Surinder Ahluwalia An ardent fan of Madanji, and a music aficionado based in Calgary, Canada
The Great One...
Madan Mohan - I bow down to you Sir, You are my God.
The first song I ever heard composed by the Great Madan Mohan was Basti Basti Parbat Parbat - Mohd Rafi in Railway Platform. This would be 1955, when I was about 17 years old. Something about this song got stuck in my head.
1956 brought in Bhai Bhai and the music of this movie shook the whole country. Every song is a hit. I thoroughly enjoyed the music, as did the rest of India.
The name of Madan Mohan did not come to me as that of a stranger, but of a person I had known for a long time, although, I heard his name for the first time in Railway platform. The connection that I have with the Great Madan Mohan will get explained, as I write more.
By this time Madan Mohan did already have movies such as Ankhein: Khoobsurat : Aashiana and Madhosh to his credit but I did not hear the music of these movies until after Bhai Bhai. Then came his Dekh Kabira Roya in 1957, which was a hit for its time. At age 20, in 1958, I was passing through a street in Jullundur and on a street radio, I heard this song from Dekh Kabira Roya - Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye' - I was stunned by this song and the Sitar the Great One used is total magic. This song got engraved in my head, as the best song made in India and I maintain this statement to date. Soon after this came a movie called Samunder, produced by Prem Nath, with music by the Great One. There is a 2 part song in it - Aaja Kahin Se Aaja - To me, this is not even a song, but magic beyond magic. There is another song in Samunder, Chain Nahin Aye, which has the same magic as Aaja Kahin Se Aaja.
I am told that Begum Akhtar, Talat Mehmood and the Great Madan Mohan were great friends from their All India Radio Lucknow days. Begum Akhtar was in Delhi when the movie Bhai Bhai was released. She was totally impressed with the Lata song - Kadar Jane Na. She says in her memoirs that she called the Great One in Bombay and for 18 minutes, she made the Great Madan Mohan sing this song to her over the telephone. Such is the magic of the Madan Mohan music. I will comment further on the singing abilities of the Great Madan Mohan.
The Dekh Kabira and Samunder songs started my research for the perfection that the Great Madan Mohan is capable of delivering. I followed his music and researched as much as I could. In 1961, I got married and moved to England in 1962. Indian music was in very short supply in England. I met a very fine gentleman in London - Harshad Kotecha. He just loved Indian music and he had a massive collection of 78 RPM records. I would borrow a few records at a time, record them onto my reel to reel and get more. I had a record in there from the movie Madhosh - Lata singing - Hame' Ho Gaya Tum Se Pyar Bedardi Balma. This song is so beautiful that to date, I rate it as one of the best ever.
Then I started to assess the performances of singers under various music directors in India. The deeper I went into this subject, the more I found that each singer of the day performed that much better under the direction of the Great One.
Lata Mangeshkar - Even a genius like OP Nayyar said that the Lata and the Great Madan Mohan produced songs, which are unparrelled to date. I thoroughly stand by this statement made by OP Nayyar. Our Lata is so unique that whatever she sings becomes a legend. The Great Madan Mohan was able to extract that extra bit out of Lata Mangeshkar, e.g.:
1. Aaaja Kahin Se Aaja - Samunder
2. Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye - Dekh Kabira Roya
3. Tu Pyar Kare Ya Thukraye - Dekh Kabira Roya
4. Chain Nahin Aye - Samunder
5. Mukh Mod Na Lena Sajna - Aashiana
6. Sakhiri Tujhe Man Ke Meet Mile - Rishte Naate
(It might sound crazy, but many times in a week, I put this song on repeat and listen to it all day. It gets better with each listening - Trust me).
7. Hamen Ho Gaya Tum Se Pyar - Madhosh
8. Milo Na Tum To - Heer Ranjha
9. Heer... Doli chadhte (Total Perfection) - Heer Ranjha
10. Is Duniya Main Sab Chor Chor - Bhai Bhai
List of Lata and the Great One is endless and what the two delivered is nothing short of magic and perfection. Nobody has been able to create that magic since and I know, for sure, it will never happen again.
