The Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar met the legendary music director Madan Mohan for the first time during the making of Shaheed. Their association together went on to create some of the most melodious songs in Hindi films ever – from the romantic to the soulful, from ghazals to the classical and more. Wishing Lataji a very happy birthday, we look at how this relationship blossomed into one of the finest musical team-ups both at the professional and personal level. Silhouette presents Sangeeta Gupta, daughter of Madan Mohan, in conversation with music connoisseur and Madan Mohan researcher Subhas Ghoshal.
Subhas Ghoshal: It is believed that Ghulam Haider introduced Lataji and Madanji to each other in 1946 at the recording of either Shaheed or Majboor songs at the Bombay Talkies Studio? How did their association begin?
Sangeeta Gupta: It was during the making of the film Shaheed which starred Dilip Kumar that Lataji and Madanji interacted for the first time. Master Ghulam Haider, who was the composer of the film, got the two of them to sing a song to be picturized on a brother and sister pair. However, the song is not available anywhere, nor has the video of the song been seen. It was after the completion of the recording that Madanji told Lataji that he was planning to become a composer and would be very happy to have her sing under his baton….She nodded her head and then the conversation came to be forgotten.
Subhas Ghoshal: Madanji said he will turn music director and give her songs but there was no song for her in his first film. Which were his first songs for Lataji?
Sangeeta Gupta: He did approach Lataji to sing in his debut film Aankhen which released in 1950, but that did not happen. In Lataji’s words, she did not take his becoming a composer seriously as she felt that he may not do justice to the profession, since he was a studio baron’s son and what would he know about composing.
But, after Aankhen released and the music was appreciated, she regretted her decision and from then onwards in Ada and Madhosh, which released in 1951, they combined together.
He expressed his regret and said that since they had sung the song to be picturised on a brother and sister, they would now be brother and sister in life from that day onwards. This sentiment remains till today, even though it is 44 years since he passed away. Lataji welcomed my mother as a young bride and they were very close friends till the day my mother passed away in 1980. She has taken the place of our parents in our lives and has been a big support.
The songs in Ada and Madhosh were very melodious, just the kind Lataji sang, and so different from the ones that Shamshad Begumji sang his first film Aankhen.
Some of them are Aankhon aankhon mein unn se pyar ho gaya, Saanwari surat man bhayi re piya and Preetam meri duniya mein do din to rahe hote from Ada and six solo romantic songs from Madhosh, which include Hummein ho gaya tumse pyar bedardi balma, Mere dil ki nagariya mein ana and Meri aankhon ki neend le gaya.
Subhas Ghoshal: Shyam Sundar was a great music director and was revered by all in the music fraternity. It is said music directors used to touch their earlobes in respect when Shyam Sundar was referred to in any discussion. Madan Mohan was a fan of this music director and his style; especially his forte which was ghazals. One can refer to the songs in Sajan ki Galiyan and other films. When Shyam Sunder passed away at a young age, Madan Mohan was asked to complete some of his films. It seems Madanji got inspired by Shyam Sunder’s style and then added his innovations and took the ghazal composing style way beyond what it had been to create the famous Madan Mohan style. How did his music develop its niche style?
Sangeeta Gupta: You mean the song Saajan ki galiyan chhod chale from the film Bazar which had music by Shyam Sundarji? Madanji had great grasping power, and learned mostly by listening to the great exponents of Hindustani Classical vocalists and instrumentalists. He never had a guru or a teacher to train him as such. He was very innovative. If you observe his songs over the period, you will find him changing with the times.
Subhas Ghoshal: He made generous use of Indian instruments such as the sitar, getting the maestros to play for him. For example, in Madhosh, Ustad Vilayat Khan is credited for all the sitar pieces.
There were many sitar pieces played in the background of the film and uncountable classical raags used can be heard if you watch the film carefully. But the icing on the cake is probably the famous Lata solo, Humein ho gaya tumse pyaar, with the sitar playing in the background. The song is in fact composed like a Raag Bhairavi dhun, and Ustad Vilayat Khan saahab, one of the greatest sitarists ever born, played it with improvisation and awesome flair to make it a memorable treat for the ears.
One can listen to the original here:
The sitar piece in the background music:
Please share your favourite Lata songs from Madanji’s films where particular Indian instruments have been used prominently.
Sangeeta Gupta: There is no doubt that the sitar was one of his favorite instruments… and he used this beautiful instrument whenever the situation, or the beauty of the song needed it. He has used the sitar so beautifully in the following songs sung by Lataji:
Meri aankhon se koi neend was originally recorded with the santoor as the main instrument, and a different arrangement. However, after it was recorded, Madanji felt if he made the sitar the base instrument, it would heighten the charm of the song and what he had in mind. So, this song was rerecorded with the sitar replacing the santoor and that is what appears on disc.
