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14 July 2015

An Afternoon Tryst with Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar

Photo courtesy: Rediff.in
You really appreciate summers in Massachusetts, when Winter blesses you with 120 inches of snow, and it's followed by a cold, wet Spring. So here I am, sitting on a lazy Sunday summer afternoon, savouring a plate of roasted sweet potatoes and fresh fennel, a glass of rosé wine by my side, and this is the perfect occasion for Madan Mohan songs. I have long wanted to write a post on him, one of my favourite music directors. I'd even planned when I would post it - on his birth anniversary. But they have come and gone for two years running, and I still haven't buckled down to writing a detailed post on this master composer. 

It is with a sense of shock that I realised that his death anniversary is only a couple of days away. That wasn't enough time to do justice to a 'The Masters' post, so I decided to do the next best thing. His collaboration with Lata Mangeshkar is legendary - it is said that Lata's voice has an added sweetness when she sings her Madan bhaiyya's compositions. So why not a post on Lata Mangeshkar's songs for Madan Mohan - a perfect tribute to the maestro on his 40th death anniversary?

This wasn't that easy either; there are so many Madan Mohan compositions for Lata that I love, and winnowing through them to get just a dozen songs was a difficult task in itself. (In fact, I ended up with a baker's dozen, since I didn't quite know which song to discard from my final list.) So while these are not my only favourite Madan Mohan for Lata Mangeshkar compositions, these are the songs that suit my present whimsy.

1. Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaye 
Dil ki Raahen (1973)
Lyrics: Naqsh Lyallpuri
According to Naqsh Lyallpuri, it was courtesy Madan Mohan that he was paid for the other three songs in this film, and it was again thanks to the composer that he got the opportunity to write the lyrics for Rasm-e-ulfat. The lyrics were written in about four hours, and Madan Mohan, as was his wont when he was pleased, invited Naqsh Lyallpuri to dinner, preparing his signature mutton dish all the while humming the ghazal. 

There are no videos available of this song, but the film, a sensitive look at an inter-religious romance, was produced by BR Ishara and starred his wife, Rehana Sultan. With the film a flop, the songs too languished, appreciated only by music lovers who owned the records of cassettes of the score. The fact that the songs are still remembered today, reminds us that good music will eventually find a way to be remembered.   

2. Hai tere saath meri wafa
Hindustan ki Kasam (1973)
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Most of us don't want to see one Priya Rajvansh; in Hindustan ki Kasam, Chetan Anand inflicted two of her on the viewers. Based on 'Operation Cactus Lily', Hindustan ki Kasam  dealt with the role of the Indian Air Force in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Though considered one of the finest war films made in India, along with the director's previous outing Haqeeqat, with real Indian Air Force air craft including Gnats and Hunters flown by war veterans, Hindustan ki Kasam flopped miserably at the box office. 
Chetan Anand was a Madan Mohan regular, and the latter composed some lovely melodies for the film, including the beautiful Manna Dey solo Har taraf ab yahi afsaane hai.  This song, is a particular favourite for the way that Lata Mangeshkar has sung it, and for the music that soars and ebbs in the background, sometimes allowing the singer's voice to take over. The video I linked to is missing one verse; here's the audio version with all three verses.

3. Baiyya na dharo
Dastak (1970)
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
The only film which fetched Madan Mohan an award - a National Award for Best Music - Dastak was a film that was far ahead of his time. A sensitive look at a newly-wed couple who discover that their new residence once housed a woman of ill-repute, and the husband's insecurities throttling his wife's talent, Dastak introduced Rehana Sultan to the Hindi film audience. 
Its box office failure also affected the chances of its music, and the score, which included Hum hain mata-ae-kucha-o-bazaar and Tumse kahoon ek baat, remained something only music afficianados listened to, and appreciated. Baiyya na dharo is quintessential Madan Mohan, with quietly complex melodies. It is an interesting song to listen to - Lata's voice flows with such effortless ease that she makes the song sound astoundingly simple. Until you try to sing it.  

4. Chand madham hai (1955)
Railway Platform
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
This is one Lata-Madan Mohan song that I can listen to any time, and not get tired of it. Originally a nazm titled Intezaar, Sahir Ludhianvi reworked it for Railway Platform, which saw the debut of a young man called Balraj Dutt, better known by his reel name of Sunil Dutt. 
It is an aching melody, with a quiet sadness threaded through the notes; the despair emphasised by the sadness of Sahir's poetry and Lata's plaintive voice. I like that Madan Mohan allows Lata's voice to shine centre stage, the music receding during the verses, only to swell and weave their magic during the interludes. 