I have called Madan Mohan - "The Great One".
I did a massive study on the Great music composers of India. The names of superior music composers, which come to me are:
Vinod : Shyam Sunder : HusanLal Bhagat Ram : C Ramchandra : Shanker Jaikishen : Roshan : Ghulam Mohammed - I rate these gentlemen as the magicians of Indian music and Magicians of all magicians is ofcourse, the The Great Madan Mohan. For the Great Magician, up came the name - THE GREAT ONE out of nowhere. I like to state here that names of many successful music composers is missing from my list of magicians above. My listed magicians show to me that they worked for music and those who are not there worked for ego and publicity. Some got away with cheap songs and gained awards. But the Great Madan Mohan would never let a song go until it was 110% or better. I have heard Lata say that sometimes, she had to be in a recording session all day with the Great One, purely to achieve perfection. Someone asked the lady, if she did not get tired. Her reply was - What to do?
To further point out the absolute superiority of the Great one, I like to write that all major playback singers of the time performed best under the Magician of all Magicians:
Asha Bhosle: Her Best is - Jhumka Gira Re - Mera Saya.
Geeta Dutt + Asha: Dupatta Mera Malmal - Adalat.
Geeta Dutt: Ae Dil Mujhe Bata De - Bhai Bhai.
Talat Mehmood: Meri Yaad Main Tum Na - Madhosh.
(Please listen to the string music at the start of this song to see the perfection in it).
Mukesh: Preet Laga Ke Maine - Ankhein.
(Please notice the Electric Guitar or similar instrument used by the Great One in this song).
Mohammed Rafi: Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil - Heer Ranjha.
Manna Dey: Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke - Dekh Kabira Roya.
Meena Kapoor: Mori Atariya Pe Kaaga - Ankhein.
Kishore Kumar: Mera Naam Abdul Rehman - Bhai Bhai.
Shamshad Begum: Pagri Pehan Ke Turre - Madhosh.
Suraiya: Yeh Chand Sitare - Khoobsurat.
Hemant Kumar: Le Le Dard Paraya - Chhote Babu
Ankhen was the first movie in which the Great One provided music, in 1950. His father Rai Bahadur Chunilal was never in favour of his son becoming a music composer. I have read that Rai Bahadur went to see the movie Ankhein in a Delhi cinema hall and was thoroughly impressed with the work of his son. RB Chunilal, who was then the owner of Filmistan Studios decided to finally allow his son to be in this field and give him support but the dad passed away 3 months later.
The Great One has always been very choosy about the singers he used. His major work is with Lata Mangeshkar. In the movie Bawarchi, He used Laxmi Shanker, Nirmala Devi, Kumari Fayyaz and Harindranath Chattopadhaya. Please listen to the score of Bawarchi - It is totally different to anything I have ever heard.
The Great One is also equally choosy about his lyricists. Most of his work has been with Raja Mehdi Ali Khan , Rajinder Krishan, Kaifi Azmi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. He also has a few songs written by Hasrat Jaipuri and Sahir Ludhianvi. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan passed away relatively young and his family needed financial help. The Great Madan Mohan got together with several music directors and discussed the need to help the family. Most came up with ideas such as having a concert but provided no immediate help, which is what was needed. The Great One pulled out 10,000 rupees from his pocket and got cash out of others to deliver the help that the family needed. For the film , Aakhri Khat - The music was assigned by Chetan Anand to the Great One. At the time Khayyam had no work. The Great Madan Mohan went to Chetan Anand and requested that the music for Aakhri Khat be transferred to Khayyam and it was done. Such is the generosity and unselfishness of this Great Man.
I saw Lata's live show in 1996 in Calgary and the lady stated that after the completion of the song Lag Ja Gale' - The Great One gave her 1,000 rupees, because He was totally impressed with her delivery of this song. She said that she liked this gesture very much from her Madan Bhaiya.
