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Madan Mohan: The Composer of the Classes

July 14, 2018 | By

There is something really sophisticated about his music which has a timeless pull. It is not surprising that due to this quality his work has endured much after he passed away. A tribute to the Ghazal Samrat Madan Mohan

Continued from Page 1

Punjabi Folk

It is but natural that a Punjabi by birth who spent time in heart of Punjab like Chatwal and Lahore would not be indifferent to the charms of Punjabi folk. Many people fail to notice this aspect of his work. He has given a number of songs in this tradition. Listen to Geeta and Lata sing ‘Oonchi Neechi Raahen’ and you will realise what he was capable of delivering in this genre. The Geeta-Asha duet ‘Dupatta Mera Malmal Ka’ for Adalat is a typical Punjabi folk song.

Dupatta mera malmal ka (Adalat, 1958) Rajinder Krishan / Geeta Dutt and Lata Mangeshkar

In the movie Anpadh’s ‘Dulhan Marwad Ki’, one gets glimpses of not just Punjabi folk but also folk music from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Some other songs which show glimpses of this genre are as follows:

  • Rail Mein Jiya Mora SananaAankhen (Raj Khosla)
  • Mera Naam Abdul Rehman (Bhai-Bhai) (Kishore-Lata)
  • Tere Pyar Ka Main Deewana (Bombay Race Course) (Suman-Mahendra)
  • Ek Gaadi Hamari Idhar Se Chali (Chhote Babu) (Shamshad-Asha)
  • Choodi Chhanke Chaloon Main Jab Tan Ke (Ek Shola) (Asha)
  • Jo Mama Mera Aa Jaayega (Heer Ranjha) (Usha Timothy, Krishna Kalle, Hemlata, S Balbir)
  • Naache Ang Ve (Heer Ranjha) (Shamshad Begum, Jagjit Kaur, Noorjehan)
  • Doli Chadhte Hi Heer Ne Bain Kiye (Heer Ranjha) (Lata)
  • Adaayen Jab Hon Latkedaar (Khota Paisa) (Mohd Rafi, Asha)
  • Chhadi Re Chhadi (Mausam) (Rafi, Lata)
  • Tere Mukhde Ka Til Kaala Kaala (Rafi,Lata)
  • Lohri (Veer Zara) (Lata, Udit Narayan and Gurdas Maan)

I must point out here that his Punjabi roots show up not only in the music but also in the way he got some of his singers sing the songs. We Punjabis have our own style of saying words and the way we stress on particular words or their parts thereof (not to mention the flowing way we speak lines). It is cute to hear these finer nuances come out in his songs.  For example, the way he makes Lata sing “Nai-na” in ‘Naina Barse’ (a Bengali composer might have made it “Nayana barse”) or the way he makes her sing “Saa-ya” or “Tum-se”. There are many such cases of the Punjabi intonation and pronunciation method evident in many songs for him (as for some other composers as well). Writing about them would take a chapter in itself!

Making Music that was in Vogue

Madan Mohan’s first movie Aankhen itself had him doing music in vein of the contemporary music in vogue at the time. His song “Mori Atariya Pe Kaaga Bole” made in Raag Pahadi sung by Meena Kapoor was one such song and remains among her most popular songs. (Not surprisingly after it becoming hit, the following year Aziz Hindi had her sing a similar song, Mori Atariya Pe Bulbul Bole for the movie Actor).

Madan Mohan had the expertise of doing contemporary compositions at will. Early in his career for example if you hear in Ashiyaana, his song, ‘Main Na Janoon Mere Dil Ko Yeh Kya Ho Gaya’, the orchestration would remind many of a Shankar Jaikishan one!  Remember that lovely Talat-Geeta duet, ‘Hai Yeh Mausam-e-Bahaar’ which he composed in the Arabian style in Shabistan (1951) or Madhosh’s song ‘Pagdi Pehen Ke Turredaar’ as another example which are quite contemporary of the time. This is a fun duet by Shamshad Begum (with male voice credited to G M Durrani though sounds more like S D Batish to me! ) which one would have expected a Bulo C Rani or other composer of the day to compose.

