Sanjeev Kohli looks back at music of ‘Veer Zaara’ on its 16th anniversary

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Yash Chopra was so fond of Tere Liye that it remained as his ringtone till he breathed his last. On the 16th anniversary of the timeless romance ‘Veer Zaara’, Madan Mohan’s son Sanjeev Kohli recounts how the iconic soundtrack of the film was created.

Yash Chopra’s ‘Veer Zaara’, which starred Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta, was a blockbuster romance. The film’s beautiful story was a rage among audiences and this catapulted the movie to a timeless love story status. The music of ‘Veera Zaara’ too is iconic as audiences were treated to late Madan Mohan’s unreleased and brilliant soundtracks like Tere Liye. Yash Chopra loved the song so much that it remained his ringtone till he breathed his last.

Yash Chopra wanted an old world score for the film which was set 22 years earlier. He had sittings with various composers but felt it was not working. In a chance moment, Madan Mohan’s son Sanjeev Kohli, who was CEO of YRF at the time, mentioned that his late father had left behind some unused/rejected dummy compositions. Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra heard them and immediately decided that ‘Veer Zaara’ would have music by the maestro!

Sanjeev Kohli recounts in the book ‘Veer Zaara’, The Memoirs of a Love Legend, “Veer Zaara for me was the realization of a dream that I could never believe would ever come true. When my father, the late composer Madan Mohan, passed away in 1975, he was only 51 years old. A lot of music still to be created, a lot of tunes yet to be shared with the world, a lot yet to be achieved! He was widely acknowledged as a great composer but big banners, films with big stars and popular awards always eluded him, and in fact this hurt him deeply. The tapes remained safely kept away, though, over the years, they were suffering damage and with technological developments, they would soon be obsolete.”

He adds, “In 2003, one day Yashji told me that after 6 years he had decided to direct another film, but a film that needed old world music that was away from the western influences that had crept into the scene today. Instinctively, I blurted that I had some old world melodies on tape, now not heard for 28 years. He seemed excited at the idea and very surprised that I had never mentioned this before. His son, Aditya Chopra was scripting the new film. Adi was a man of today and needed commercially acceptable songs. There was no place for nostalgia and emotions here. Only Yashji and Adi knew what they needed. I didn’t.”

The selected unheard tunes were recorded, some 50 years after they had been composed! This had never happened before and Billboard magazine wrote about its significance. The song Tere Liye which became the song of the year then, was based on a rejected tune for the song Dil Dhoondta Hai from a 1975 film, Mausam! Javed Akhtar, who made his debut as a lyricist with Yash Chopra’s ‘Silsila’ in 1981, worked again with the director over two decades later with this film. Lata Mangeshkar was 75 years old at the time, but it was befitting that she sing the songs as these tunes were originally composed by Madan Mohan decades ago, for her to sing!

Sanjeev says that the songs took a year to record and opens up about how Yash Chopra was keen to have Lata Mangeshkar sing in the album! He says, “Yashji was clear that only Lataji would sing the female songs and that thrilled me because all Madanji tunes were made only for Lataji and it would have been incomplete if she did not sing them. But at the same time it concerned me. It would be so challenging for her to sing for Madanji again after 30 years! She was keeping indifferent health and people could be unfair in passing judgment on her. But she found an inner strength to sing as only she can.”

Sanjeev was thrilled when his father’s compositions received such overwhelming love. He says, “With Veer Zaara, every fantasy of mine came true in one stroke. Madanji’s tunes formed the soundtrack of one of India’s biggest and most successful films, created by India’s most successful producer and director, Yash Chopra. The top stars of today, Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherji, formed the cast of this film. And what a coincidence that Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini danced to his tunes again and once again his songs were on the top of the charts for almost an entire year, and he finally won many popular awards.”

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