Anything that the Great One ever produced has been well above everyone else's score. Naushad Ali called the Great One and went in to visit him, soon after the Anpadh song - Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha. It is said that Naushad offered to give out all his work to the Great One in exchange for the Anpadh song. During my visit with Sanjeev & Sameer (sons of the Great One), I asked them a bit about this song and they told me that Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, who wrote the lyrics, just before the recording, went to the Great One to say that he had found different lyrics for the song. The two went in a room and within a few minutes, the Great Madan Mohan came up with the song - Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha so spontaneously and in such a short time and of course Lata's delivery of this song is so magical that only the Great One could get it out of her. God Bless them both.
On a light note on this song. My wife joined me in 1963 in London England, with our first baby girl. The baby would be in mama's lap for hours listening to songs. My wife used to sing her the song - Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha, which I enjoyed very much. I asked her what movie this was from. (I left India in 1962 before Anpadh came out). She said - Professor and I knew that Professor music was by Shanker Jaikishen. I had to disagree with her and told her that there was no way that this was a SJ tune.
WHERE IS MADAN MOHAN NOW?
Alive & Well and lives within me. From time to time, He grants me a visit. First time I met him would be about 12 years ago. He was dressed in a jacket and tie, standing at a podium conducting an orchestra. The orchestra was very wide and not too deep. His back was towards the orchestra. I was about 3 feet away from him. We looked at each other for a while. Then I walked up to him. He allowed me to touch his feet and then he was gone.
Second time I saw him, he was immaculately dressed in a light suit, sitting in a high back chair close to a double bed. There was I and a lady about 5' 2". The lady was dressed in a light blue sari. She and I knew that the Great One had not won the coveted Filmfare award, but we did not want to mention this to him. We hugged each other and just cried. The Great One was calm and did not say a word.
Next time I met him was during the Veer-Zara days. This was the clearest of all meetings I have had with the Great One. We met in a narrow alley, which had light walls. He was to my right and dressed in a half sleeve VERY white shirt, with matching white trousers, which had straight cuffs at the bottom, and nice brown shoes. His dark arms looked very healthy. Face of a 40 year youngman, with a dark black moustache trimmed to perfection. I said to him that I liked the music of Veer Zara very much and expressed my thanks. He told me that he had composed 3 tunes for Gurdas Mann. I asked him to sing me the tunes, which he did. This was something totally unique that I did hear very clearly.
Next time we met would be about 2 years ago. He was sitting on a grey carpeted floor, with bare feet, listening to what, I believe was a religious recital such as Geeta coming from an adjoining room. I was about 8 feet away from him standing, with a book in my hands. I was shuffling pages of this book. He looked at me and did not want me to shuffle the pages. I walked up to him, put the book aside, sat with him for about 5 minutes. He allowed me to press his bare feet for this time. He suddenly got up and left the room. I followed him. He was walking East. I stopped him and I was quite firm - I said - Atleast tell me where you are staying. There was a row of houses about 200 feet behind him with sun shining on the houses. He pointed his finger to the place of his residence. As I looked at the house, He was gone.
When I mentioned this to Sanjeev, he asked me, where I believed, the said house is. The row of houses represents European type of architecture. Could be England, Germany, France but more like Switzerland.
Since then I have seen him twice, once again, what I believe was in Switzerland, because of the hilly landscape and green grass. In the first one I saw him walking towards me, with two young children and mama. And last time in a large house to the right of his walk. The house has a large glass window. I saw the entire family sitting on a sofa together watching TV. In both these views that He granted me, my distance from him would be about 80 feet.
This sounds crazy, but I do see the Great Madan Mohan from time to time and that is why I say that He is alive and well.
