When one thinks of old melodies, especially haunting melodies and ghazals of Hindi films one name that always come up top in the mind is that of the highly talented music director the late Madan Mohan (1924 – 1975).His career in Hindi film music, beginning with the 1950 film Ankhen , to the haunting melodies of film ‘Woh kaun thi’(1964), through his National Award winning music in film Dastak(1970), to the much acclaimed music of ‘Mausam (1974) and to the films released posthumously including the IIFF Award winning music of ‘Veer – Zaara’, had been a musical journey in the pursuit of excellence firmly rooted in Indian classical music where no compromises with quality were allowed. There were innumerable films for which he had composed music in which the Madan Mohan stamp was always there even in those films which did not do well in the box office.
One notable feature of Madan Mohan’s music was his penchant for using ghazal style for his compositions especially during his earlier years. It was Madan Mohan who best exploited Talat Mahmood’s voice and talent for ghazals beginning with MADHOSH(1951-Meena Kumari-Manhar Desai)).In this film Talat rendered the beautiful lyric penned by Rajah Mehdi Ali khan,viz., ‘Meri yaad mein tumna aansoo bahana’ in his inimitable trembling voice. This song remains a much listened Talat ghazal even today. In film AASHIANA(1952-Raj Kapoor- Nargis), Madan Mohan composed two evergreen ghazals for Talat using the lyrics of Rajinder Kishen. One is, ‘Mera qarar leja’ and the other is, ‘ Mein paagal mera manva paagal’ often aired by Radio Ceylon and Vividh Bharati those days. In film CHHOTE BABU (1957-Nimmi-Sekhar), there is this popular ghazal by Talat, viz., ‘Do din ki mohabat mein humne’ and a Lata-Talat duet, ‘Teri chhamak ke aankhon mein’. In the highly popular film DEKH KABIRA ROYA(1967) with lesser known actors like Anita guha and Annop Kumar, Madan Mohan again uses the voice of Talat Mahmood to create another great ghazal, ‘Hum se aaya na gaya tum se bulaya’, the lyrics penned by Rajinder Kishen. In fact this film was a big musical hit with a wide variety of songs composed by Madan Mohan. There are two semiclassical numbers by Lata, the first being ‘Lagan tose lagi balma’ and the sweet melodious ‘Meri veena tum bin roye’. Along with these two there is also the soft, romantic melody, ‘Tu pyar kare ya thukraye’ indicating how best he uses Lata’s voice to embellish his rather difficult compositions. The film is also noted for one of the top semi-classical melodies of Manna Dey,viz., ‘Kaun aaya mere man ke dware’. It is a pity that the music of this film did not fetch a Filmfare Award for Madan Mohan.
The fruitful association of Madan Mohan with Talat continued in films like BAHANA(1960), with Meena Kumari in the lead. The lyrics penned by Rajinder Kishen, viz., ‘Barehen aasman meri manzil bata’ was tuned soulfully for Talat to croon and again an Asha – Talat ghazal was created with the lines beginning ‘Teri nighahen mein teri hi baton mein’. Lata’s melodious semi-classical number ‘Ja re badra bairi ja’ was also there. Sadly these songs are not often heard nowadays.The culmination of the success of the duo of Madan and Talat was in the film JAHAN ARA(1962-Bharat Bhusha-Mala Sinha)) . The three ghazals penned by Rajinder Kishen,’Phir wohi sham wohi gham’, ‘Main teri nazar ka suroor hoon’ and ‘Teri aankh ke ansoo’were probably the last of Talat’s fascinating ghazals for Hindi films as Talat Mahmood faded away thereafter to the regret of music lovers.
A few of the best ever filmy ghazals of Rafi was also composed by Madan Mohan.The one coming to my mind readily is, ‘Main nighahe tere chehre se’ and ‘Yah hi hai tamanna’ from film AAP KI PARCHHAYIYAN (1964-Dharmendra-Sashikala) with lyrics by Rajah Mehdi Ali Khan who along with Rajinder Kishen was the most favoured lyrist of Madan Mohan. In film DULHAN EK RAAT KI(1967- Dharmendra-Nutan)we can listen to Rafi at his melodious best with the song ‘Ek haseen sham ko dil mera kho gaya’(Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan).In film GATEWAY OF INDIA (1957-Bharat Bhushan-Pradeep Kumar-Madhubala)the duet ‘Do ghadi woh to pass ho baithe’ has two versions, one by Asha-Rafi and the other by Lata-Rafi, both versions equally captivating. In film AAKHRI DAU(1958-Sekhar-Nutan)there is this popular Rafi ghazal.’Tujhe kya sunaon mein dilruba’ and the melodious Rafi-Asha duet, ‘Humsafar saath apna chhod chale’.
