To be honest, I remember Madan Mohan more as a father than
as a composer. He kept us far away from the recording
studios. Perhaps because he was disillusioned by the music
He was a very affectionate father, but strict. He wanted his
children to have a normal childhood. He wouldn't allow my
brothers or me to hang around the music sessions. But we did
cheat a bit. On holidays, we'd insist that nothing would
keep us from the recordings.
Today, I feel he craved much more appreciation than he
actually got. I can't help feeling bitter about the
frustrations that my father had to go through, hiding his
hurt behind a smile.
Since I've been a part of the music business for 20 years
myself, I find more and more people returning to Madan
Mohan's music. In Meri Pasand, the TV programme which I
produce featuring the favourite songs of celebrities, one of
the seven songs is always a Madan Mohan composition. The
invitees select the song of their own choice, and not
because Madan Mohan was the producer's dad.
It has even become fashionable for music directors to
associate themselves with the name of Madan Mohan. Whenever
Khayyam or Naushad give an interview, they make it a point
to mention his name. O.P.Nayyar has gone on record to state
that the Lata Mangeshkar-Madan Mohan combination remains
unparalled. For young composers like Jatin-Lalit, it's the
in thing to say Madan Mohan was one of the greatest
In Meri Awaz Suno, the participants often want to render
Madan Mohan songs. And I wonder why people didn't express
their appreciation when my father was alive. He would tell
my mother that he didn't get his dues from the film
industry. The biggest banners never came his way. All the
hotshot stars and directors like Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand
were his close friends... Raj Kapoor had offered him Satyam
Shivam Sundaram. But I don't know what happened.
What I do know is that my father had an ego. Maybe that came
in the way. Jaikishen had died and Mera Naam Joker had
flopped. Raj Kapoor was making Bobby. After that, he wanted
my father to do Satyam Shivam Sundaram. My father probably
died before the deal could be finalised.
Raj Kapoor, Suraiya and my father were childhood friends.
Suraiya and my father would sing together on All India
Radio. My father would feel very hurt when his songs would
become hits but the films would flop. If he had done better
films with better film-makers, his compositions wouldn't
have been underrated.
Today everyone loves his songs but they don't feature in any
of the lists of the 50 musical movie hits of all time. Some
of the best songs of my father were picturised on
second-rung heroines. Like Woh bhooli dastaan on Anita Guha
in Sanjog. Or on Priya Rajvansh, who was considered a bad
actress. Though Chetan Anand was one of my father's best
friends and loyal supporters, I don't think the songs of
Heer Ranjha and Hanste Zakhm in a Chitrahaar would stand a
fair chance against lesser songs filmed on better actresses.
Many of my father's song were also filmed on Mala Sinha who
wasn't considered one of the greats of her generation. He
didn't get too many Waheeda Rehman songs.
He did get a Nutan film -- Dulhan Ek Raat Ki. And he
composed the lovely number Sapnon mein agar mere for it. But
the film ran for just seven days. Jahan Ara, which had some
of his best compositions ever, was removed from theatres in
four days. It broke his heart.
There were several music camps in those days and they were
all so good. Even my father couldn't deny that. Navketan had
the Burmans. The R.K. banner hand Shankar-Jaikishen. They
were all so comfortable working together that no one was
interested in breaking up the teams.
Today, film-makers are more open to change. Subhash Ghai
worked extensively with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. He then dropped
them for A.R. Rahman. He then dropped Rahman for
Nadeem-Shravan. We don't know what he'll do next.
Once, the working environment was of the essence. My father
had to feel comfortable with the film-makers he worked
with. He worked a lot with Chetan Anand and Om Prakash, the
character actor who produced Sanjog, Jahan Ara, Gateway Of
India and Chacha Zindabad... none of them were hits.
My father worked closely with Raj Khosla. They would plan
the films together. My father's first silver jubilee hit was
Raj Khosla's Woh Kaun Thi.
There's an interesting story about Mera Saaya. The film was
originally called Saaya. My father had a huge spool
tape-recorder. After he had recorded the title song Tu jahan
jahan chalega mera saaya saath hoga, he cooked dinner and
listened to the song with Raj Khosla and other close friends
over drinks. And they all agreed that the film's title
should be changed to Mera Saaya. Back then, there was a
constant give-and-take. Now there's just take.