MADAN MOHAN IS SO VALUED TODAY, BECAUSE:
Time has proved beyond any doubt that whatever the Great One is capable of producing is so much better than what the others can deliver. Everyone needs atleast one opportunity in a lifetime to be recognized. The Great Madan Mohan's music is always unique, but the movies tended to be poor, although he did have big hits such as Bhai Bhai, Mera Saya, Haqeeqat and Woh Kaun Thi, to name a few. Most other music composers did get their opportunites. Hemant Kumar got his in Nagin : C Ramchandra got his in Anarkali : Roshan got his in Taj Mahal. Ravi got his in Khandaan. The Great Madan Mohan did not get any such chance in his lifetime. This caused a lot of frustration to him and the family. Not only that ,he had, from what I have read, a lot of difficulty in getting dates at recording studios, because some of the opportunistic music composers booked recording studios for the entire month and months ahead. It is the old story of big fish trying to eat the little fish.
Despite these odds, the Great One continued to produce superior music. He kept on delivering quality after quality and on most occasions, he would surpass himself, as he did in the Dastak song - Hum Hain Mataye Koochao - In this song He gave importance to his lyricist - Majrooh Sultanpuri - Majrooh Likh Rahe Hain Ahde wafa ... and the music is totally superb. Such is the dedication of this Great man towards what he knows best. But he is human after all and knows well deep down how good he really is. A stage would have had to come in his lifetime, when he started to believe that no matter what he created, he was not going to receive any recognition. To give an example here, he provided music for the movie Chirag - about 1966. The music is uniqe, very melodious, yet no one seems to have heard it. Lata songs in this movie -I) Bhor Hote' Kaaga Pukare Kahe Raam, ii) Chai Barka Bahar have orchestration, tunes and melodiousness, hitherto not produced by any other music composer. These frustrations of the Great One created other personal and health issues and at age 51, He decided to quit.
We hear words of sympathy, but no one really cares except those who recognize quality. The versatility of the Great Madan Mohan is not only in Ghazals, with which he is mostly associated , but in light entertaining music, serious perfection and qawallis :
1. Is Duniya Main Chor Chor - Lata - Bhai Bhai
2. Bhor Hote Kaaga - Lata - Chirag
1. Aaj Socha to Ansoo Bhar - Lata - Hanste Zakham
(Please listen to the perfect sitar in this song).
2. Jana Tha Hum Se Door - Lata - Adalat
Qawallis: Yeh Mana Meri Jaan - Mohd Rafi, Balbir - Haste Zakham
THIS IS THE BEST QAWALI EVER - No Questions!
Despite all this superiority in music that the Great One has delivered, like I said, recognition was very little. He had the movie Dastak, with Rehana Sultan and Sanjeev Kumar. Music of this movie is UNIQUE to say the least, especially:
Hum Hain Mataye Koochao - Lata - Dastak
This is a song one can hear all day. One day I played this song to my wife in the car, without saying, who is behind it and after the song, I asked her, how she rated the song on a scale of 1-10. Her reply - 11.
The Gover nment of India recognized the efforts of the Great One for this movie and invited him to Delhi to confer the National award on him for the movie Dastak.
Very nice gesture on the part of our Government. One should take a moment to look at the photograph of the Great One receiving this award. Such a handsome young man, dressed simple but immaculately right for the occasion receiving the award with such humbleness.
Irony of this whole life is that all the Great One wanted was the popular Filmfare award. The National award made him somewhat happy but not made him content, especially when he saw less deserving music kept on getting the awards. One is not trying to point any fingers at anyone, but powers to be do what they do best. The same thing happened to Ghulam Mohammed. The man produced music that has always been a cut above the norm and he did not any recognition and the gentleman passed away penniless during the making of Pakeezah.
WHAT BOTHERS ME MOST??
The Great Madan Mohan delivered quality after quality in Indian music right from from Ankhein and Khoobsurat days till his last movie, which, I believe was Laila Majnu. He was never trying to claim big fees from producers. He knew well, that he is a wizard at his craft, yet no recognition of that wizardry or very little, if any, came his way. The God of Indian music quit in 1975, thoroughly hurt at what had been dished out to him by the system. He would have started to realize probably 5-10 years earlier that he was getting no rewards for his work, no matter what he delivered, yet he kept on giving us magic after magic. The scores of Heer Ranjha & Dastak is one such attestation that no matter how naive the other side was in their dealings, he would still produce perfection. What he delivered in Heer Ranjha & Dastak is out of this world and has not been repeated to date nor it will ever happen - take it from me. He made such superior melodies in Heer Ranjha & Dastak that He surpassed himself.
