Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Handsome, debonair, soft spoken, king of Ghazal singers, singer with a velvet voice,etc., are a few adjectives used to describe late Talat Mahmood who ruled the hearts of millions of listeners of Hindi film songs and ghazals. Born in the year 1924 in Lucknow Talat Mahmood studied for three years at Morris College of Music and started broadcasting for AIR Calcutta. HMV spotted him in their talent search and his song "Sab din ek samaan nahin tha" was an instant hit when the album was released by HMV. He steadily rose as a ghazal singer and playback singer in Calcutta and also did bit roles in films. It was during this period that his beautiful nonfilmy ghazal"Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Bahalana Sakega" (1944} was released which remains a hit even today. Later he shifted to Bomby to pursue a career in the film world.

Talat Mahmood with his supremely handsome personality, soft voice and talent for singing soon got several chances to act in films. He acted in about 15 films , some of them against top heroines like Suraiyya,Nutan, Peace Kanwal,etc. But he did not flourish as an actor and decided to stick to playback singing. His first big break as a singer was in the film,"Arzoo"(1949)under music director Anil Biswas. The ghazal "Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal" from this film was received wholeheartedly by the discerning listeners.His silken voice,soft rendering with a vibrating end to the lines, the ability to express the soul of the song, be it pathos, grief, romance or joy all made him the music lovers' favourite. The trace of vibration in his voice was unique which made his love songs and ghazals a different listening experience.

For about two decades from 1945 Talat sang innumerable songs in films and non filmy media.His songs can be classified into three.viz., regular light film songs, filmy ghazals and non filmy ghazals. His large number of non filmy ghazals were also highly popular.Though he did not sing as many songs as his contemporories like Rafi, Lata, Mukesh and later Kishore, a majority of his songs were popular and hummed nostalgically even today. Again, though he sang for a large number of films it used to be one or two songs per film unlike the others who got a number of songs in each film. But Talat proved that it is not number but quality that mattered.

Talat Mahmood had sung under the baton of all the top music directors of his time. S.D.Burman made use of his voice for several films like Taxi Driver (Jayen to Jayen Kahan) and Sujatha (Jalte hain jiske liye) .The song scene from the film Sujatha picturised on Sunil Dutt singing into a telephone to Nutan was an all time favourite film clip. Naushad used his voice beautifully in films like Babul, Baradari etc.The song "Tasveer Banata Hoon" from Baradari was a big hit. Again, who can forget the beautiful songs, "Raat ne Kya Kya " from film "Ek Gaon ki Kahani","Bechain Nazar Betaab Jigar" from Yasmin {C.Ramachandra},"Yeh Hawa Ye Raat Yeh Chaandini" from Sangdil, "Dekh Li Teri Khudaai" {Kinare Kinare -Jaidev} and Shan -e-gham ki quasam{ Foot Path -Khayyam}. In Daag and Patita he sang beautiful songs for Shankar Jaikishan. Again for Shankar and Jaikishan he sang a distinctly pleasant song ""Tu Roop ki Raani Main Choron ka Raja" in the film with the same name. His songs for Music directors Anil BIswas, Ghulam Mohammed and Madan Mohan were a class apart. For Ghulam Mohammed he sang a haunting ghazal "Phir Mujhe deede-e-tar yaad aaya"{Film Mirza Ghalib} and several other songs in Dil-e-Naadan, Laila Majnu, Malik etc. For Anil Biswas he sang in Aaram, Taraana, Do Raha, Waris and Jasoos etc.The soulful song "Jeevan hai Madhuban"was from film Jasoos. Of all the music directors it was Madan Mohan who exploited Talat's vocal talent to the full in films ,viz.,Aashiana,Madhosh,Choti Bahen, Haqueeqat etc. The song "Mera Quarar Leja" and "Mein Paagal Mera Manva Pagal" and "Hamse Aaya na Gaya" from Dekh Kabira Roya{Madan Mohan"}brought out the best from Talat.
He also sang a few enchanting duets with Lata for Madan Mohan,e.g.,Ek Nai Nai Preet"{Pocket Maar} and "Meri Chamak Ki Ankahon mein"{Chotte Babu}and a notable chorus with Bhupinder,Manna Dey and Rafi in Haqueequat. {Hoke Majbhoor tujhe}

By the middle of the 60s the era of Talat started fading mainly because of the change in taste of listeners in favour more versatile voice like that of Rafi and later Kishore.Fast paced and open throated singing came into prominence. Rock-n-roll type music also made its presence. Filmgoers were unable to reconcile the silken soft voice of Talat with the youthful actors like the rebel hero Shammi Kapoor, the jumping jack Jithendra, the angry young man Amithab Bachhan, super star Rajesh Khanna, macho Dharmendra or even with the likes of Joy Mukherjee,Sashi Kapoor, Navin Nischal, Sanjev Kumar or Manoj Kumar.It is also a fact that though Talat had sung for many successful films they were not superhit musicals like a Madhumati, Bobby, Sangam, Taj Mahal, Naya Daur or a Mere Mehboob. Even the hit songs of Madan Mohan in Jahan Aara could not ressurect him. Talat started concentrating on his very successful stage programmes and ghazals throughout the country and abroad including an appearance in the Royal Albert Hall, London, the first singer after Lata to do so. { I had the good fortune to hear his live programmes and the one he held at the front football ground of Malabar Christian College, Calicut, along with Geeta Dutt is still fresh in my memory.}
Tail piece:- Who was the most handsome male playback singer of Hindi films of yesteryears? It could be a toss up { shoot out?} between Talat and Mukesh !!!