I don't know why Raj Khosla switched to Laxmikant-Pyarelal
after Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya. My father was
hot-headed... maybe there was some misunderstanding between
them. Raj Khosla had his own ups and down.
Chetan Anand was the most important film-maker in the latter
part of my father's life. Chetan Anand was planning a small
film, Aakhri Khat, at the same time as Haqeeqat. He wanted
my dad to score music for both the films. But my dad said,
"Why don't you give Aakhri Khat to my friend Khayyam?" And
the film went on to revive Khayyam's career.
Chetan Anand, Kaifi Azmi and Priya would often drop in at
our house. Priya would come into our room where we kids
would have our dinner separately. She played carrom with us.
My father almost died at Chetan Anand's house while working
on the music of Salim Anarkali which was eventually
shelved. He collapsed in Chetan Anand's house.
When we went on long car drives, dad would tell us to sing a
song. Small and unfeeling that we were, we would start
singing the songs composed by other music directors. He'd
turn around and say, "Hey, even you!"
At that time, we couldn't understand what he meant. We
wouldn't sing his songs because they weren't easy to
sing. That used to hurt him. Even his failmy didn't
appreciate him. He started drinking heavily. He died of
cirrhosis of the lever. It's not something I'm ashamed of at
all. I don't allow this fact to disturb me at all.
When my father died, I had to get out of his shadow. I was
very keen to become a music composer. But he had gone out of
his way to keep me away from music. He felt he hadn't made
it... he didn't want his son to go through hard times. After
he died, I tried to learn the sitar. But nothing came of it.
Memories linger on though. By the time dad got his first
major award for Dastak, he'd become very bitter. He
pretended not to be happy with the honour. But he was happy
because Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan also got National
Awards for the same film. So they all went together to Delhi
for the function.
The National Award wasn't widely understood then. It was not
getting the Filmfare Award that really bothered my
father. In the year when Mera Saaya was in the reckoning, he
told us that all the issues of Filmfare had been bought. I'm
not saying there was any cheating but when consumers had to
fill in the coupons about their choices, it was so easy to
manipulate the awards. I think my father lost out because he
couldn't play such games.
My father was very sentimental. He cried easily. There was a
very good arranger called Sonik who later became a composing
duo with his nephew, Sonik-Omi. Sonik would arrange the
songs for my father. Omi, who was the spokesperson of the
two, said in an interview after my father died, that most of
Madan Mohan's tunes were composed by Sonik. My question to
them is--why didn't Sonik-Omi come up with one memorable
tune when they were on their own?
My father's favourite sitar player was the renowned Rais
Khan. If you've heard the Madan Mohan compositions
carefully, you'd know that the sitar base is very
crucial. Rais Khan claimed that he had composed all the
sitar interludes. It's possible that he did. The point is,
they sat together and worked in a room.
My father was so fond of Rais Khan that when there was a
musical soiree at our home, he would invite Rais Khan to
play the sitar. My father was too embarrassed to discuss
money with his friend, so he told his manager to ask Rais
Khan what kind of money he should be paid. Rais Khan took
tremendous umbrage. A few days later, he called up my father
and said there's a wedding at a friend's house and would my
father like to sing there. If yes, how much money would he
My father was very, very hurt. He decided that Rais Khan
would never again play in his songs. From that day onwards,
in 1972 to the day he died, the sitar disappeared from Madan
He was a Sagittarian and completely emotional. My father
never used the ghazal as a ghazal per se. He used it as a
love song, a sad song etc. Like Zameen se hamen aasman par
in Adalat and Aapko pyar chhupane ki buri aadat hai in Neela
Aakash. At times, he even copied Western tunes. Like Dil dil
se milakar dekho in Memsaab.
But because the ghazal was his forte he became typecast.
Naushad goes on and on about the two ghazals from Anpadh --
Aap ki nazron ne samjha and Hai isi mein pyar ki abroo being
equal to his entire oeuvre. I don't remember him saying that
when my father was alive.
I'll tell you something about Naushad sa'ab. My father used
to take us to his house for dinner every two or three
months. I remember hearing the songs of K Asif's Love And
God at Naushad sa'ab's house. On our way home my father
praised his songs wholeheartedly.