Another feature of Madan Mohan’s music was his preference for female voice and most of his haunting melodies were in female voice. In fact a perusal of the LP albums of films with his music will reveal the dominance of female singers which, of course, in no way had affected the quality of his songs. In film ADALAT (1958-Nargis-Pradeep Kumar) all the songs except a chorus were in female voice with Lata’s ‘Yun hasraton ke dagh’ and ‘Unko yeh shikayat hai’ topping the list.It was only in his earlier films when he was using the voice of Talat Mahmood that we could see better use of male voice. Still Madan Mohan had used the voice of Mukesh for two of his famous melodies.One is the grief filled melody from film DUNIYA NA MANE(1959-Mala Sinha-Pradeep Kumar)viz., ‘Ham chal rahe hai, woh chal rahe hai, Magar duniyawalo ke dil jal rahe hai’. There is also a happy version of this song, a duet, by Lata -Mukesh. The other is a ghazal from SANJOG(1961-Anita Guha-Pradeep Kumar),viz.,’Bhooli hui yadon’ which used to be heard frequently over the radio. Film Sanjog is also noted for two of the most popular melodies of Lata,viz.,’Woh bhooli dastan lo phir yaad a gayi’and ‘Badli se nikla hai chaand’. The strength,timbre and quality of Lata’s voice are in full evidence in these songs as well as in the song ‘Ham pyar me jalne walo ko chaine kaha haaye aaram kahe’ from film JAILOR(1958- Raj Kumar-Gita Bali). No wonder Lata remained as the most trusted singer of Madan Mohan and their personal rapport seemed to have contributed much to the success of the duo. No wonder that Lata’s tribute to Madan Mohan echos this . “Madan Mohan’s music will prevail; for it embodied melody, the basis of Indian music. It was my privilege to have sung for him.”
The songs of film WOH KAUN THI(1964-Sadhana-Manoj Kumar)’ was the crowning glory of Madan Mohan’s musical success. The film with supernatural incidents as its central theme, as in films like Madhumati and Bees Saal Baad, had some of the top haunting melodies common for such themes those days. The song “ Aajare pardesi(Madhumati-Lata- Music: Salil Chaudhury) and ‘Kahin deep jale kahi dil( Bees Saal Baad-Lata-Hemant Kumar)were till then two of the top such songs. But Madan Mohan, with three songs by Lata, viz., ‘Naina bharase rim jim rim jim’, ‘Jo hamne dastan apnee sunaaee aap kyon roye’ and ‘Lag jaa gale se phir ye haseen raat ho na ho’ rewrote history. The beautiful lyrics of these songs were by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and no wonder why he became one of Madan Mohan’s preferred lyricists. That reminds me about a rare duet of Madan in this film, viz.,the breezy “Chhod kar tere pyar ka daman’ (Lata-Mahendra Kapoor)The music of this film was nominated for Filmfare Award for best music but to Madan Mohan’s eternal disappointment the Award was given to Laxmikant Pyarelel for film DOSTI. Even prior to Woh Kaun Thi, Madan Mohan in film ANPADH(1962-Dharmendra-Mala Sinha) had composed a few beautiful melodies including the path breaking ‘Aap ki nazaron ne samjha’ of Lata. There is also a rare comic song in the film , Mahendra Kapoor’s ‘Sikandar ne porus se’. The success of Woh kaun thi led director Raj Khosla to make two more films with similar theme viz. Mera Saaya and Anita. For Mera Saaya Madan Mohan composed yet another haunting memody for Lata,viz., ‘Too jahan jahan chalega mera saaya sath hoga’ which was a superhit. But for film ANITA Laxmikant Pyarelel was assigned to do the job. Obviously, by then this musical duo had arrived on top. The decline of Madan Mohan also started around this period.
Madan Mohan continued to compose music for several films but the magic, somehow, remained unnoticed. The films were not box office successes and top artists were also not there in them. He tried to make a come back with HEER RANJHA (1970) and DASTAK(1971-Sanjeev Kumar-Rehna Sultan) but it was not enough. The highly acclaimed Dastak fetched the National Award for Madan Mohan with Lata’s ‘Baiyaan na bharo balma’ becoming highly popular. Again his music in film MAUSAM( 1974-Sanjeev Kumar Sharmila Tagore) showed that he had not lost his magic as the Lata-Bhupinder duet ‘Dil dhoondtha hai’ and Lata’s solo ‘Ruke ruke se qadam’ achieving tremendous popularity.But alas! In spite of his enormous talent and success he could not get the same prominence which Naushad, S.D.Burman, Shankar Jaikishen and even a Laxmikant Pyarelal could get. He was more like the ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ Khayyam and the ‘Hum Dono Jaidev who also could not achieve the celebrity status in spite of talent and success. Talat Mahmood, Madan Mohan’s most trusted male voice, said of Madan Mohan; ‘ Madan Mohan never made any compromises in his life and in every tune he produced there was newness”. Probably his inability to make compromises stood in the way.