It just so happened that the last film I reviewed on this blog was Sone ki Chidiya, which starred Talat Mahmood—better known as a singer, a man with one of those heartrendingly beautiful voices that can turn even a so-so tune into something sublime.
Today is the birth anniversary of Talat Mahmood: he was born on February 24th, 1924. Had he been alive, today would have been his 86th birthday. And so, to celebrate: a listing of ten of my favourite tunes sung by the Sultan of the Soulful Song (my appellation for Mr Mahmood). All from the 1950’s and 60’s, and all from films I’ve seen. These are in no particular order, though my absolute favourites are towards the top of the list.
1. Main dil hoon ek armaan bharaa (Anhonee, 1952): For anybody who’s been visiting this blog long enough and often enough, this should come as no surprise: I am not a Raj Kapoor fan. Ergo, I am also not a fan of songs picturised on RK. This is one of the exceptions—and Talat’s mellifluous voice, light and romantic and not at all nasal (that’s something I do not like!) is fabulous. And notice how his voice is so controlled? He never lets it build up into an uninhibited, ear-shattering crescendo.
2. Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa (Chhaaya, 1961): Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa had two versions: a more light-hearted one that was a duet (with Lata Mangeshkar), and this, a sad version sung by Talat. It’s a very lovely song (obviously inspired by Mozart’s 40th Symphony), of a doomed love that should never have happened. Beautiful lyrics, a great tune—and what a glorious voice, all raw emotion through and through.
3. Aha rimjhim ke eh pyaare-pyaare (Usne Kaha Tha, 1960; with Lata Mangeshkar): Usne Kaha Tha was an excellent film, but tragic—not something you’d immediately guess by the light-hearted sweetness of this song, sung in a rain-drenched evening amidst the fields and copses bordering a village. It’s lilting and infectious, a cheery tune in praise of nature and love and all things bright and beautiful (in which I’d definitely include both Sunil Dutt and Nanda!)
4. Phir wohi sham wohi gham (Jahanara, 1964): If Aha rimjhim ke yeh pyaare-pyaare is lighthearted, this one’s anything but. Phir wohi sham wohi gham is haunting, and Talat’s voice brims over with the pain of a man yearning for his beloved—a woman he can’t hope to ever make his own (she’s a princess, he’s a commoner). Bharat Bhushan isn’t one of my favourites, and Jahanara itself didn’t make me clap my hands with joy—but this song is amazingly poignant in the loneliness it evokes. So is another fabulous Talat ghazal from Jahanara, the beautiful Main teri nazar ka suroor hoon.
5. Hain sabse madhur woh geet (Patita, 1953): Dev Anand is one of those actors for whom just about every male singer sang playback. In Patita itself, both Hemant and Talat sang playback for him—and though I like Yaad kiya dil ne a lot, Hain sabse madhur woh geet wins, hands down. I like this song for many reasons: the rippling music, the sensitive and uplifting lyrics, the picturisation (Dev Anand at his best, the beautiful Usha Kiron)—and, best of all, Talat’s voice which manages to convey the spirit of the song: comforting, soothing, gentle—very effectively.
6. Dil-e-naadaan tujhe hua kya hai (Mirza Ghalib, 1954; with Suraiya): Bharat Bhushan again! Yes, I don’t care for him, but he had some great songs picturised on him—and this is one of them. Mirza Ghalib had a stunning musical score (and the lyrics, mostly Ghalib’s own ghazals, were fabulous). This song, a duet with Suraiya, is one of the best, and the way Talat ends the song is simply awesome.
7. Jalte hain jiske liye (Sujata, 1959): My favourite telephone song (which is another list I should perhaps be compiling one of these days). Talat, singing for Sunil Dutt, moulds his voice perfectly to that of the affectionate lover, singing to the girl he should not (if he were to follow the strictures of society) be even thinking about. The tune dips and twirls in the most beautiful way, and Talat sings it effortlessly. There’s this line in Jalte hain jiske liye which goes: “Geet naazuk hain mera sheeshe se bhi” (“My song is more fragile than glass”): a good description of so many of Talat’s songs; they have a delicate beauty that seems so very fragile…
8. Humse aaya na gaya tumse bulaaya na gaya (Dekh Kabira Roya, 1957): I adore this delightfully farcical film, and I like the fact that the only songs picturised on a male singer are those for Anoop Kumar, who plays a singer. Here, he romances his beloved—in Talat’s voice, which of course gives him a huge advantage!
9. Humein haal-e-dil tumse kehna hai (Chaubees Ghante, 1958; with Asha Bhonsle): This is the sort of song I’d have associated with Rafi in a lighter vein. But Talat Mahmood, along with Asha, pulls it off, making this duet a very catchy one. I saw the film years ago and don’t remember much of it except that Prem Nath acted a cop masquerading as a servant in order to nab some criminals. What I do remember is this song, romantic, sweet and so easy on the ears.
10. Pyaar par bas toh nahin hai (Sone ki Chidiya, 1958): What’s even better than a song sung by Talat Mahmood? A song sung by, and picturised on, the man himself. The very good-looking Talat starred in several films, of which Sone ki Chidiya was one. This isn’t a sympathetic role (he jilts his lady when he discovers she’s not as rich as he thought), but this song is very romantic, Talat’s voice marvellously controlled and deeply emotional. [Aside: I always think a song sung slow is vastly difficult to handle, but how does Talat do this so seemingly effortlessly? Brilliant.]
This, by the way, is the official Talat Mahmood website. It has loads of information about him, downloads, photographs (including some gorgeous stills from his films!) and more.