Rafi’s song in Chandan, ‘Bada Hi CID Hai Neeli Chhatri Waala’ would make many think its an O P Nayyar composition!

While people talk of his ghazals a lot, one should not forget his wonderful way with Arabic tunes. Did he pick up the nuances in his childhood in Iraq?  Remember Baaghi’s ‘Dard Ki Aye Raat Guzar Ja’, ‘Kahin Bin Aag Jale Na Parwana’, ‘Taare Khil Aayi Raat’ and the wonderful ‘Karke Badnaam Meri Neenden Haraam Kahaan Chala Gaya’.

Creativity with Multiple Tunes

Often Madan Mohan composed different tunes for antaras in the same song, which was a testimony of his creativity. Some examples of this are ‘Ek Haseem Shaam Ko’, ‘Sapnon Mein Agar Mere’, ‘Aapne Apna Banaya’ and ‘Kai Dinse Jee Hai Bekal’ (Dulhan Ek Raat Ki), ‘Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho’ and ‘Betaab Dil Ki Tamanna’ (Hanste Zakhm), ‘Har Koi Chahta Hai Ek Mutthi Aasmaan’, ‘Chand Madham Hai’ (Railway Platform), ‘Hamare Baad Ab Mehfil Mein’ (Baaghi), ‘Beraham Aasman’ (Bahaana), ‘Tumse Kahoon Ek Baat’ And ‘Mai Ri, Main Kaase Kahoon’(Dastak). ‘Koi Pathar Se Na Maare’ And ‘Barbaad Mohabbat Ki Dua’ (Laila Majnu), ‘Mushkil Hai Jeena’ (Sahib Bahadur) and almost all songs from Heer Ranjha… ‘Do Dil Toote’, ‘Tere Kooche Mein’, ‘Doli Chadhte Hi’, ‘Milo Na Tum To’ and ‘Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil’.

Tum jo mil gaye ho (Hanste Zakhm, 1973) Kaifi Azmi / Mohd Rafi

In the film Chandan, the song ‘Ye Khule Khule Se Gesoo, Ye Udee Udee Si Rangat… Log Kahe Mere Nain Baaware’, has all the three stanzas composed in different tunes. There are three heroines in this film viz. Nutan, Shyama and Mala Sinha. Possibly, each stanza is picturised on a different actress. This indeed proved that he was able to conjure so many melodies within the same song!

In the film Ghazal, three ghazals have the same behar and radeef.

  • ‘Nagma-o- Sher Ki Saugaat Kise Pesh Karoon’ (Lata Mangeshkar)
  • ‘Rang Aur Noor Ki Baarat Kise Pesh Karoon’ (Mohammed Rafi) and
  • ‘Ishq Ki Garmiye Jazbaat Kise Pesh Karoon’ (Mohammed Rafi)

However, the tunes of these three songs are entirely different and are based on different ragas!  (source:

Rang aur noor ki baarat kise pesh karoon (Ghazal, 1964) Sahir Ludhianvi / Mohd Rafi

Immaculate usage of Ragas

Madan Mohan listening to newly recorded song at home with Lataji on his Akai Spool recorder.

Madan Mohan listening to newly recorded song at home with Lata Mangeskhar on his Akai Spool recorder.

Even though Madan Mohan is not reported to have received extensive formal training in classical music (he learnt it for a short time in Lahore), nevertheless he was knowledgeable in Ragas and used them extensively. Some people just have the natural knack for it!  In many ways I believe, music is self taught and imbibed during one’s listening time.

Madan Mohan indeed worked hard on his music. He is known to have the knowledge of the English notations which he used extensively. He could play harmonium and piano like a professional without having a teacher!  That is an indicator of both his talent/inclination as well as the hard work he would have put in it. It is said he was trying to learn the Sitar from Ustad Shameem Khan during the 70s though, listening to the way he used sitar during his songs earlier, one would think he was an expert at it!