5. Khelo na mere dil se
Haqeeqat (1964)
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Ah, I must confess to having some heartburn here. I dithered for so long between Zara si aahat hoti hai, and this song, and Khelo na... won by a whisker! According to an interview with Sanjeev Kohli, his son, this was Madan Mohan's favourite song in Haqeeqat, and he was very sad that, due to the length of the film, Chetan Anand trimmed it from the final version. Due to that, there is no video of the song, unless some kind soul finds the missing reels and uploads them. I love the violins in the prelude and interludes, poignant and melodious, complementing Kaifi Azmi's lyrics that sing of the aching apprehension of a love not yet realised. Lata's clarity of notes, the softness of her voice even while touching the high notes, give a superb composition a gloss that lifts it to the status of a classic.  

6. Ja re badra bairi ja 
Bahana (1960)
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen
Yet another song for which there is no available video, and I wonder if it was picturised on Meena Kumari? Once again, I'm struck by the way the music takes a step backward when Lata is singing, only to come into prominence during the interludes. It's almost as if there is a real jugalbandi between the composer and the singer, each one complementing the other, but never imposing themselves. Perhaps it is my husband's influence, but I'm actually beginning to recognise (some) instruments - jal tarang and flute? (Correct me if I'm wrong.)    

7.  Main toh tum sang nain milake
Manmauji (1962)
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen
This was Madan Mohan doing what he does best - a gentle, slightly melancholic melody, where Lata's pure notes are perfectly complemented by the master composer's music; his interludes, in fact, much lighter in tone than the anguish that underlines Lata's voice. 
If you have doubts about Madan Mohan's versatility, all you have to do is to listen to Kishore Kumar's duet with Lata Mangeshkar, Ek tha Abdul Rehman or his frothy solo, Zaroorat hai zaroorat hai, from the same film. But musically, I much prefer Main toh tum sang nain milake. Its anguished lyrics too resonate better with me.

8. Lag jaa gale 
Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
One of the films for which Madan Mohan was at least nominated for a Filmfare Award, but which, as usual, eluded him, Woh Kaun Thi? had a whole clutch of beautiful songs. I dithered for long between Naina barse rimjhim and Lag jaa gale, but chose the latter for its sheer melody that is achingly, hauntingly sweet; its effect heightened by the allure of Lata's voice - ethereal, enticing, seductive. Her notes sound clear and pure, and she brings out a sense of the ephemeral, a desire to snatch a few moments of happiness from the Fates. 
That the song still sounds as fresh as ever more than half a century after it was originally composed is a testimony to the composer's greatness. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan's lyrics capture the 'here-today-gone-tomorrow' feeling with great simplicity, and Madan Mohan's sublime composition is certainly one of his finest. I hesitate to say this is the 'best' Lata-Madan Mohan composition, but it comes very close to being one of their best collaborative efforts, and that is saying something. One cannot, of course, ignore the lyrical efforts of Raja Mehdi Ali Khan (or Madan Mohan's arrangers) in creating this masterpiece.  

9. Mere piya se koi 
Ashiana (1952)
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen
This is an earlier Lata, one whose voice still hadn't lost the depth it once had before film composers realised that in her, they had someone who could effortlessly soar into the higher octaves, and insisted on the high clear voice that she perfected because it dovetailed with their vision of the young, virginal heroine.
Lata is still effortlessly touching the high notes here, but her voice is 'heavier', for want of a better word. This was one of Madan Mohan's earliest films, his first film as an independent composer having been Aankhen in 1950. It is when I hear these songs that I begin to realise how fortunate we were/are that we grew up with/were introduced to such melodies...   

This is a song that never fails to bring a lump to my throat; there is such an ache in the lyrics, the music, and the voice. 

10. Saanwri soorat man bhaayi 
Ada (1951)
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Enough of plaintive melodies, with apologies to Wordsworth. Here is a very 'unlikely' Madan Mohan composition - 'unlikely', not because Madan Mohan never composed light, frothy songs, but because he was better known for his ghazals or his 'melodies', many of which held anguished notes. Once again, a lesser known film, not a great commercial success, and the score languished as well, though this song played quite frequently on Radio Ceylon. 

This was the first film for which Lata Mangeshkar sang for her munh-bole bhai, after a misunderstanding caused her to turn down his debut film, Aankhen. According to Lata, she first met Madan Mohan, when they recorded a duet Pinjre mein bulbul bole under Ghulam Haider's baton for Shaheed (1948). However, it was not used in the movie. Later, when Madan Mohan got a break as an independent composer, someone misled her about Madan Mohan, and she refused to sing for him. The misunderstanding was quickly cleared up by Madan Mohan, and from this film on, she would sing some of her career's finest songs under her rakhi brother's baton. 

