Today, 9th May is the 24th Remembrance day of Talat Mahmood, one of the first ghazal singers and the undisputed Prince of Poignant Pain in Bollywood. Born in a very orthodox family in Lucknow, he was actively discouraged by his near ones to pursue his passion for music which took him to Morris College for training in Hindustani Classical Music with Pandit SCR Bhat first. He was approached by HMV to record a ghazal. This he did when he was just 16. Another ghazal he recorded soon after, Tasweer meri tera dil behala na sakegi was a superhit and actually sold more than 100,000 copies. He was thrust into the harsh spotlight of publicity and achieved celebrity status. The “flaw” the slight tremolo in his voice which was considered a hurdle by other composers was spotted by Anil Biswas who told him to never lose it, as it was his unique distinctive quality and he thankfully accepted the sage advice. More fame in Calcutta as an actor/singer followed and that continued even after shifting to Mumbai. Although his acting career was sadly short lived, he continued as a singer . This wonderful ghazal from Sohrab Modi’s “Mirza Ghalib” is from the same era. https://youtu.be/MZ1K1f6H83I
The sublime musical score was by Ghulam Mohammed, and Suraiyya sang superbly and acted too in the movie that fetched her awards and much praise from everyone including the then PM. He went on to award himself the Bharat Ratna possibly for liking the movie, as I don’t believe he really had any worthwhile achievements to deserve the title. He ensured we had a perennial problem of POK and gifted away 30,000 sq km of land from Aksai Chin, lamely justifying it by saying “not a blade of grass grows there” in the Indian Parliament. Talat Mahmood‘s singing prowess is on full display in the movie and the song. The dark hues and skillful monochrome photography ensure one doesn’t get a toxic dose of the male lead (Bharat Bhushan).
Interestingly the same ghazal has been sung by some other all time greats: K L Saigal and Mehdi Hassan. Saigalsahab’s version is very interesting, from a very early period. The singing is apt for the times. https://youtu.be/p-5u6-ojwDM
Talat Mahmood sadly became a threatened species with the rise of Rafisaab, Mukesh due to Bollywood stamping him as only good for sad songs, although his many joyous songs disprove this theory. He did continue to sing off and on post 1970 and did perform in many live concerts . Maybe because I heard the Talat version first or maybe because I am so fond of him, I actually like his version more than the one by the great Mehdi Hassan . And that’s saying something, isn’t it? https://youtu.be/y7ecraQSNOM
Here’s remembering the great maestro, the most soulful of singers in Bollywood, Talat Mahmood.
Stay safe, folks, stay away from the sizzling summer. If you must venture out, do hydrate yourself well.