Mohan Kohli (25 June 1924 - 14 July 1975), better known
as Madan Mohan, was a famed Bollywood film music director
of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He is particularly remembered
for the ghazals he composed for the film industry, mainly
using the voice of India's Melody Queen, Lata Mangeshkar
and 'King Of Ghazals' Talat Mahmood and his favourite singer,
is no exaggeration to say that Hindi film music never saw
and will never see again the sort of 'ghazals' that the
Madan-Lata combination produced. They are timeless in their
composition, lyrics, vocal rendering and music - treasures
to be cherished generation after generation.
sajai ho chandan ke chita mere liey
mai koi jism nahi jaloge mujhe
raakh ke saath bikhar jaunga dunia se
thokar jaha khaoge waha paoge mujhe.
Born on June 25, 1924, at Baghdad, Iraq, where his father Rai
Bahadur Chunilal was working as an Accountant General with the
Iraqi Police, Madan Mohan spent the first five years of his life
in the Middle East. As a boy of two, Madan Mohan used to spend
hours listening to gramophone records and cultivated the uncanny
ability to recognize and pick up any record from a pile of hundreds.
When his father had guests at home, he would ask Madan Mohan to
pick a particular record from a pile and he could do so with unerring
precision, leaving the visitors wonder struck as to how a tiny
tot, unable to read or write, could accomplish this near impossible
Iraq won independence from Britain, Rai Bahadur Chunnilal migrated
back to India. He took his family to his home town, Chakwal in
Jhelum district of Punjab, now in Pakistan & left them in
the care of Madan Mohan's grandfather, Hakim Yograj- a famous
doctor. Rai Bahadur Chunilal left for Mumbai for business opportunities
and subsequently became a partner in the Bombay Talkies studio
and then in the Filmistan studio.
Mohan attended school there for the next six years. It is said
that he inherited his talent for music from his mother, who was
a poet and great admirer of music. His father was not very musically
inclined, but grandfather Hakim Yograj and his younger brother,
Prakash were staunch connoisseurs. They used to discuss the subtleties
of music in Madan's presence.
Madan's father shifted the whole family to Mumbai and Madan became
acquinted with some children of film personalities. These 'children'
were Raj Kapoor, Nargis & Suraiya.
the behest of his father, he joined the army and received his
first commission (emergency) in 1943. Personal traits like courtesy,
endurance, discipline, physical fitness and punctuality were all
fostered in him during those years. Though as history would have
it, he quit the armed forces and turned to his first love—music.
He joined All India Radio in Lucknow, where he brushed shoulders
with such ghazal and classical luminaries as Ustad Faiyyaz Khan,
Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Begum Akhtar, and Talat Mahmood. He picked
up their influences and carried them with him to Mumbai when he
entered Bollywood. Not many know that he aspired to becoming an
actor but ended up directing music.
assisting S.D. Burman and Shyam Sunder for a short time, Madan
scored his first big break with the film Aankhen in 1950. His
next film was "Adaa". This film saw the beginning of
a long and fruitful partnership with Lata Mangeshkar; she would
sing for him in majority of his future films. Madan Mohan songs
sung by Lata Mangeshkar have a certain magic and sweetness to
them that few music directors, if any, have been able to recreate.
Wo Chup Rahen To from the film Jahan Ara (1964) and Maine Rang
Li Aaj Chunariya from Dulhan Ek Raat Ki (1966) are just two such
examples. Madan was also able to craft beautiful songs for male
singers such as Talat Mahmood (Phir Wohi Saam, Main Teri Nazar
Ka Suroor Hoon and Teri Aankh Ke Aansoo from Jahan Ara, and Meri
Yaad Mein Tum Na from Madhosh) and Mohammad Rafi (Ek Haseen Shaam
Ko from Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, Kisi Ki Yaad Mein from Jahan Ara, Main
Nigahen Tere Chehere Se from Aap Ki Parchaiyian, Aap Ke Pehlun
Mein Aakar Ro Diye from Mera Saaya, the all-time haunting Meri
Awaaz Suno and Tumhare Zulf Ke Sayen from Naunihal, Teri Aankhon
Ke Siva Duniya Mein from Chiraag as well. Madan did not usually
employ Kishore Kumar, as his tunes were complex classical-based
compositions and "Kishoreda" had a singing style that
was more pop-oriented. Nonetheless their partnership created wonderful
songs as well; in this category fall hits such as Simti Si, Sharmai
Si from Parwana, Zaroorat Hai, Zaroorat Hai from Manmauji, the
title song from Ek Muthi Aasman, Mera Naam Abdul Rehman from Bhai
Bhai, and Aai Hasino, Naazanino from Chacha Zindabad.
his early career Madan Mohan had been mildly criticized for creating
songs that suited female voices, especially that of Lata Mangeshkar
(who called him Madan Bhaiya or "Brother Madan"). But
this is not true all the way; in 1957 he came out with a huge
musical blockbuster named Dekh Kabira Roya in which legendary
singer Manna Dey gave his voice to the melodious Kaun Aaya Mere
Man Ke Dwaare. In addition to that, he had Lata sing the divine
Tu Pyaar Kare Ya Thukraaye and Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye numbers,
and he used Talat Mahmood for the superhit song Hum Se Aaya Na
Gaya in the same movie. Once in an interview Manna Dey recalled
that Madan Mohan "sahab" asked him to take special care
when singing Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dwaare.
famous film scored by Madan was Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat (1964),
starring Balraj Sahni and Dharmendra and based on the Sino-Indian
War of 1962. In it, he used Rafi, who sang amazing numbers like
Kar Chale Hum Fida, Main Yeh Soch Kar which were very big hits.
