Those who had lived in forties, fifties, sixties and seventies of the twentieth century, and were song lovers, they cannot forget the immortal Talat Mahmood, a singer with a velvet voice. His songs still trilled us and make us nostalgic and we went back to our yesteryears. He had a unique voice, distinguished from his contemporary singers and had an inimitable style of singing. Apart from singing Hindi and Bangla films and modern songs, he was famous for singing ghazals. Talat Mahmood was born on February 24, 1924, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. He was one of six children of his parents. His father was named Mansoor Mahmood. Talat had musical leanings from a very young age and would enjoy sitting through all-night music soirees listening patiently to some of the biggest names in classical Indian music then. His family was a conservative family and singing was not encouraged. He had to choose between working in the films or staying at home. He opted for the former. His family accepted the fact only about a decade later when he gained respect in the industry.
To make his fortune, he moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata). In 1944 , he recorded a disc the hit Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Behela Nah Sake Gi. Its popularity was so phenomenal and unrivalled that even today it remains one of the top selling non-film discs. This disc brought Talat the fame throughout India and soon he was honoured by the Calcutta film industry. Talat made cameo appearances and starred in about 16 movies, for both in Calcutta and Bombay (now Mumbai) Film Industries. In Calcutta, he recorded a lot of Bangla songs under the assumed name of "Tapankumar". Several of his Bangla songs were super hits in Bengal and are still very popular. He sang to the tune of eminent music directors like Kamal Dasgupta (Du'ti Paakhi Du'ti Teere), Sudhin Dasgupta ( Ei Rimjhimjhim Barosha), Rabin Chattopadhyayaa ( Chander Eto Aalo), Hemanta Mukhopadhayay ( E Jodi Aakash Hoy) and V. Balsara (Tumi Sundar Jodi Nahi) during the 50s and early 60s. His other hit Bangla songs of that periods were, Ruper E Prodip Jele Ki Hobe Tomar, Je Mala Sukhaye-Je Kotha Phurae, Tomare Perini Ni Je Bhulite, Duti Pakhi Duti Tire, Jetha Ram Dhonu Othe Hese, Je Akhite Ato Alo Charano, and Sono Go Sonar Meye.
In 1949 Talat Mahmood moved to Bombay, to sing for the Bombay film industry. His name and fame had already preceded him and soon he was flooded with offers. His big break came with the song Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagha Le Chal Jahan Koi Na Ho, composed by music director Anil Biswas for the the movie Arzoo in 1950. In the following years, Talat was considered a handsome man and a good singer, which prompted movie producers to try him as an actor. Talat acted in over a dozen films with top actresses of the time like Nutan, Mala Sinha, Suraiya and others. Later he decided to give up acting to concentrate on singing. That was probably the right decision he took.
Instead of an actor, we found an incredible and one of the best singers of our time. How one can forget his song, Ai Merte Dil Kahin i Aur Chal, in the Movie Daag (1952), Main Pagal Mera Manwa Pagal , in the Movie Ashiana (1952), Zindegi Dene Wale Sun in the Movie Dil-E-Nadan (1953), Ye Hawa Ye Raat, Ye Chandni, in the Movie Sangdil, Jaye To Jaye Kahan, in the Movie Taxi Driver, Jalta Hai Jiske Liye, Tere Ankhoke Ke Liye, in the Movie Sujata, Tasveer Banata Hu, Hamse Aaya Na Gaya,and Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyar Bata, are remarkable. Among the Ghazals he sang, Sham-e-Gham ki Kasam, Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal Jaha Koi Nahi, Phir Wohi Sham Wohi Gham, Tasveer Banata Hu, Naseeb-e-Deeda-o-Dil, and Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Bahlana Sakegi, are still very famous.
In popular mind he was considered as a singer of sad songs of Ghazal varieties. When the popular taste began to change after mid-sixties, his demands started to fade. This was one of the sad parts of his career. So from the late 60's onward, Talat Mahmood was often unkindly thought of recording songs. He was awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest award of the Indian Government in 1992. He died on May 9, 1998, at the age of 74. Talat Mahmood songs are still heart throbs and mind blowing to us and will be remembered years to come.
Professor Mesbah-us-Saleheen teaches Environmental Science at Gono Biswabiddalay, Savar, Dhaka.