In the film Dekh Kabira Roya, three very popular songs come in a back to back sequence:

  • Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye (Lata Mangeshkar)
  • Ashkonse Teri Hamne Tasveer Banayi Hai (Asha Bhosle) and
  • Tu Pyar Kare Ya Thukaraye (Lata Mangeshkar)

All three songs are raga based, composed in Ahir Bhairav, Pahadi and Bhairavi, respectively. On the screen, these songs have been picturised on Ameeta, Anita Guha and Shubha Khote respectively. (source:

Meri veena tum bin roye (Dekh Kabira Roya, 1957) Rajinder Krishan / Lata Mangeshkar

My guess is that Bhairavi must be one of his favourite ones. Madhosh’s ‘Humen Ho Gaya Tumse Pyar’ (Lata) and ‘Mere Dil Ki Nagariya Mein Aana’ (Lata), Ashiyana’s ‘Main Na Janoon Mere Dil Ko Yeh Kya Ho Gaya’, Dhun’s ‘Taare Gin Gin Beete’ (Lata) and ‘Nindiya Na Aaye’ (Lata) and Intezaam’s ‘Dekhoon Kab Tak Teri Main Raah Saajna’ (Asha) are all Bhairavi based.

Special mention must be made of ‘Kadar Jaane Na Mera Balam Bedardi’ from Bhai Bhai which is said to have mesmerised Begum Akhtar so much that she called Madan Mohan demanding that he sing it for her on the phone itself. Needless to say he obliged her immediately!

There are of course many more later ones too, like Naya Aadmi’s ‘Bhajan Hai Yeh Duniya’ where Piano and Flute create a magical effect.

I am also reminded of the lovely ‘Tum Chaand Ke Saath Chale Aao, Yeh Raat Suhani Ho Jaaye’ in Raag Yaman Kalyan and Talat’s lovely ‘Main Pagal Mera Manwa Pagal’ in Raag Kedaar. What a lovely melody he created. Its interesting to note that a few years later Ravi gave ‘Darshan Do Ghanshyam’, an evergreen bhajan with similar tune.

Main pagal mera manwa pagal (Ashiana, 1952) Rajinder Krishan / Talat Mahmood

His Usage of Singers

It is beyond doubt that Mohd Rafi and Lata were his favourite singers. We will desist from discussing in detail about his individual partnership with each singer due to paucity of space and will take it up some other time.

Madan Mohan with Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Mohd. Rafi and Bhupinder at a recording from the film Haqeeqat 'Hoke Majboor'

Madan Mohan with Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Mohd. Rafi and Bhupinder at a recording from the film Haqeeqat ‘Hoke Majboor’

Let us see the number of songs he gave to some popular singers for the sake of trivia below:

  • Lata Mangeshkar – 214+
  • Asha Bhosle – 185+
  • Mohd Rafi – 153+
  • Kishore Kumar – 33
  • Shamshad Begum – 24
  • Talat Mahmood – 24
  • Manna Dey – 23
  • Geeta Dutt – 20
  • Mahendra Kapoor – 16
  • Mukesh – 9
  • Usha Mangeshkar – 6
  • Himself – 4
  • Suraiya – 4 (All in Khoobsurat)
  • Krishna Kalle – 4
  • Suman Kalyanpur – 3
  • Hemant Kumar – 3
  • S Balbir – 2
  • Meena Kapoor – 1
  • Hemlata – 1
  • Usha Timothy – 1

It is expected that Lata Mangeshkar sang maximum songs for him. This was due to the great regard both had for each other with both giving their best for each other. Not many know that Madan Mohan used to stay in Makani Manor Apartments which was just opposite Lata’s residence Prabhu Kunj on Pedder Road. That definitely must have given them both more chances for rehearsals and discuss the songs much before they reached the recording studios.

ae dil mujhe bata de

Shyama in Ae dil mujhe bataa de tu kis pe aa gaya hai, (Bhai Bhai, 1956)

There are some surprises there if one goes through the list of singers. Many may not have realised that Asha sang so many songs for him! Geeta fans rue that there are only around twenty songs but imagine the contrast when you realise that she did that in a decade, while Manna Dey got 23 in a much larger period!  It is another matter that no tribute to him is complete without Geeta Roy’s ‘Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De’. Her rendition took the song to heights of popularity that some other better compositions in the film couldn’t get.

