Madan Mohan

Born on June 25, 1924, at Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, where his father Rai Bahadur Chunilal was working as an Accountant General with the Iraqi Kurdistan Police, Madan Mohan spent the first five years of his life in the Middle East. As a boy of two, Madan Mohan used to spend hours listening to gramophone records and cultivated the uncanny ability to recognize and pick up any record from a pile of hundreds. When his father had guests at home, he would ask Madan Mohan to pick a particular record from a pile and he could do so with unerring precision, leaving the visitors wonder struck as to how a tiny tot, unable to read or write, could accomplish this near impossible feat.[citation needed] After Iraq won independence from Britain, Rai Bahadur Chunnilal migrated back to India. He took his family to his home town, Chakwal in Jhelum district of Punjab, now in Pakistan, and left them in the care of Madan Mohan's grandfather, Hakim Yograj- a famous doctor. Rai Bahadur Chunilal left for Mumbai for business opportunities and subsequently became a partner in the Bombay Talkies studio and then in the Filmistan studio. Madan Mohan attended school there for the next six years. It is said that he inherited his talent for music from his mother, who was a poet and great admirer of music. His father was not very musically inclined, but grandfather Hakim Yograj and his younger brother, Prakash were staunch connoisseurs. They used to discuss the subtleties of music in Madan's presence. Later, Madan's father shifted the whole family to Mumbai and Madan became acquainted with some children of film personalities. These 'children' were Raj Kapoor, Nargis and Suraiya. At the behest of his father, he joined the army and received his first commission (emergency) in 1943. Personal traits like courtesy, endurance, discipline, physical fitness and punctuality were all fostered in him during those years. Though as history would have it, he quit the armed forces and turned to his first love—music. He joined All India Radio in Lucknow, where he brushed shoulders with such ghazal and classical luminaries as Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Begum Akhtar, and Talat Mahmood. He picked up their influences and carried them with him to Mumbai when he entered Bollywood. Not many know that he aspired to becoming an actor but ended up directing music.

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