In my conversation with Sameer Kohli, the younger son of the Great One, on April 22 2008, Sameer told me that his dad was always very fond of the song Yeh Duniya, Yeh Mehfil, Mere Kaam Ki Nahin. I started to think on these words by Sameer. What comes to me is that while the Great One liked the song or its words very much, he would also be trying to tell himself that this was pretty well it. Why such a Great Man should have to console himself with such words, rather than with real success is neither humane, nor acceptable for a human being.
Around 1996, I had a LP record in my hands of Heer Ranjha. At the back of the jacket of this record, there is a picture of the Great One, dressed in a grey suit, with eye glasses, which had a very heavy black frame. Behind him are, in the picture Chetan Anand and Lata Mangeshkar. What I saw in the face of the Great One in that picture was a certain pain. This pain got transferred into me and I could not get over what I had seen. The more I looked at that picture, the more suffering was the result. A time came in my life, when all I would see in front of me was the face of the Great Madan Mohan, his perfection and his deeply hurt profile. I could not come up with any answers. One night, out of nowhere, I see the Great Madan Mohan standing behind a podium, dressed in a jacket & tie, conducting an orchestra. The orchestra was very wide and not so deep. His back was towards the orchestra. His face was very clear, his manner totally calm and quiet. We looked at each other for sometime. Then I walked upto him and he allowed me to touch his feet. It was all blank after this.
To me very heavy black framed glasses would mean that he had to have lenses that were very thick - dwindling eyesight and other health issues, which I could see, the way he was standing - kind of frail. In 1970, when Heer Ranjha & Dastak were made, the Great Madan Mohan would be just 46 years. Why should a good & clean human being so suffer at a young age ! He had a family of 3 young children, his wife and his mother, to support and keep happy. When the impact of all this came to me, I would see Him all day in front of me and quietly cry in my room at night. I doubt very much that anyone, seriously reading this, can hold their tears, which I cannot, while I write this. The photograph on the Heer Ranjha LP keeps flashing in front of me.
I consider myself fortunate that I have been able to take over some of the pain that the Great Madan Mohan endured at the hands of the system. I find no forgiveness in me for the system, for the pain they caused to MY GOD - The Great Madan Mohan, with two sons and a young daughter, their mother and the extended family. The mother of the 3 young children passed away in 1980, just 5 years after the Great One decided to quit at age 51. The older son Sanjeev was just 19, with two younger siblings to take care of, when he lost his father. I like to ask the system what or where the justification is in all this and for what ? Those, who prostituted the system by making whatever back door deals they made are no longer there holding their awards, and I have read that one music composer bought all the copies of a certain magazine to acquire the voting form in that magazine. What a noble deed indeed !! How this person could extend his hand for the award and sleep after that is absolutely beyond me.
Lata Mangesher has always been the loyal sister of the Great One. Lata was noble, kind and generous to take over the reigns of the young family of her brother's. We thank the Lord for this mercy and this great lady Lata for her compassion. What would still be lacking would be the presence of the father when the daughter got married. All girls like to be given away by their dads and all sons like their parents to be there on such special occasions, as birthdays and weddings.
God gave me personal access to the Great Madan Mohan and I am very grateful for that.
The impact of all this got so strong in me and I would worry about The Great One and the mother of his 3 children that crying came to point of near insanity. I was myself past 60 at the time, have a family of 3 children, 2 grandsons and mama, whom I married in 1961 plus a large family of sisters, nephews and nieces in India. Have a business to run in Canada, meet the payroll and taxes. I had to learn to control myself that I was going nowhere in my quest.
