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10 wistful Madan Mohan tracks that will move you

On the music maestro’s 42nd death anniversary, we examine some of his more sombre compositions which have stood the test of time.

Sonal Pandya

Madan Mohan Kohli, the legendary music composer, created beautiful melodies for scores of films he worked on around 25 years. Best known for his ghazals, Madan Mohan also created some timeless melancholic numbers which can still move listeners to tears. Here is a selection.

1. ‘Hum Pyaar Mein Jalne Walon Ko Chain Kahan’ – Jailor (1958)

Minerva Movietone’s Jailor (1958) starred the legendary actor-producer-director Sohrab Modi as a tough prison warden, Dilip, who is too hard on his own family. After enduring personal tragedies, he comes across a young blind woman, Chhaya (Geeta Bali), whose brother is jailed and tries to look out for her. With a story co-written by Kamal Amrohi, Modi remade the film, Jailor (1938), he had made two decades earlier. This time he used Madan Modan as music composer and Rajinder Krishan as lyricist, replacing Mir Saheb and Kamal Amrohi, respectively. In this solo number by Lata Mangeshkar, Chhaya sits at the piano to belt out her heartbreak.

2. ‘Yun Hasraton Ke Daag Mohabbat Mein Dho Liye’ – Adalat (1958)

Nargis, in director Kalidas’s Adalat (1958), plays a woman, Nirmala, who descends into despair after being abandoned by everyone, including the father of her child. Nirmala is forced into prostitution and, in this wistful song written by Rajinder Krishan, sings about how she has come to lose everything. Madan Mohan’s classic music and Lata Mangeshkar’s voice both highlight Nirmala’s pain as everyone around her make merry.

3. ‘Jo Humne Dastan Apni Sunai Aap Kyon Roye’ – Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

In Raj Khosla’s suspense thriller, Woh Kaun Thi? (1964), actress Sadhana plays a mysterious woman whom Manoj Kumar’s character Dr Anand keeps having interactions with. When he agrees to marry a woman his mother chooses, he is shocked to discover it is none other than Sandhya, a woman he thought was dead. In this emotional song, Sandhya tries to establish a relationship with her new husband only to be brushed off by him. The lyrics for Woh Kaun Thi? were written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and this number was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The standout of this film’s soundtrack was, of course, ‘Lag Jaa Gale’, also by Mangeshkar.

4. ‘Phir Wohi Sham’ – Jahan Ara (1964)

The story of Jahan Ara Begum, eldest daughter of the Mughal emperor Shahjahan and his wife, empress Mumtaz Mahal, by director Vinod Kumar was not successful at the box office. However, the music of Jahan Ara is remembered even five decades later. In particular, a number of songs rendered by singer Talat Mahmood and picturized on Bharat Bhushan endure. Written by Rajinder Krishan, the song ‘Phir Wohi Sham’ is an impressive rendition by Mahmood, whose career was given a boost by this album. The young princess Jahan Ara (Mala Sinha) chooses filial duty over love and Bhushan’s character Mirza nurses a broken heart in the song.

5. 'Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hai' – Aap Ki Parchhaiyan (1964)

A family drama directed by Mohan Kumar, Aap Ki Parchhaiyan (1964) centres on the fractured relations between members of one family when older son Baldev (Suresh) brings home his wife (Shashikala). Dharmendra is the dutiful younger son, Chandramohan, who is torn between his brother and his old parents. Bengali actress Supriya Chowdhury played his supportive love interest Asha, and in ‘Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hai’ she tells Chandramohan that she is willing to share his sorrows. Lata Mangeshkar sings this tender number written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

6. ‘Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil’ – Heer Raanjha (1970)

For producer-director Chetan Anand’s retelling of the legendary tale of Heer Ranjha, the filmmaker roped in Madan Mohan and poet Kaifi Azmi to bring alive the doomed love affair. Raaj Kumar and Priya Rajvansh played the lead pair. Here, Raaj Kumar as Raanjha sings of his anguish as he is forcibly separated from his Heer. This was just one of many productions based on the tragic tale of love from the Punjab. However, it is still recalled fondly, especially for its memorable music by Madan Mohan, and this song remains one of singer Mohammed Rafi’s best.

7. ‘Maee Ri Mai Kase Kahoon’ – Dastak (1970)

Rehana Sultan, in her first film, showed off her acting chops alongside Sanjeev Kumar in Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Dastak (1970). Both artistes won National awards for their work in the film. So did music composer Madan Mohan, winning his first major musical award with his Indian classical compositions for the film. The song ‘Maee Ri Mai Kase Kahoon’ sung by Madan Mohan favourite Lata Mangeshkar is a standout, simply because of the singer’s range. On screen, Rehana Sultan portrayed her character, a young newlywed whose frustrations at being boxed in and yearning to be free come to the fore. The songs of Dastak were written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

8. ‘Tum Bin Jeevan Kaisa Jeevan’ – Bawarchi (1972)

In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bawarchi (1972), Rajesh Khanna’s Raghu decides to transform the Sharma family by becoming a bawarchi (cook in Hindi) and helping the family members reconnect with one another. The film’s soundtrack showed off Madan Mohan’s knowledge of classical music. ‘Tum Bin Jeevan Kaisa Jeevan’ was sung by the gifted Manna Dey. In the film, young Krishna (played by Jaya Bhaduri) imagines her life after separation from the young man whom she loves during this song written by Kaifi Azmi.

9. ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’ – Mausam (1975)

Like Hrishikesh Mukherjee before him, writer-director Gulzar employed Madan Mohan’s compositions to enhance his film. Mausam’s story dealt with past regrets as Sanjeev Kumar’s character, Dr Amarnath, tries to make up for his previous regressions with the woman he loved and tries to help her daughter. The melancholic version of the song ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’, sung by Bhupinder Singh, takes Sanjeev Kumar down memory lane in the film. This version is more poignant and meaningful than the slightly happier duet sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder. All the songs on the album were penned by Gulzar himself.

10. ‘Tere Liye’ – Veer-Zaara (2004)

Twenty-nine years after his death on 14 July 1975, Madan Mohan's incomparable music was resurrected for Yash Chopra’s Indo-Pak love story Veer-Zaara (2004). Gathering his unused tunes over the years, Madan Mohan’s son Sanjeev Kohli created the soundtrack for the film starring Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta. Lata Mangeshkar, who counts some of her best songs with Madan Mohan, got the opportunity once again to sing his compositions with ‘Tere Liye’, a bittersweet duet of love lost and regained, with Roop Kumar Rathod. Javed Akhtar wrote the lyrics for the album.