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August - September 2007


He touched hearts with his notes

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Hindi Cinema has seen many music directors, but not like Madan Mohan. He was a creative genius, he proved it time and again with his fantastic compositions. Even after three decades of his demise music lovers can not forget him….Why ?

What makes music of Madan Mohan so enduring and endearing ? It is difficult to point out a single factor. The foremost reason comes to mind is, he loved Music and he Lived for Music. He poured his soul into every tune he created. That sets him apart from many Music directors of Indian Cinema. Film Music is a special kind of music. There are characters, situations , scenes and a story that unfolds through all these components ;and a composer has to work ‘ freely ‘ within the confinement of a script . And to note that Madan Mohan came out with great tunes every time, makes this composer unique, one of a kind .

It is a well known fact that he was with All India Radio, at Luknow Where he listened to stalwarts like Begum Akhtar, the queen of Ghazhals.There is one Gahzhal in ‘Jahan Aara’ which has a line ‘tumhe yaad ho ke na yaad ho’.A famous Ghazhal by Begum Akhtar ‘Who jo hum main tum main karaar tha ‘also has such line to end the Sher(couplet) This is not just a coincidence, it is influence . But why only begum? He must have listened to many more singers and musicians of the era, right from his childhood .The activity must have sharpened his innate skills. Because only ‘listening’ cannot give you ability to express musically. He was a gifted composer who turned a musical phrase in to a memorable tune. He always composed tune to the lyrics and not asked lyricist to set words to his tunes.

How would one describe Madan Mohan’s music? It is a blend, a fine one, of Indian and Western Classical. Indian Classical Music has set rules regarding the structure of a Raaga, but it is flexible enough to allow freedom to improvise. Imagination of the artist is the only limit. On the contrary, Western Classical Music is more rigid, because it written and set, and that is final. Madan Mohan did not ‘copy’ either style. He blended elements of both styles of music to create everlasting compositions. He thought of total musical pattern, was very sensitive to the aesthetic quality of the complete song. That is why, there is not a single note or an instrument which sounds out of place.

As mentioned above, Indian classical music, which has Raaga system, has

some rules. Every  Raaga has a particular “Chalan” that is, the way ‘Swara’(musical note) are presented. Then comes the “Vistaar” or expansion of the raaga. Here imagination and practice of the artist are important .Many music directors resorted to this system to compose their tunes, with some honourable exceptions.

Madan Mohan used Raaga to base his tunes, that is all. Take Raaga ‘Yaman’, which is said to be the Raaga with infinite possibilities. Madan Mohan composed “Jiya Le Gayo  Ji” in this raaga. Another song from Haqueeqat, “Zarrasi Aahat Hoti Hai” is based on ‘Yaman Kalyan’. Take another example; for “Chaayee Barakha

Bahar” (Chiraag) he uses ‘Megha Malhar’, because the situation and words demand

that  raaga. It also has a dash of ‘Shahana Kanada’ .But in “Woh Chup Rahe

to”(Jahan Aara) he blends ‘Miya Malhar’  and ‘Ramadasi Malhar’ beautifully. Note

the different “colour” he brings out from those ragas. “Naino main Badara  Chaye”from “Mera Sayaa” uses metaphor of Rain and Clouds, but here he refrains from using any kind of ‘Malhar’ and uses ‘Bhim Palas’ instead. One of the greatest compositions of Madan Mohan, “Baiyan Na Dharo”

from ‘Dastak’ is based on Raaga ‘Charukeshi’, again not purely; it can be

classified as Mishra Darbari also. His another moving tune “Agar Mujhase Mohabbat Hai”(Aap ki Parchaiyan) is based on ‘Darabari’. His immortal composition, “Hai isi main Pyar ki Aabroo” is a mélange of variety of  “Todi” raagas, plus a tinge of ‘Komal Rishabh Asawari’, again a morning raaga. ‘Piloo’ is a raaga mainly used for ‘Thumari’. Madan Mohan composed “Maine Rang li Aaj Chunaria”(Dulhan Ek Raat Ki) and soulful “Jaana Tha Hamse Door”(Adalat) in the same ‘Piloo’ raaga. He could derive two

completely different emotions form same set of notes.

      ‘Ahir Bhairav’ , is a widely used Raaga in Hindi film music. Generally tunes are based on the traditional “cheeze”(composition)of that raaga. Madan Mohan uses same raaga with totally new angle and mood in “Meri Beena Tum bin Roye”(Dekh Kabeera Roya).Other brilliant example is  his use of ‘Raaga Kalawati’. Listen to ‘Koi saagar dil ko behelata nahin’ from ‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’ .Madan Mohan comes out with “Ja Re Ja Sajana”(Dekh Kabeera Roya) based on the same raaga, but the style is different.

    Nobody used ‘Shivaranjani’ and ‘Bhairavi’ like Shankar Jaikishan in Hindi film music. Listen to Madan Mohan’s take on ‘Shivaranjani’ in “Rang aur Noor ki Baraat kise”( “Ghazhal”).“Kadar jaane na”(Bhai Bhai) and ‘Heer’ from “Heer Ranjha” , “Kar chale hum fida”(Haqueeqat), all these compositions are  based on ‘Bhairavi’ .Note the difference of shades. The list is very long.