It is also a real pity that his childhood friend Suraiya did not do more movies with him. Her song Yeh Chaand Sitaare Kya Jaane‘ makes one long for more of their partnership. Begum Akhtar sang for him in Ehsaan (1954) and the song is not available. Another interesting thing is that he had the Mangeshkar sisters – Lata, Asha, Usha and Meena sing together for a song for Jahan Ara called ‘Kabhi Aankhon Mein Teri’ which was not used and is not available.

Use of Instruments

He himself could play harmonium and piano well. He was able to use a myriad set of instruments in his songs while keeping his orchestration Indian for the most part. Though perhaps he did not use the flute as well as Roshan, but his work with the Sitar is quite memorable. Remember, ‘Meri Yaad Mein Tum Na Ansoo Bahana’ for example?

Sitarist Raees Khan was a permanent member of his orchestra!  Another song reminded is Khoobsurat’s Talat rendition of ‘Meri Raat Ke Andhere Mein Ujaale Tum Ho’.  The song begins with a lovely sitar and the flute joins in the interludes creating a memorable effect.

Meri yaad mein tum na ansoo bahana (Madhosh, 1951) Raja Mehdi Ali Khan / Talat Mahmood

One definitely agrees that he was a master of the Indian instruments but he used the western instruments well blending them seamlessly with the Indians ones. Just listen to the lovely Lori ‘Laadle So Ja’ for Nirmohi (what an unforgettable soundtrack) where he mixes the flute, mandolin and guitar so well.

In fact towards the 1970s one could see his orchestration using more of these like his contemporaries. He had the knack of choosing the instrument very well once he finalised the tune. His assistants like Chic Chocolate, Sonik and Ghanshyam would then do the needful!

His own singing was seen very less

Madan Mohan as an actor in the film Shaheed.

Madan Mohan as an actor in the film Shaheed.

He had a fairly good singing voice. In fact, his first official film assignment was singing a duet with Lata for the movie Shaheed in 1948 for maestro Ghulam Haider. This song Pinjare Mein Bulbul Bole, Mera Chhotasa Dil Dole was however never used for the film and is unavailable.

He sang only four songs for his own films, two with Shamshad Begum and two with Mohd Rafi (one of them being a trio with Kishore Kumar:

  • ‘Humse Na Dil Ko Lagaana’ with Shamshaad Begum for Aankhen (1950)
  • ‘Chinchpokli’ with Shamsad Begum for Shabistan (1951)
  • ‘Koi Ek Ana’ with Mohammed Rafi for Dhun (1953)
  • ‘Mere Jaisa Nahi Milega’ with Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar in Fifty Fifty (1956)

Mai ri main kaase kahoon’ (Dastak) and ‘Naina barse rim jhim rim jhim’ (Woh Kaun Thi) – the two additional songs heard in his voice were sung by him as dummy tracks for Lata Mangeshkar to sing later as she was not well at the time of recording. These songs were later given to HMV by his family for release on albums after Madan Mohan’s demise.

Singer Usha Timothy had also talked about his love for punctuality when Shishir Krishna Sharma interviewed her for This is how she remembered him. “I had also sung for Madan Mohan ji for Heer Ranjha. My first meeting with him had occured in a quite dramatic manner. Once in a wedding function, as part of Sardar Hazara Singh’s orchestra, I was singing the song, ‘Yun Hasraton Ke Daag Mohabbat Mein Dho Liye’ from movie Adalat. One gentleman from the crowd got up and asked why this sad song was being sung on such a happy occasion. I started fighting with the gentleman saying, ‘Do you know this song is of which great composer?  Madan Mohan!’  I was amazed to discover that the gentleman was Madan Mohan himself. He became happy and gave me hundred rupees as a reward. Hundred rupees meant a lot in those days, but getting it from him was a very big thing for me. I kept that note as a treasure for many years to come.

Madan Mohan sahab was a very decent person with a very sweet personality. However, when work was concerned he was very professional and demanded punctuality from all. Once he called me at his house at 9 o’ Clock. I reached his house at eight thirty itself. But he sent me back, saying, ‘Nine means Nine’. And when at exactly 9 o’Clock I rang the call bell, he welcomed me with great respect.