Some more such songs with prominent use of the sitar are:
If you notice the use of sitar was not that frequent in his earlier years, becoming more intricate with each passing year until it became the soul of the song. It was Vilayat Khan saahab who played for Madanji at the earlier stage of his career. When he went on to become a well-known classical exponent, Jayaram Acharyaji played for a bit, and at times Madanji used two sitars where he felt the need. The space was taken over by Vilayat Khan saahab’s nephew, Rais Khan, in 1964 and he gave Madanji’s songs the gaayaki ang that his uncle was famous for.
However, when we move away from the sitar, I have noticed that so very many of Madanji’s hit songs sung by Lataji did not feature any sitar, and that he paid equal attention to every Indian musical instrument that he could use in the manner that he deemed fit and that adorned the song the way he had imagined it. I am sharing some songs here for many who may not have paid attention to this aspect of the song.
These are a few of the more well-known songs that I have mentioned.
Subhas Ghoshal: Adalat was a new benchmark in ghazals for Hindi films. Earlier also Madan Mohan and Lata had worked together on some “ghazal-ish” compositions but the songs of Adalat brought forth a style of ghazals not witnessed in Hindi cinema before. Yun hasraton ke daag, Unko ye shikayat hai or Jaana tha humse door – Madanji took the khandaani ghazal and gave it a style that was palatable to the masses without, in any way, compromising on the quality or tone of the traditional ghazal. After his sudden demise (1975), the obituary by noted film music critic Raju Bharatan in Filmfare had the headline, ‘His credit lies in the fact that he took the ghazal to the masses without coarsening it.’ What would you say about this? And which is your favorite ghazal/song from Adalat?
Sangeeta Gupta: My favourite ghazal is Yun hasraton ke daag. Lataji named Madanji as Ghazal ka Shehzada and his flair for composing ghazals in the form that appealed to the masses and classes together made him popular as Ghazal King.
Every ghazal that he composed touched the hearts of his fans and they wanted more; so in most of his films at least one ghazal featured, whenever possible. Even Majrooh Saahab commented that the romance that is required for a ghazal was most understood by Madanji.
Some of these famous ghazals sung by Lataji are:
Subhas Ghoshal: What would you say about the two supreme ghazals in Anpadh?
Sangeeta Gupta: Anpadh was also a benchmark album of Madanji as two of his most popular ghazals featured in the film. Naushad saab was said to have told him, “Mujhe apni ye dono ghazlein de do aur meri saari mausiqui le lo”. What a compliment for Madanji, coming from a legendary senior!
In fact, Aapki nazron ne samjha was a ghazal which nearly never got made… Another song had been written and composed and was ready for recording. Lataji was already at the mike. In came lyricist Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and mentioned to producer Mohan Kumarji that he had written something new for the situation, and would like him to read it. Mohan Kumarji jumped on reading the lyrics and said that this is exactly what he needed for the situation. Madanji, who had been overseeing the recording, entered the main console and was updated on the activities there. On reading the fresh lyrics, he too agreed that they suited the situation better than the one being recorded. He requested Lataji to go home and come again for rehearsing and recording the fresh song the next day. He went into another room and within a jiffy he had the new tune ready. This was rehearsed with the musicians and Lataji and we had Aapki nazron ne samjha ready as we hear it today.
Subhas Ghoshal: The ghazals in Ghazal, Jahan Ara and Hanste Zakhm explore the purest form of the ghazal with supreme melody.
Sangeeta Gupta: Though the film Ghazal is more known for Rang aur noor ki baarat, my very favorite is Naghma-o-sher ki saugat kise pesh karoon which has been sung by Lataji. What feeling and gentleness and romance she has portrayed in this beautiful ghazal! In spite of the popular numbers by Talat Mahmood in Jahan Ara, the beauty that stood out was Wo chup rahein to mere dil ke daag jalte hain. An amazing composition specially created for Lataji emerged in Hanste Zakhm – Aaj socha to aansu bhar aaye and Betaab dil ki tamanna yehi hai. With each year, more innovation in the ghazal style emerged.
Subhas Ghoshal: Woh Kaun Thi exploited Lataji’s emotional romantic appeal in songs that became all-time hits. From the emotional love song to the haunting song of beckoning the lover – the scale was tremendous. That romantic appeal is also witnessed in so many other landmark songs – Mera Saya, Dulhan Ek Raat Ki and Chirag, for instance. Which are your favourites?
Sangeeta Gupta: Madanji’s romantic songs for Lataji are rather underrated. For me they are at the top of my list of favorites. Of course, Lag jaa gale has stolen the thunder and has won so many awards and is used whenever and wherever possible to portray romance, whether it is in films, television serials, advertisements and whatnot.
But the romantic songs started right from the first film that they did together:
Subhas Ghoshal: The magnificent classical range of Lataji is so well brought out by Madanji.
