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Article: The Alluring Music of Madan Mohan

By Ravindra Bivalkar
  The music of Madan Mohan evokes a deep sense of amazement. Long after his death, the music continues to haunt you. Once you have listened to his compositions, you possibly cannot have any taste for the music created by the other doyens.

Although I am only an avid fan of old Hindi film songs, I think that the secret of his everlasting appeal might probably rest with the firm grounding he had in Hindustani Classical Music and the care he took in setting the lyrics to tune and not vice-versa. Madan Mohan excelled in composing tunes based on classical ragas and for the sad and melancholy Ghazals. He also composed unparalleled tunes depicting the anguished pleas of a tormented soul.

Much though would I like to expound on the various facets of Madan Mohan's music, I will put my feelings in respect of his memorable score for the film "Jahan Ara ", which in my opinion epitomizes all the qualities I had briefly referred to in preceding lines.

The official soundtrack recording (HMV SPHO 4426) contains nine gems of unprecedented originality. The lyrics of Rajinder Kishen and the music of Madan Mohan are so well meshed that words fail to convey how vividly has Madan Mohan succeeded in portraying the subtle nuances and shades expressed in the lyrics.

My personal favourites amongst these happen to be the Lata -Asha number, all the Talat Mahmood numbers, the Talat-Lata duet, two Lata solos, the Rafi solo and the Rafi- Suman duet in that order.

This being my personal preference, the other fans of Madan Mohan(and whose number is legion) may find fault with it. I can only submit that I respect their sentiments and in no way is this brief excursion meant to disturb the status-quo of personal likings.

The film as per my knowledge did not fare well commercially. However, the songs continue to captivate you nearly after three decades. To begin with let us consider the bewitching "Mujra," "Jab Jab Tumhe Bhulaya." The song begins with a soft rendition by Lata of the Talat solo " Main Teri Nazar Ka Suroor Hoon" (partially). Then the wailings of a lonely heart are so exquisitely etched in three stanzas that except for a stone hearted person, any person who has stayed away and / or strayed from his or her dearest one - is bound to find his eyes misty. The last stanza particularly might be a ghastly precursor to the last tragic days of Madan Mohan.

"Marne ki aarzoo mein hum jee rahe hain aise Jaise ki laash aapni khud koi le chala hain" (In the fond wish of death embracing my body,I am trudging the lonely furrow of this aimless life as if carrying my own mortal remains with me).

The perennial favourite Talat solos "Phir wahi sham","Teri aankh ke aasoon pee jaaon" and of course"Main teri nazar ka suroor hoon" have been perfectly tuned to convey the pathos of the lovers who cannot fulfill their cherished desire, particularly the "Phir wohi sham " number. Unless one has experienced the empty evenings and the gut wrenching pain of separation, one cannot empathize with the feelings expressed in the silken voice of Talat Mahmood.

The Talat-Lata duet perfectly captures the ebullience of young love with all the unrealistic notions of what love can do. The opening music impeccably connotes the "Joie de vivre" of the young lovers. The much abused dancing around the trees and in the fields is immediately elevated to dreamy level not achieved by many.

Instead of choosing Rafi, Madan Mohan had opted for Talat for all the important songs in the film. It is said that this led to a serious misunderstanding with the director of the film. However, Madan Mohan, as was his wont, did not yield ground and at the cost of opting out of the assignment, insisted for Talat's voice. The rest, to use a cliche, is history. However, Madan Mohan gave one unforgettable gem to Rafi in " Kisike yaad mein . . . "

The Lata solos " Woh chup rahe to mere dil ke daag" and "Hal-e- dil unko yun sunaya gaya " perfectly bring to the fore the suppressed emotions and the fervent pleas of separated lovers. Although the words, tune and the singer provide a smooth blend of melancholy, my favourite Lata numbers happen to be from the other films.

The young film goer who might not be familiar with the bygone era in the Hindi film music might very well ask a pertinent question: If the plethora of superlatives that has been used to describe the genius of Madan Mohan is to be taken at face value then Madan Mohan must have been a very successful music-director. To this- I would like to submit that Madan Mohan was indeed a successful music-director of commercially unsuccessful films. To cite some examples,"Aashiana,""Dekh Kabira Roya","Hanste Zakhm","Parawana (starring Yogita Bali, Navin Nischal and Amitabh ),"Mausam,""Heer Ranza" etc.In the eighty odd movies that had the distinction of having their music composed by Madan Mohan, only four movies were commercially successful "Bhai Bhai","Mastana","Woh kaun thi"and "Mera saya."

What could have gone wrong? Probabaly, the uncompromising attitude of Madan towards the quality of his music and his culture that made him totally unfit to survive in the ghoulish world of "modern music."

Arvind Gokhale, a renowned Marathi writer in one of his articles that appeared in "Maharashtra Times" had vividly portrayed the last sad days of Madan Mohan's life. He had apparently lost interest in everything and had become overtly sentimental. What can a gifted person do when there are no assignments and the cut-throat competition (literally) from others poses a series of obstacles in completing whatever assignments he has in hand ?

Madan Mohan was a disillusioned man in his last days and the void of emptiness on the professional front must have led him to his sad and untimely death.

I consider him as one of the last titans who has given immense pleasure to his listeners over the years through his songs like
1) Lag ja gale (Woh kaun thi)
2) Jo hamne dastaan aapni sunayee (Woh kaun thi)
3) Chanda jaa (Manamauji)
4) Main to tumsang (Manamauji)
5) Baiyaan na dharo (Dastak)
6) Hum hain mata-e-kucha (Dastak)
7) Mai re main kase (Dastak)
8) Main to peeke nagariya gati chali (Ek kali muskayee)
9) Maine rang li aaj chunariya (Dulhan ek raatki)
10) Piya le gayo ji mera sawariya (Anpadh)
11) Aap ki nazaron ne samza (Anpadh)
12) Hain isi me pyar ki aabroo (Anpadh)
13) Ja re badra bairi jaa (Bahana)
14) Sapne me sajan se do bate (Gateway of India)
15) Wo bhuli dastan (Sanjog)
16) Bhuli hui yadon (Sanjog)
17) Hoke majbur muze (Haqueekat)

This is only a representative selection and many personal favourites are not mentioned for the obvious reason - space limitation. The main intention is to rekindle the interest of the modern connoisseur of Hindi film music. The fact that Madan Mohan did not get the recognition and accolades he deserved in his lifetime need not necessarily mean that his genius should go unrecognized long after his death.

Madan Mohan left this world for his heavenly abode on July14 , 1975 after realizing that "Yeh duniya,Yeh mehfil mere kamki nahin".

The Gods must have been woefully short of musical talent of the calibre of Madan Mohan to have him recalled in the prime of his life and without allowing him to complete his concert.



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