Madan Mohan: Unsung in life, eulogised after death
7 min read
Madan Mohan's melancholies somewhere lyricised the ache in his heart. A relook on his 98th birth anniversary.
Melody and melancholy. Rubaiyat and romance. That's the hallmark of Madan Mohan's music. Decades after his demise, his Lata Mangeshkar composition, Lag jaa gale from Woh Kaun Thi? has been voted the best love song of all times. In fact, the 'cult' refrain was used in Karan Johar's Bombay Talkies and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. It played in theSaheb Bibi Aur Gangster sequels and also an ad, such is the preoccupation with the elegy.

In a generation that roots for pop, jazz, rock, electronic rap… Madan Mohan's khyal-based ghazals and thumris have a life of their own. His complex tracks like Aaj socha toh aansoo bhar aaye, Nainon mein badra chhaye… serve as a barometer of proficiency in music competitions.

In a tragic way, Madan Mohan won more recognition after his demise than in his lifetime. "He would not pander easily to commercial demands or unfairly try to win awards.... Neither would he market himself with producers for big banner films... His self-respect and dignity, possibly, were the reasons why he may not have enjoyed as much commercial success in his lifetime," reflected son Sanjeev Kohli to

But the side-lining of his work hurt him deeply. The wrench seeped into his tunes. Cirrhosis of the liver was said to have cut his life short at 51. But it was the dejection and his seeking succour in alcohol that perhaps precipitated it.

"He went before getting redundant. Had he had lived for more years he would've got more embittered…," said son Sanjeev (Filmfare). Little did the maestro know while composing Majrooh Sultanpuri's lyrics for Baghi in 1953, that decades later they would serve as an epitaph for him…

Hamare baad mehfil main afsane bayan honge (Tributes will be paid to me in august gatherings)

Baharen humko dhoondengi, na jaane hum kahan honge... (The spring will search for me but wonder where I will be)

Madan Mohan was born on 25 June 1924 in Baghdad, where his father Rai Bahadur Chunilal Kohli was an Accountant General with the Iraqi…
Farhana Farook
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