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The Emperor of Soul

If I were to ever land up on a desert island marooned for the rest of my life, and I could choose songs from only one singer for company, it would definitely not be Kishore Kumar, Mukesh nor Manna Dey. It wouldn’t even be the legendary Rafisaab, arguably at the very pinnacle of the quartet. Nor would it be the rich baritone of my dear Hemantada (although I do feel this was a very tough choice to leave out) For company and applying salve to a lonely soul, there is ( & probably cannot be, as well) none better than the Emperor of Soul, Talat Mahmood.

Talat sahab’s ability to caress one’s soul, soothe one’s bruised mind, smoothen ruffled feathers is truly unparalleled. In this regards he is truly nonpareil. He would explore the mind and somehow even enter the darkest, least visited recesses one didn’t recall had existed and the emotional catharsis he could induce was unique. I have savoured his unmatched soul therapy for half a century. And despite hearing each song multiple times, always yearn for more iterations. Isn’t it amazing the man is celebrated as much due to his unchallenged position in the galaxy of stars, the Pantheon of all time greats, despite having, numerically, the smallest output of the top singers in Bollywood. But look at his magical touch, it is easy to understand why I wait for his song. Today is his 98th Birthday and it feels like yesterday when the man with the sweetest quiver in the voice of all I’ve ever heard decided to say Alvida . https://youtu.be/nk_0ML7iuVE

This amazing duet is apt for remembering the two unforgettables: Madhubala who passed away yesterday 53 years ago, and Talat sahab, who was born today 98 years ago. The song is also particularly apt because it is composed by the unassuming and self-effacing giant of Bollywood, Anil Biswas. It was Anilda that we owe Talat Mahmood’s voice to. As the story goes, Talat Mahmood’s ghazals on AIR Lucknow and especially Tasveer teri dil mera na behala sakegi, arguably his very first hit (not from a film and one that is remembered to this day, nearly 80 years after it was first heard) had got Anilda interested in Talat sahab. On the first day of the audition, he sang his published and well known songs and was selected. When he went for the recording, the first take had Anilda furious. Talat sahab consciously cut out the pronounced tremolo and sang. Anilda asked him angrily why he was doing that and told him clearly never to do it, as the unique quality made him stand apart from the rest, all of whom were clearly deeply impressed by the Colossus of the time, Kundanlal Saigal. Talat sahab, much chastened, went back to singing like himself and the rest, as they say, is pretty much, history. I shudder to think had Anilda not been forceful with the wilful omission of Talat Sahab’s vocal signature. We would have lost a gem in the melee of more of the same. In fact this lesson stood by Talat Sahab’s side when he gave up his acting career (he didn’t succeed in that area, despite being handsome and a better actor than the lumps of clay that were in those days touted as the leading ‘men’ ) & he could carve a niche for himself.

The movie Tarana had Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. A movie made by Ram Daryani, it had superb lyrics by Prem Dhawan. The musical genius of Anil Biswas is showcased beautifully in one of the best albums of all time. The story of the eponymously named village belle who falls in love with a doctor (curiously named Dr Motilal, despite the name being that of a famous actor of the time) was a huge hit of the time thanks to its everlasting musical compositions.

The quality of the song enticed my favourite singer of a different genre, Jagjit Singh to pay vocal tribute to it in his Close to my heart collection. https://youtu.be/LvWhCrxRrQY

But that doesn’t quite sound the same, does it? Check it out. https://youtu.be/6UCSMiBXdZA

Stay safe and happy, folks. Stay healthy as the warm weather approaches us. I will spend the day lost in Talat Mahmood’s immortal creations.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

12 replies on “The Emperor of Soul”

सीनेमें सुलगते हैं अरमॅां , हे गाणं सदाबहार आहे . कितीहि ऐकलं तरी कंटाळा येत नाही .

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