Lata was used evocatively for the famous song Zara Si Aahat Hoti
Hai and the unscreened " Khelo na mere dilse". And the
same film saw Rafi, Talat, Manna Dey, and Bhupendra singing Hoke
Majboor Mujhe Usne Bulaya Hoga. Bhupendra appeared on the screen
as well for the first time, much before he established himself
as a popular playback singer. This song also happens to be the
only song in which four top-rated male playback singers have put
voices together in a song. Also, this song is widely believed
to be the inspiration behind another Bollywood hit, "Sandese
aate hai" from the film Border.
Mohan's most successful venture was Raj Khosla's Desi version
of "Woman in White", titled "Woh Kaun Thi?".
This film has three Lata solos( 'Naina barse rim jhim rim jhim',
'Lag ja gale' and 'Jo humne daastaan apni sunaye') and a Lata
duet, all of which have transcended time and are still heard and
applauded both by the mass and the class with the same enthusiasm
today. Rajinder Singh Bedi In 1970, during the changing times
of western music he gave music based on ragas for Rajinder Singh
Bedi's Dastak and won his only 1971 National Film Award for Best
Music Direction. Its songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar are still considered
her finest. The late fifties, sixties and the early seventies
were the most productive period in Madan Mohan’s career.
Best of the breed from the Madan Mohan stable include compositions
for films like Adalat, Anpadh, Dulhan ek raat ki, Mera Saya, Dastak,
Hanste Zakhm , Heer Raanjha, Maharaja, and Mausam, among many
others. His second last bow was for a film released five years
after his death, Chalbaaz. The last bow this great composer took
posthumously was for Veer Zara - that almost made all of us travel
down the memory lane when all untouched tunes composed by Madan
Mohan were conducted by his son Sanjeev Kohli.
a footnote, Madan Mohan's son, Mr. Sanjeev Kohli had about 30
unused tunes and the competent Producer/Director Mr. Yash Chopra
selected only 8 of them for Veer Zara. So, we may still see some
more tunes composed by this music director in future films or
favourite lyricists were Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Kaifi Azmi, and
Rajinder Krishan, but Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri also
collaborated with him on a few movies. The Madan-Raja pairing
in particular produced the classic Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha from
the movie Anpadh (1962). Among the many admirers of the song was
the legendary Naushad who reportedly said, "Let me have this
ghazal and take all my compositions in return" upon hearing
it. Madan and Raja also came up with the fantastic tunes for Mera
Saaya in 1966, a film starring Sunil Dutt as the male lead.
duniya me na purab hai na paschim koi,
sari duniya simti hai khuli bahon mein,
kal bhatakta tha jin raho me tanha tanha,
kafile kitne mile aaz uni raho me
talent for ghazals was unmatched in the Indian film world; Lata
Mangeshkar christened him "Ghazal ka Shehzadaa", or
the Prince of Ghazals. However, his music could never find the
mass appeal like that of S.D. Burman or Shankar Jaikishan could.
His tunes were often too complex for the layman to hum. Even Lata
herself confessed in a live concert in the late 1990s that she
found Madan Mohan's compositions difficult to master. Added to
that, most of the top film actors of the day (who were also studio
heads) had fallen into a groove with their preferred composers
(e.g., Raj Kapoor had Shankar Jaikishan, Dev Anand had the Burmans,
Dilip Kumar had Naushad, etc.) Hence, he often had difficulty
finding assignments. But when he did, he gave it his all. A testament
to this fact is his 1964 Filmfare Award nomination for Best Music
Director for Woh Kaun Thi. In a tightly-contested race, both Madan
and Shankar Jaikishan (Sangam) lost to relative newcomers Laxmikant
Pyarelal, who had done a fine job in scoring Dosti.
Death and After
constant struggles took a toll on his life, and he began drinking
heavily. He died of liver cirrhosis on 14 July 1975, but not before
enthralling millions of Indians across the world with some of
his memorable tracks, in films Mausam and Laila Majnu, which were
released after his death became resounding musical successes.
2004, Madan's unused tunes were recreated by his son, Sanjeev
Kohli, for the Yash Chopra blockbuster Veer-Zaara, starring Shahrukh
Khan, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukerji. The lyrics were written
by Javed Akhtar, and Lata Mangeshkar was invited to once again
sing the majority of the melodies composed by her dear friend.
on Madan Mohan
Mohan: An Unforgettable Composer - Edited by V M Joshi & Suresh
Rao, presents an analytical look at the composer’s work.
It includes articles by Sanjeev Kohli, Akshay Kohli, O P Dutta,
Uttam Singh, B R Ishara, Dr. Ashok Ranade, Alka Deo Marulkar,
Mridula Joshi, Dr. Kirti Shrivastava, Deepak Jeswal and many more;
interviews with Lata Mangeshkar, Shreya Ghoshal, Mahalaxmi Iyer
& Rehana Sultan, and Madan Mohan’s filmography.
music was characterized by his immense ability to meld elements
of Indian and Western classical music into a new style of Hindi
filmi song. He had a keen and sensitive ear for the nuances of
Indian classical tunes, and combined them with elements of Western
music such as harmonies to produce a style of music that could
be appreciated by both classical music aficionados and the common
and meant for information only.