programmes broadcast by All India Radio. But he really got into music when he joined All India Radio, Lucknow in the year 1946 as a Programme Assistant.
  • His earliest influence in music was listening to Jaddanbai, and later he was very influenced by the vocal styles of Begum Akhtar and Barkat Ali Khan
  • His interaction with legendary classical vocalists and instrumentalists of the time helped him learn the nuances of music. Unknowingly, he also started composing music for small programmes, then broadcast on All India Radio.
  • In the year 1947, he was transferred to All India Radio, Delhi. He did not like the atmosphere there and resigned the job.

First Entry Into Music World:
Madan Mohan was very fond of and excelled in singing. In 1947, he got his first chance to record two ghazals penned by Behzad Lucknawi, Aane Laga Hai Koi Nazar Jalwa Gar Mujhe and Is Raaz Ko Duniya Jaanti Hai. Soon after, in 1948 he recorded two more private ghazals penned by Deewan Sharar, Wo Aaye To Mahfil Mein Ithlaate Huye Aaye and Duniya Mujhe Kahti Hai Ke Main Tujhko Bhoolaa Doon.

In the year 1948, he got his first opportunity to sing a film duet Pinjare Mein Bulbul Bole, Mera Chhotasa Dil Dole with Lata Mangeshkar under the baton of renowned composer Ghulam Haider for the film Shaheed, though this song was never released or used in the film.

He assisted composer S.D. Burman in the film Do Bhai, and composer Shyam Sundar in Actress and Nirdosh (between 1948 and 1949).

Debut As Music Director:
The first time the name of Madan Mohan blazed across the silver screen was for the film Ankhen (1950).

First Recorded Film Composition:
For the film Ankhen (1950). Mukesh sang Preet Lagaake Maine Ye Phal Paaya..

Total Musical Output:
Over a musical span of 25 years Madan Mohan has composed music for 95 released Hindi films (648 songs), 12 shelved Hindi films (28 songs) and one documentary (one song) produced by Films Division..

Other Interests:

  • Madan Mohan had a very striking personality and wanted to try his luck as an actor. His first film as a hero, Parda got shelved after completing almost eight to nine reels of shooting. He is also credited with screen appearances in Shaheed (1948), Ansoo (1953) and Munimji (1954). But all his efforts to get a foothold as an actor failed. He then decided to concentrate on music only.
  • He was also very fond of body building. He had a robust physique and the looks of an athlete.
  • He was also a sports enthusiast. A good boxer, an expert billiards player, He also had an obsession for playing cricket. He once narrowly missed being selected for the State Ranji Trophy team. He was also fond of swimming and ball room dancing.
Awards and Honours:
Inspite of consistently composing superlative melodies, Madan Mohan was deprived of any recognition or award of national importance. Some of the prominent awards conferred on him are as under.

He received National Award as Best Music Director for the film Dastak (1970).

Sur Singar Sansad's Swami Haridas Awards for two successive years for the songs Nainon Mein Badra Chhaaye (Mera Saya) and Maine Rang Lee Aaj Chunariya (Dulhan Ek Raat Ki).

The Andhra Pradesh Film Journalists Award for best music direction for the film Anpadh (1962).

The Uttar Pradesh Film Journalists Award for best music direction for Dil Ki Rahen (1973).


Posthumous Awards for his tunes used in Veer-Zaara (2004). The IIFA AWARD, BOLLYWOOD AWARD, and the SANGEET AWARD

Documentaries made on Madan Mohan:
  • Madan Mohan Ka Sangeet
  • Madan Mohan Ki Yaadein
Madan Mohan succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver on July 14, 1975. He was only 51.