It is often said that Madan Mohan received more recognition and acknowledgement of his contribution after his demise. Indeed, his colleagues, the media, his fans, were lavish in praise for the late composer in all the tributes they paid him when he died and continue to give him respect even more than 30 years later. Respect for Madan Mohan has only escalated over the years as more and more people discover his music and the impact it had on the listeners.
Lata Mangeshkar India's nightingale and Madan Mohan's rakhi sister
Madan Bhaiya will always have a very special place for me. Even though it has been over 30 years since he left us, I still think of him often and of course he lives through his songs.
My first meeting with him was when we recorded a duet for 'Shaheed' in 1947. The song was about a brother-sister relationship.
Indeed, he was like a brother to me ever since.
I have always said that he was one of the finest composers that India has ever produced and had a unique style. I have had the privilege of working with almost every composer in the last six decades, and each has contributed so much to my repertoire with their genius.
Though I have sung more songs with other composers, my number of hits with Madan Bhaiya are numerous. People say that I added something special in his songs - I do not know whether this happened consciously. Maybe it happened because of our personal rapport and affection for each other, our mutual respect for each others work, and maybe because of the perfect tuning we had and the fact that he was able to find nuances in my voice and rendition that he intuitively understood. He created such beautiful melodies for me that were always challenging, and I had to be at my best.
He would always say that he composed a tune only with me in mind and always had some 'jagahs' conceived with my voice modulation in mind. It was thus always challenging to live up to his expectations and the pleasure on his face after a recording would always give me a lot of satisfaction.
It is impossible for me to list my favorite songs of Madan Bhaiya - there have been many albums in which I have presented some of them, but I always feel I sometimes miss out the less heard ones. Of course, some of our most popular songs have been 'Bairan Neend Na Aaye', 'Yun Hasraton Ke Dagh', 'Hum Pyaar Mein Jalnewalon Ko', 'Nagma-O-Sher Ki Saugat', 'Woh Chup Rahen To', 'Sapne Mein Sajan Se', 'Lag Ja Gale Se', 'Nainon Mein Badra Chhaye', 'Zara Si Aahat', and many others.
Ghazals of course, were his forte, but his talent was not limited to ghazals alone. He has composed some memorable folk-based songs, qawwalis, as well as romantic songs sung by me and other artistes, and of course his classical and semi-classical songs.
There are so many incidents during recordings that I have shared earlier with all his fans on albums and interviews. All these incidents have been a testimony of his genius, his need for perfection, and his quest for excellence.
Our families were extremely close to each other and everybody in my family called him Madan Bhaiya - this was not only because of their respect for his caliber but also because of his warm and affectionate nature. He was a highly emotional person and I have shared with him and his family, many moments that I will never forget. I was one of the people he was closest to and with whom he shared a lot.
When he failed to win popular awards, I would always encourage him for the next time and he would be moved to say that the awards did not matter as much as my appreciation did.
In his last years, when other younger composers were dominating with many films, he would always tell me that I must give him dates for recordings, however busy I may be - I always tried never to let him down and always found the time to sing for him, however small budget the film may be.
People also say that he was an underrated composer and did not get enough recognition during his lifetime. To some extent, they are right as I have personally witnessed his bitterness at not getting the top banners or achieving the top slot in hit-lists despite his songs being so popular. But on the other hand, today I feel that he is one of the most acknowledged composers. Maybe this came late but his name and work will endure.
I know that his fans hold him in great esteem - I have witnessed this in my concert tours in India and abroad - every time I sang a Madan Bhaiya song, the applause was overwhelming. Not many people achieve this so many years after they have gone. And thus for me, Madan Bhaiya will always remain a very successful composer and of course a very special one for me.
Indeed, one of the earliest songs I sang for him in 1952, says it all - 'Hamaare baad ab mehfil mein afsane baiyaan honge, baharen hum ko dhoondengi, na jaane hum kahaan honge.'