     Madan Mohan’s compositions ,though based on a Raaga, appear different because he did not bind himself with the ‘chalan’ or structure of that particular raaga.

He chose ‘notes’ to suit the words. Film music(barring background) is solely based on words. Songs  are supposed to convey and enhance feelings, emotions. He knew it perfectly. He selected notes with care. He was not concerned with the purity of any Raaga, he was more concerned with Purity of notes(Surilapan).He used “Sur” to justify feelings the words were trying to convey.

There is a concept in classical music called “Thaharaav” that is lingering on a note. Listen the first and last  words of “Aaj Socha to Aansu Bhar Aye” or ‘Nibhayen’ in  “Rasme Ulfat Ko Nibhayen” .Take“Baiyan Na Dharo” how he ‘stops’ at  these words; or listen to “Phir Wohi Shaam”, these examples will illustrate this point amply .

Gazal or Ghazhal, is basically a form of writing ‘poetry’ . It has certain

limits like words per line and lines in a poem. It is set to a particular ‘meter ‘

.That makes ‘Ghazhal’ different from general ‘poems’ and ‘Nazm’ or ‘Geet’ . This peculiarity makes it very hard to set a tune to it. And Madan Mohan excelled in this very field

   ‘Ghazhal’ singing in a Mehafil is totally different. One Ghazhal can go on for an hour also, depending upon the mastery of the singer. But in films there is time limit. Not all songs may adhere to the style of Ghazhal writing. Ghazhal is like  telling an intimate

thing to some one very near and dear. Madan Mohan picked up the very crux of 

Ghazhal. He created his own style of composing Ghazhals. His Ghazhals come

from the heart and reach hearts. That is the reason Lata Mangeshkar describes

him as Shehezada of Ghazhal.

Another distinctive feature of his music is, his compositions of ‘sad songs’

are more beautiful, haunting. Was it because of his frustration, depression reflected

in those songs or just we feel so? Who can forget “Yun Hasaraton ke daag”, “Hai tere

saath meri wafa”, “Meri Aawaaz suno”, “Hum hain mata ai kucha” and many,many more.

His arrangement of instrument was also unique. Because he thought of “sound quality” of every instrument. He knew nuances of Indian as well as Western Classical music. He did work with S.D. Burman and Shyam Sunder, though for a short span, he  was more influenced by the later. He picked up that ‘haunting’ quality of a tune from Shyam Sunder. “Baharen phir bhi ayengi magar hum tum juda honge” is composed by Shyam Sunder. Madan Mohan was so impressed by the tune and the poem that later he created “Baharen humko dhundhegi”. Madan Mohan used string of String Instruments like, Violins, Sitar, Sarod, Mandolin  in harmonious way and created great effect. He used elements from the western music. Generally preferred ‘Obbligato’(using oblique notes to the main tune at the background of a song,) to ‘Contra’(same notes as used in a tune but  in a different pitch or octave) Listen to songs from “Dastak” or “Jahan Ara”, or any other of his compositions .Very rarely wind instrument such as  flute makes a brief appearance, like in the interlude of  “Phir wohi shaam”. He used Tabala with equal weight of singer’s voice and still maintained tuneful balance.( “Hai isi main pyar ki aabroo”)

   Of course his strength was his tunes, his compositions; but he used singer’s voice   deftly to achieve required effect. Two compositions come to mind immediately, which uses only singer’s voice. Here the artist in question is Mohammad Rafi. “Main yeh soch kar us ke dar se utha tha”(Haqueequat)is  a tender  treatment to a beautiful poem. Accompanying instruments are  next to nil. Only Rafi’s impeccable voice tells us a story of a soldier  forgotten by his family. Another one is from “Dastak”. “Tumse   kahoon ek baat paronse halki”. Moods are different, but it shows the command of a composer over his medium, musical notes. Lata Mangeshkar was the pillar of his innumerable songs, rightfully so. His compositions are so complex that who else can do better justice to them but Lata? Of course he did use Asha Bhonsle’s voice with equal ease and grace. (Remember: “Shokh nazar ki bijaliyan”). Madan Mohan and Rafi, Madan Mohan and Talat and Manna Dey or Kishore Kumar is a subject of separate articles.

Madan Mohan was a classicist in true sense. He never compromised with his

composition just to please somebody or to appease populace in general. Nearly always he touched sublimity in his creation. It is often said that his tunes were for the ‘class’ and not for the ‘mass’. I don’t agree. He had a large following in his lifetime. But his tunes are not easy to ‘hum’ so you don’t find them on everybody’s lips. Many of us failed to recognise his genius, that is our fault, not his. His soulful, melodious compositions will remain with music lovers for a long time.

Nikhil Gajendragadkar is a senior journalist in Maharashtra and also teaches Journalism & Communications at the University of Pune and other Journalism & Mass Comm.institutes. He writes extensively on entertainment media and socio-political subjects for English periodicals and International magazines.

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