11. Yun hasraton ke daag
Adalat (1958)
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen
Like Haqeeqat and Woh Kaun Thi?, I had several moments of serious dithering when it came to choosing a song from Adalat. I love Unko ye shikaayat hai, but as I said when I began this post, these songs were chosen on a whim. So Yun hasraton ke daag it is! 
Adalat  was one of those films where it was far, far, better to listen to Madan Mohan's exquisite compositions than it was to actually watch the very convoluted plot meander to its tiresome end. Once again, I actually recognise the sounds of the tabla  and the sarangi in the interludes. (Yes, they are both visible in the video, but I wasn't actually watching the video when I was listening to the song. And besides, half the time there is one instrument playing in the orchestra, and quite another shown on screen. Meri veena tum bin roye is a perfect example of this.)

12. Bairan neend na aye
Chacha Zindabad (1959)
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishen
Truth to tell, I hadn't heard of this film before; neither had I heard this song before this afternoon. But it is a song that I quickly grew to like.
Anita Guha was rather lucky - she had some lovely Lata compositions picturised on her, especially in Sanjog and Dekh Kabira Roye.  I have no idea how Chacha Zindabad at the box office, but this film also had the wonderful Manna Dey-Lata Mangeshkar duet, Preetam dharas dikhao. This song, another plaint, is a masterpiece from the Madan Mohan - Rajinder Krishen - Lata Mangeshkar trio, and is well on its way to become one of my favourite songs.  

13. Woh jo milte the kabhi 
Akeli Mat Jaiyo (1963)
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
I think this song has all the hallmarks of a Madan Mohan composition - exquisite melody, sensitive and poignant lyrics (by Majrooh, instead of Madan Mohan regular Rajinder Krishen) beautifully rendered by Lata Mangeshkar, and a film that flopped at the box office. It seems to have been the master composer's curse that many of the films for which he wove the magic of his musical genius either did not deserve his compositions, or they inexplicably failed despite a good plot line. (Or the truly great songs were edited out of the film in the final version.) 
I have never watched Akeli Mat Jaiyo, simply because it stars Rajendra Kumar and I'm wary of him, though I did like him in Mere Mehboob and Kanoon (and I'm sure there were a couple of other movies that I can remember if I put my mind to it, but the wine is clouding my faculties), but honestly, I usually steer clear of his films. But it has Meena Kumari! And Madan Mohan's songs! One day, perhaps...

And so I come to the end of this post, having just skimmed the surface of two great talents. And while Lata Mangeshkar is still alive, her rakhi brother passed away, a deeply hurt man, on the 14th of July, 1975. He was only 51. Perhaps it is of no consequence, but one of his songs from Baghi (1953) that Lata Mangeshkar always sang in tribute to her Madan bhaiyya had these words:
'Hamaare baad ab mehfil mein afsane baiyaan honge, 
Baharen hum ko dhoondengi, na jaane hum kahaan honge.'
In hindsight, it appears almost prophetic. 

*Shaking off my sudden mood of melancholy* What are your favourite Madan Mohan compositions for Lata Mangeshkar?

If anyone is interested in listening to the songs in the background, here's the playlist.


  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful choice of songs ! What a lovely post. Not only your posts bring out some wonderful songs but also the tidbits and info about the songs that make a very informative and interesting read. I just went though the songs, and have to find a quiet hour to listen to them. You have some of my favourites, chand madham hai topping my favourite list. I used to have a cassette Lata in pensive mood, they were all Madan Mohan songs.

  2. Thanks, Neeru.I'm glad you enjoyed the songs. I haven't put up the playlist yet, but I will get around to doing it when I break for lunch in a few minutes.

  3. Thank you for those very kind words, Ritika. Should I apologise for introducing you to 'new' songs? :) I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

    These songs weren't a part of my 'age' either, Ritika, growing up as I did in the seventies and eighties. Our parents listened to these songs. Some of these are from my dad's youth and early adulthood - you could say he grew up with them. But yes, we had the radio (not the television until much later), and there were so many programmes on old songs - Bhoole Bisre Geet, Jaimala, Sangeet Sarita, Aap ki Pasand, etc. Between Vividh Bharti and Radio Ceylon, I think any household that possessed a radio, was exposed to old Hindi film music.

    To an extent, you are more fortunate because now the Web throws up several gems - songs that even we haven't heard before!

  4. Anu

    Wonderful post! Baker’s dozen is not enough , with this combo
    …..dil mange more…….

    My absolute favorites Lag ja gale , mere piya se koi, saanveri surat man bhayi and chand madhan.