I vividly remember attending a recording for the song
Chhayee barkha bahaar in Chirag. While Lataji was at the
mike, my father said, "See how I'm going to make her say
chhayee." The word actually spreads itself out when she
It was a very tough song to put together. The musicians were
making a lot of mistakes. Lataji had to sing it about 15
times to get it right in one take. I remember asking her if
she was exhausted. She said, "What to do? Most of my biggest
hits have been sung at my tired worst". Today, of course, it
isn't like that. Everything is dubbed.
For the doli song in Heer Ranjha, the main theme was derived
from traditional sources. But all the antaras were my
father's, I remember everyone was crying at the end of the
recording. Kaifi Azmi, his wife Shaukat, Chetan Anand. They
all went up to Lataji and my father to say, "You made us
The song Aapki nazron ne samjha (Anpadh) was composed by my
father in two minutes during the lift journey from the
ground floor to the fifth floor of our building. I remember
the moment when my father almost in a trance, shut his eyes
and started singing to himself. When the lift reached our
apartment, he rushed to the harmonium to complete the tune.
The song Naina barse in Woh Kaun Thi was composed in the
early '50s. But it wasn't found suitable for any film until
Woh Kaun Thi. Raj Khosla and my father mutually agreed that
it would be right for the ghost story. At the time of the
recording, Lataji was unwell. So the song was filmed on
Sadhana in my father's voice, and redubbed later.
My father's first big commercial break was Bhai Bhai in
1956. I remember my mother telling me that I was lucky for
him since it was the year I was born.
He was particularly fond of the song Yeh duniya yeh mehfil
in Heer Ranjha because of the variety in arrangement. His
own favourite composition was Sawan ke mahine main from
Sharabi. He would sing the song for his friends at private
gatherings. Perhaps he identified with the lyrics.
Lataji was the last word for him. I remember Asha Bhosle
came for a recording of a cabaret song. She asked my father
in front of me, "Madan bhaiyya, this song is nice but who's
singing the other songs?" When my father told her that it
was Lataji, Ashaji bluntly asked, "Why can't I sing them?"
And my father replied, "Jab tak Lata hai Lata hi gayegi."
That didn't make Ashaji very happy.
The point is, he was very honest. Lataji and my father had
no other relationship except that of a brother and
sister. When he would be asked why he was besotted with Lata
Mangeshkar, my father would reply, "Why only me?
S.D. Burman, Naushad, C.Ramachandra, Roshan,
Shankar-Jaikishen are all besotted with her. Are they all
To make the world believe that Sharda was a better singer
than Lataji and Ashaji required a lot of guts. The joke in
those days was, love isn't only blind, it's also deaf. It
wasn't just my father who said that Lataji was the best. It
was the world. O.P. Nayyar said his style of composing
suited Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle. Possibly
he changed his style.
Because the fact remains that for the first film he ever
signed he wanted Lataji to sing. But something obviously
went wrong and he swore that he would become successful
without Lataji. That was wonderful. I respect and admire
O.P. Nayyar's achievements. What I can never forget about
Lataji is that after my father died, she became closer to us
than before, even though she had nothing to gain from
us. She looked after us children completely after my mother
died. When I got married, she sent the invitation cards out
in her name. Today, I want to be there for her if she needs
Coming back to my father, he scored his biggest hit, Laila
Majnu, after his death. It was probably his weakest score
though. Lataji tells us that he was often off-colour since
he had too much to drink during the recordings. Lataji did
tell him to get a grip on himself. But dad's frustrations in
the last couple of years of his life had become too much to
bear. Ironically, his best- remembered songs are from films
released after his death -- Mausam and Laila Majnu.
I discovered my father's genius at the age of 16 when I
accidentally found tapes of his songs in the cupboard. I
heard all his released and unreleased songs on master
tapes. I realised his worth. I discovered in the tapes that
he had composed ten different tunes for the same song. For
example, there were literally ten tunes for Dil dhoondta hai
in Mausam. I realised there was still so much more to his
genius than what the world had heard.
Today we're no longer called the Madan Mohan family. I never
tell anyone I'm his son. One has to come into one's own.