Sangeeta Gupta: It is well known that Madanji had no formal training in music, classical or otherwise. However, he was passionate about classical music and made it a point to hear it as much as he could, whenever he could, whether it was recorded, or live, vocal or instrumental. In fact, he would invite the greats to the house, feed them a meal which he himself would cook and then have night-long mehfils. I have heard a lot of experts say that Madanji did not use classical raags in the pure form, but played about with them, and created a classical melody. Lataji sang some memorable songs under the baton of Madanji.
Some of the more well-known ones are (Raag flavour is mentioned in brackets by Subhas ji):
There was much tension around this song as for various reasons the recording was canceled many times, which had made Madanji very anxious and then on the final day, it had its own moments, which we can hear in Lataji’s comments here.
The music of this film won the much-acclaimed National Award for the beautiful songs sung by Lataji.
Subhas Ghoshal: Mausam’s Ruke ruke se qadam, Sanjog’s Woh bhooli daastan, Haqeeqat’s Zara si aahat, Hain tere saath meri waafa from Hindusthan Ki Kasam, Chaand Madhyam hai from Railway Platform are among the most soulful songs of Lata ji.
Sangeeta Gupta: No doubt, the Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar combine gave some of the most beautiful and soulful songs that linger on even today. They sat and rehearsed for days on end, with Madanji singing out his compositions for her to emulate in her own style.
The unit of Woh Kaun Thi had already left for Shimla for the shooting. However, for some reason Lataji was unavailable for the recording of the song, Naina barse. In a desperate measure Madanji recorded the song in his own voice and this version was used for Sadhanaji to lip-sync on screen. The crowd that had gathered to watch the shooting was really shocked to see Sadhanaji singing a song which had been sung by a male singer. Later, Lataji recorded the song in her own voice and thus was used in the film and disc. One antara in Madanji’s voice was found on a spool after he passed away and was then shared amongst listeners.
The situation here was the same as with Naina barse. Madanji sang the song for the filming of this background song. Lataji dubbed it later and this version was used for the film and disc.
Sharing the song in the voices of Madanji and Lataji.
This beautiful rendition of the Heer was recorded in an atmosphere when most in the recording centre were in tears, including Lataji.
Koi patthar se na maare mere deewane ko from Laila Majnu released after Madanji passed away and this hit song of Lataji celebrated Sartaj Geet on Binaca Geetmala for 18 weeks, but he could not experience this.
Subhas Ghoshal: It was 1956. Madanji sought some success with Bhai Bhai being a hit, but he was still struggling to get good films to work in and strengthening his position as a young composer. A film was being made called Naya Aadmi and the producers brought a young composer duo—Vishwanathan Rammurti—who were known as the Shankar-Jaikishan of the south at the time. The composer duo scored a few songs for the film but the producer somehow lost confidence in them and invited Madanji for composing for the film. Madanji came and asked the producer to play the scores already composed by the duo for the film. Upon hearing, he told the producer, ‘I am surprised, the boys have done very good work. Why have you brought me in?’ Finally, he composed three songs for the film and the songs composed by the young duo were kept in the film.
In the mid-60’s Chetan Anand, who always preferred Madanji for composing for his films, was about to make a film called Aakhri Khat. Madanji insisted that he give that work to his friend Khayyam and Chetan Anand did just that.
We can see the humanity of Madanji, which was exemplary. A feeling for other composers which was and is rarely found in the cutthroat competition in the film industry, where people grab other’s work by any means. Madanji was Secretary of the Cine Music Directors Association for a long time and it is heard that he always raised concerns for the musicians involved in arrangement and other technicians while trying to solve their problems.
Sangeeta Gupta: Subhasji, you have mentioned the case of Naya Adami. I am not aware of this, honestly. I am aware that he had recommended his dear friend Khayyam saab to Chetan Anand for the music of Aakhri Khat.
He was very disciplined and respectful and valued each and every composer, small or big, and gave them their due respect
I remember an incident. In 1967, Madanji won the best classical song of the year for Maine rang lee aaj chunariya – the award was given by the Cine Music Director’s Association. Madan ji had won that award 3-4 times. He was so happy that he invited all the composers in the Association (about 60 of them) home for dinner to celebrate. He cooked the food himself and my mother and us kids were sent out to see a late night show! When we came back, past midnight, all the composers were still having a good time, drinking and singing—such was the spirit and camaraderie.
Subhas Ghoshal: We conclude here this discussion by thanking Sangeeta ji for her invaluable comments and elaborate inputs for our questions to delve into the mystery of Lata-Madan Mohan magic, about which composer Khayyam once exclaimed in surprise, “How wonderfully Lata sang for Madan Mohan, her favourite, sometimes we used to feel jealous.” Composer OP Nayyar went on record saying, Lata-Madan Mohan combination was made in heaven. It is not easy to decode the complex chemistry between the composer and singer, but the result of the association of two greats leaves us bewildered. The duo left for us some classiest compositions of Hindi Film Music.
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