    Sapne me sajna se do batien from Gateway of Inda I love this

  5. Something went wrong it did not upload the first time

  6. Thank you, Ashraf. No, a baker's dozen is not enough; perhaps a baker's dozen posts with a baker's dozen songs will not be enough... but we have to put a stop somewhere.

    Yes to Sapne mein sajan se do batein - I love the song as well. Thank you for the addition.

  7. I was just going to post the link when I noticed you had posted it separately. :) Thanks.

  8. Please excuse the comment below, Disqus would not allow to edit, I will try again if I can.
    I first came to know of Madan Mohan with Adalat songs and since have liked his music a lot. I am sure Anu, you have a lot more songs on your list. Of course I have enjoyed everyone of your selection. May I add a few that I like to listen to :
    Baharen humko dhoondhegi" from Baghi

  9. Fixed the link - you had a '-' instead of '=' after the Text
    Except for a and href, there is no space between any of the other commands.

    But it works! :) Yaaay!

  10. Oh Anu, Than you so much for your help ! Next time, I will do better :) .

  11. A great listing no doubt. Even 25 songs of the
    combo will not do full justice to their works. May I add "Tum Ho Saath Raat Bhee Haseen
    Hai" from Mohar (1959) and “Woh bhooli daastan" from Sanjog(1961).

  12. "But it has Meena Kumari! And Madan Mohan's songs! One day, perhaps..."

    No, no! Please do not. I did watch it, for one song in particular (Thodi der le kiye mere ho jaao), even reviewed it - but, oh, what a horror of a film. It should've been named Kabhi Mat Dekhiyo.

    You know, Anu, it's odd, but the first few songs in your list - right up to Main toh tum sang - didn't ring a bell until I actually listened to the song in question (barring Chaand madham hai), but as soon as I began listening to the songs, I recognized them. All lovely ones. Thank you for that - and for Lag jaa gale, which I always think has Lata and MM at their best. What a simply gorgeous song.

    And, while I'm torn between several songs, here are two I especially like:

    Woh bhooli daastaan lo phir yaad aa gayi:


    And, though the film was melodramatic in the extreme, Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai:


  13. Thanks, Mahesh. I love Woh bhooli dastan and had thought of it, but if I put in every song I liked, then the list would spill over into a blog of its own. I'm so glad you posted it here. I hadn't recognised Tu ho saath as a song I'd heard before until I listened to it - thanks for bringing it back to mind. I've linked both your songs, so it's easy for other readers to listen if they care to. :)

  14. Madan Mohan is one of my favourite music directors and Kishore Kumar is my favourite singer. So you can imagine how I felt when I came across this unreleased song sung by Kishore Kumar and composed by Madan Mohan. The composition isn't anything like the Madan Mohan compositons we are used to, personally I feel it is more like a R.D. Burman composition. It is not all that great a song.

  15. It was rather pleasant. Obviously, I hadn't heard it before, so I'm glad you posted the link, Shilpi.

  16. When I read posts like this Anu, I am struck again by your knack for curating music and telling the story of film music in an interesting way. From the beginning, it's been my favorite part of your blog :) I think my favorite on this list, besides the ubiquitous but amazing lag jaa gale has to be rasm-e-ulfat, which is quite charming.

  17. I just noticed that you had already mentioned "Baharen humko dhoondhegi". So here are a few more that I like :
    From Jailor : hum pyaar mein jalne Walton ko
    From Mera Saya : nain on mein badra chaye
    From Hanste Zakhm : my fav from it is tum Jo mil Gaye ho, ye jahan mil gaya but it is not Lata solo,
    The other I like is

  18. Oh Anu, just a couple of days back I was mulling over the thought of doing a 'Lata sings for Madan Mohan' and since that was on my mind, I woke up humming 'Ja ja re ja saajna' (Adaalat) this morning!
    And now I see this. :-)

    Very well written and lovely songs. Among the songs you have listed, I really like Rasm-e-ulfat, Baiyaan na dharo, Lag ja gale and Main toh tum sang.

    Another song, sung very sweetly by Lata, which I am fond of is Dil unko uthe ke de diya -

    And then there is Naino mein pyar dole from Sheroo -

    And Naino mein badra chhaye from Mera Saaya and Teri Aankhon ke siva from Chirag...

  19. Thank you, Miranda. What a lovely thing to say! :)

  20. The song from Baaghi was not in my post, except as an apt ending, so I'm glad you posted it here in the comments.

    Nainon mein badra chaye was mentioned in the comments; yes, it is such a quintessential Madan Mohan song, isn't it? I'll do the linking for you. Sorry you're having trouble. I'd problems with my Internet for most of today - everything was so slow the site would crash before it fully loaded.