Madan Mohan with one of his first cars an Emgee

Madan Mohan with one of his first cars an Emgee

Once I saw him sitting at the platform of the Grant Road station. He used to stay on Peddar Road’s Shanti Building at that time. I inquired about what he was doing there. He answered, I come here often and silently watch the crowds. He perhaps used to get a sense of peace, sitting alone there among the crowds.”

Unfinished projects

There are two film projects of his which I regret never made the light of day. After completing his work on Naunihal, Sawan Kumar Tak had offered him the opportunity for composing for a movie to be made on Ghalib. It was initially to be made starring Amitabh Bachchan who was later replaced by Sanjeev Kumar.

Another project was Salim Anarkali to be made by Chetan Anand (again starring Amitabh Bachchan) in the mid 1970s. In fact, Madan Mohan was working on its compositions at Chetan Anand’s house the day before he passed away. It would have been so delightful if the songs of these two movies had been recorded and released. I cannot imagine what a great justice he would have made to the music of the movies with such themes!

Limited and Lost Footages

It would have been great to hear and see Madan Mohan talk about his work. He had appeared on Doordarshan’s programme Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan, in 1973, but when he passed away in 1975, Doordarshan was unable to find the masters and said they were erased. There are many such sad cases for other artists as well.

It happened for radios too. I remember elders telling me that since tapes were expensive (I am told spools were Rs 35 at that time) and it was a common practice to reuse them due to this reason. If only more budget was there and these recordings were released we would have so many more things to treasure. And obviously we would have liked more recordings to be done as well!

He is supposed to have done a Vishesh Jaimala on Vividh Bharti whose transcript is available here thanks to Prithviraj Dasgupta.

Madan Mohan’s sons did a radio program on him some time back which can be heard here.


His songs are the biggest reference for the article. Many inputs were taken from the Hindi Film Geet Kosh and the website ( dedicated to him run by his family. Pankaj Raag’s Dhunon Ki Yaatra is another valuable source that I referred. Various articles/interviews are also referred from memory. The singer song count is as taken from Do let us know about any mistakes, errors, omissions!

All pictures used in this article are courtesy the  offical website of Madan Mohan
The opinions shared by the writer are personal.

Read more tributes to the music makers

‘Rehearsals were Never Easy, Music Sittings were Always Fun’ – Remembering Madan Mohan

Aye Dil Mujhe Bataa De – The Mast Nagmein of Madan Mohan

Flashback (Part III): Madan Mohan Hits of 1966 – Jhumka Gira Re

Unko Yeh Shikayat Hai Ke Hum Kuch Nahin Kehte – When Silence Speaks Volumes

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Gajendra Khanna, born into a music loving Punjabi family has stayed across India and currently resides in Bangalore. An engineer by profession, he holds an M.Tech. degree in Computer Technology from IIT Delhi. Other than computing, he has interest in literature, writing, linguistics and collecting music and movies. He is the maintainer for a general artist website on artists called Anmol Fankaar as well as dedicated websites on singers Geeta Dutt, Noorjehan and Shamshad Begum in his spare time. He is a Life Member of the Society of Indian Record Collectors and the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers.
All Posts of Gajendra Khanna

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8 thoughts on “Madan Mohan: The Composer of the Classes

  • Srirams

    Great article on Madan Mohan Saab. His Music grows on you that creates a state of being intoxicated.
    Touches your heart to the core. His rendering of a classical melody was very unique.

    Another beauty of Madan Mohan that has not been mentioned in any article that I have come across so far is that the music between Mukhada and Antara can sound very different and may sound obscure but when it connects, It is beautiful and refreshing

    woh bhooli dastaan and naina barse are such examples.

    His music takes you on a journey where you do not care about the destination anymore.

  • Vipin Dabhi

    Very nice and informative article. Sir.
    I, too, like Madan Mohan’s music but my first choice is ShankarJaikishan.
    Sir, may I have your email addr.

    Vipin Dabhi.

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