My grandson found me an article written by the older son of the Great One - Sanjeev Kohli. This article is very descriptive about Sanjeev's feelings on what his dad went through. The article pointed to an address for Sanjeev in Calcutta. I wrote to Sanjeev. By this time he had moved to Bombay, but somehow my letter got redirected to him in his new location and Sanjeev took the time to respond. He answered some of my questions and this generous gesture of his brought me nearer to the Great One and gave me some needed relief. We have continued to stay in touch with each other and Sanjeev always responds to my questions. The Kohli family was able to grant me a personal meeting on April 22 2008 in Bombay, where I had the honour to meet for the first time Sanjeev, his wife, Anju , Sameer and Akshay (& his wife, Saipriya), the grandson of the Great One. My wife, my younger daughter and some members of my wife's family went with me to meet the family of the Great Madan Mohan. I would admit that after meeting the Kohli family, my pain has been a little less, now that I know that there is also someone else to support the efforts of the Great Madan Mohan.
WHY IS MADAN MOHAN VALUED SO MUCH TODAY?
Music has always been a great weakness for us Indians, along with our foods and especially deserts. The concept of singing emerged in Indian movies from very early days, as soon movies became talkies. This gave rise to several talented musicians & singers. In the early days, the real methods of Indian music were followed and pure Indian instruments were used. This is why the songs of 30's & 40's are very simple. The golden time for Indian film music would be the late forties and fifties, when we had such great musicians as Vinod ,Shyam Sunder ,Husanlal BhagatRam ,CRamchandra ,Shanker Jaikishen, Roshan ,Ghulam Mohammed & of Course the Great Madan Mohan who is totally unique.
This is the kind of music, we have had access to in the Fifties and partly in the early Sixties. Then came the period of noise, ego and publicity and that is where lots of irregularities occured. I cannot see much effort or talent, in what we got in later decades.
Part of the reason for the decline in the quality of Indian music has been very little of Lata Mangeshkar. Even the few musical blockbusters of last 2 decades, had one thing in common... Lata's singing!! For those, who doubt Lata's contribution to the success of a movie or its music should see the disaster that occured in Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker. There was no Lata and Raj Kapoor lost 2 crores of rupees in 1970. Now movies do not run as long as they used to in the Fifties & Sixties. Music composers have taken to short cuts such as synthesisers, which can create several noises and the younger generation of India and those watching Indian movies has been westernized. One can see all interviews by leading film folks on TV are heard in English. Lot of English words are being used in Indian movie dialogues. We could stay pure Indians and speak in our languages, which is what I would like. The same or similar Indian actors can speak Hindi in such epics as Ramayan and Maha Bharat. Really, speaking of English in the movies is quite unnecessary.
Having said some words about Indian composers of the Fifties, who are the actual backbone of Indian film music, I like to answer why the Great Madan Mohan is so valued today. He has been the kingpin of quality in music from his inception to his last movie. He never cut corners, created proper tunes and used real Indian instruments, which is what it is all about. Now that the public of India and fans of Indian movies have heard enough of unnessary noise, seen egotistic and opportunistic music composers come and go, seen them ringing bicyle bells, chirping a few birds, showing footsteps of horses, banging glassware with cutlery to show that they are very creative in music, the realization has errupted that something better and real is needed. If banging cutlery on to glass is what can create music, why would our country need the Alla Rakhas, the Ravi Shankers and the Rais Khans to give us real music ? To answer this question partly, the top movie makers of India Yash Raj & Aditya Chopra wanted to create something unique, in music, for their movie Veer-Zaara. Sanjeev Kohli, the then CEO of Yashraj Films offered them the unrecorded tunes of his father - The Gret Madan Mohan. The tunes were immediately liked by the Chopras and what we saw in Veer Zaara is fresh, clean and real music performed with the blessings of the Greatest Magicians of all Magicians - Madan Mohan.
I bet that Sanjeev still has a lot of unrecorded tunes created by his father. It is often mentioned that the Great Madan Mohan was always creating tunes and singing even in a swimming pool. It is for us, the listeners, to offer him support and ask him to deliver more his father's tunes. Lata is more or less semi retired , and if anyone can persuade her back at 80 , it will be the Kohli family and she might just sing, as she did in Veer-Zaara to deliver the magic, her big brother, the Great One created.