  21. Heh heh. :) Blogland is full of coincidences, Harini. Glad you enjoyed the post. There are far too many Lata-Madan Mohan songs that I enjoy, so picking them at random was as good a ploy as any.

  22. "That bad? I have to read your review of it now!"

    Here you go. It's awful. Meena Kumari's loveliness and the songs are the only saving grace.


    I realised, after Disqus published my comment, that in the brief while during which I had gone hunting for the Youtube video for Woh bhooli daastaan, Mahesh had already posted it. But decided not to edit it - it's a good song, anyway.

    Yes, Chirag needs one to keep away from it. I watched it when it was shown on DD years ago. I was a kid and had a lot more patience for idiocy than I do now, but even back then I thought it painful. :-(

  23. Once again, thanks for coming to my rescue :)

  24. Excellent writing as usual. But as I went through the first five songs, I thought your 'present whimsy' had gone overboard, and then I found Ja re badra bairi ja, Main to tum sang nain mila ke, Lag ja gale, Mere piya se koi ja ke kahiyo and other great songs one might have put up at the top in a less whimsy mood. But great list finally. The readers have added most of my remaining favourites. You have mentioned the film Baghi, but I don't find the song, Hamare baad ab mehfil mein afsane bayan honge. Another one which no one seems to have mentioned is Maine rang li aaj chunariya sajna tore rang mein.

  25. Anu,
    Please ignore the last two sentences of my previous comment. I see you have given the Baghi song too.

  26. I went and read it yesterday. And I laughed hysterically through your review. But you know what, in a train-wreck kind of way, I actually want to see it now - with your review open on my laptop beside me. :)

    Woh bhooli dastan can't be posted too many times. :)

    And see, Chirag now, is a film you couldn't pay me to watch again! It was painful even at the age when I could, and did, sit through any film that was being shown on telly.

  27. AK, There is no particular order to the songs. I rarely have them so, in any of my lists, except perhaps chronologically.

    But you don't like Chand madham hai, Baiyya na dharo and Khelo na mere dil se? I can understand your not thinking much about Rasm-e-ulfat and Hai tere saath meri wafa since they are 'later' songs, but I love both of them.

    You didn't spot the link to the song from Baaghi, did you? :)

    Thank you for the mention of Maine rang li aaj chunariya. I'd completely forgotten about the song. Dulhan Ek Raat Ki was another quintessential Madan Mohan score for an eminently forgettable film! Let me link that.

  28. Shalini Razdan16 July 2015 at 17:43

    I'm not a particular fan of the Madan Mohan - Lata combination[temperamentally resistant to mythologizing, I think :-)], but I love a number of songs in your post - rasm-e-ulfat, baiyan na dharo, khelo na, chand madham hai, ja re ja badra, woh jo milte the and never tire of listening to them.

    Another favorite that I haven't seen mentioned yet is "na aasman na sitare fareb dete hai" from Neela Akash.


  29. Heh. I'm not much for mythologising either, but it was MM's birthday, and this was first thing I thought of - he had some really lovely compositions that she sung for him, so why not use it as a way to make a list? :)

    And see, you found so many songs that you liked as well. :) Thank you for adding a song that is not the 'usual suspects'.

  30. The more I see the songs posted, it seems he has given some great music to a lot of forgettable movies. Not that some were not hits, but more flops than hits.

  31. Anu,
    I mentioned some I would put at the top. There some more in your list which would figure in my best list: Chaand madham hai, Wo jo milte the kabhi, Bairan neend na aye, Yun hasraton ke daag, Sanwari surat man bhayi re piya. That is why your list was great, finally. :)

  32. Yes, that seemed to have been the story of his life. Salil Choudhary was another music director who scored for many flop and unreleased films. Thanks for the link - Jahan Ara had some wonderful songs.

  33. Thank you for saying my list was finally great. :)

  34. Here's my email! :-) Madan Mohan was a genius...no question.

  35. Definitely, but that's a song that I have mixed feelings about, simply because of the lyrics. :)

  36. kadimbini mathur24 July 2015 at 14:05

    a beautiful song that requires a special mention is..Na tum bewafa ho..na hum bewafa

    hein... from EK KALI MUSKAI https://youtu.be/VsWRDZ0asDA

  37. kadimbini mathur24 July 2015 at 14:13

    Another beautiful composition is ..Agar mujhse mohobbat hae...mujhae sab apne gam de do...

  38. Thanks for the addition to this post, Kadimbini.

  39. Love that song. Here it is:



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