Talat Mahmood – A Chivalrous Actor – A Mellow Singer

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Talat Mahmood, the singer, has already secured a place in the heart of Hindi music lovers. Over the years, this King of Ghazals has created an archive of songs for future generations to enjoy. He still has a fan following across the globe. A colossus in ghazals, who is yet to find a successor in this field.

Born in a highly cultured but a conservative family in Lucknow on 24th February 1924, Talat Mahmood had an ear for music from his early days. As a young lad, he would enjoy the music soirees of some of the greatest artists from Indian classical music. He also studied music at Marris, Lucknow for a short period. People began to take notice of his natural talents and he got offers at a very young age. Singing ghazals of Ghalib and Mir on All India Radio, Lucknow, he began his career at a tender age of 16. His distinctly velvet voice was noticed by HMV and he was given an opportunity to record a few non-film songs for HMV in Calcutta. His first recorded song……”Sab din ek samaan naheen tha, Ban jaoonga kya se kya main, iska to kuch dhyaan naheen tha”, written by Fayyaz Hashmi and composed by Subal Dasgupta. In Calcutta, his style of singing was praised by none other than singer-composer Pankaj Mullick.

The unrivalled success of “Tasveer teri dil mera behla na sakegi…..” set him apart from rest of his contemporaries. His style of singing, with a quiver and warble in his voice was considered ideal and precise for ghazals. His expressive style, mellowness and pathos added freshness to the exisiting style. Taking into account his handsome looks, one of the maestros who took notice of him, was P C Barua, whose company M P Productions signed him not just to sing, but also to act in the film Rajlaxmi (1945). This was his first appearance on screen with Kanan Devi. The handsome aura of this king of ghazals reached the Bombay film industry and he was surrounded by offers not only as a singer but also as a lead actor in the films.

Here’s a glance at his small career as an actor!!

1. Aaram (1951) – Though this film had Madhubala, Dev Anand and Premnath in the lead, Talat Mahmood shared screen space with Madhubala for a song. He appeared in the film as Talat – the singer.

2. Dil-E-Nadaan (1953) – He played the role of a Lucknow-based violinist whose father hates music, forcing the young man to escape from his family. The debutante Peace Kanwal, gradually falls in love with him and he with her. The third angle of this love triangle is played by Shyama. It is said that the producer-director of this film A.R.Kardar had launched a beauty contest just to search for a leading lady who would match Talat Mahmood’s looks.

3. Waaris (1954) – An inheritance melodrama where Talat Mahmood plays opposite another singer-actor Suraiyya and Nadira. The film includes several solos by each of them as well as some duets as this.

4. Ek Gaon ki Kahani (1957) – Under the direction of Dulal Guha, with Salil Chowdhury as the music director, the film has got some timeless songs picturised on the lead pair Mala Sinha & Talat Mahmood. It also has one of the finest tonga songs in Hindi films with Talat Mahmood on screen.

5. Sone ki Chidiya (1957) – The film is an adaptation of the story written by Ismat Chugtai. It has Talat Mahmood romancing Nutan on screen and singing to the tunes of O P Nayyar. The movie highlights the exploitation of the artists in the film-industry.

Talat Mahmood acted in total of 13 films with top heroines of that era. Though he was immensely talented he knew acting wasn’t his forte and hence he gave up acting to pursue his career in singing. Thereafter, Talat Mahmood, sang one hit song after another and continued to fascinate the hosts of ghazal and music fanatics, both in India and abroad. The songs and the ghazals sung by him, haunt his fans even today, for whom Talat Mahmood was a luminary giant!!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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