{ Page-Title / Story-Title }


S Mohinder, composer who excelled at doomed love and intense devotion

The yesteryear composer of Hindi and Punjabi cinema turns 90 today.

Sonal Pandya

The soft-spoken composer with a gentle demeanour has long retired from the world of film music, but S Mohinder's musical legacy in Hindi and Punjabi cinema endures. Born Mohinder Singh Sarna in Sillanwala, in Montgomery (now Sahiwal) district of Punjab in British India, young Mohinder was the only one in his family who had any musical leanings.

His first film as composer was Geet Aur Ansoo (1948), but the film was never released. Instead, Sehra (1948) became the first film on his filmography. Sehra was produced by Nirmala Devi and Arun Ahuja whose son Govinda would go on to become a successful actor in the 1980s and 1990s. Mohinder largely worked with Filmistan on their films.

S Mohinder narrowly missed out on composing the songs for the hit period film Anarkali (1953) and instead used his tunes in the Raj Kapoor-Nargis-starrer Papi (1953). Anarkali became another feather in the cap for music director C Ramchandra, while Papi, despite its formidable talent, failed to connect with audiences.

A few years later, however, S Mohinder soared with the music of Shirin Farhad (1955), another story of doomed love. Directed and produced by Aspi Irani, Shirin Farhad starred Madhubala and Pradeep Kumar as the tragic lovers. Mohinder used Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle to great effect on the soundtrack. In particular, the song ‘Guzra Hua Zamana’ by Lata Mangeshkar is still fresh in the minds of music lovers.

Mohinder worked steadily in the 1960s with a trio of swashbuckling films like Banke Sanwariya (1962), Zaraak Khan (1963) and Captain Sheroo (1963). The next decade found him turning to Punjabi films after the grand success of Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai (1969).

The National award-winning Punjabi film was re-released after 45 years in November 2015. Mohinder won his only major film award, the National award for Best Music Direction, for his spiritual score. The film had a host of Hindi actors with Prithviraj Kapoor in the starring role of the patriarch, Gurmukh Singh. IS Johar, Vimi, Jagdish Raj, David and Som Dutt (brother of Sunil Dutt) were also part of the film.

Mohinder lived in Andheri (West), a suburb of Mumbai, for 22 years where, as he recalled, one of the original bungalows of the famed Seven Bungalows was owned by him. At that time, his neighbours were Geeta Bali and Prem Nath. He left for the US in 1982 but came back occasionally to complete certain assignments. He now resides in the state of Virginia, away from the limelight.