RMIM Archive Article "370".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Naushad on Talat
# Source: Rediff on the Net, May 16 98
# Author: Naushad (as told to Sharmila Taliculam)
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
Naushad on Talat
How a great voice was stilled
Talat Mahmood, of the rich and mellow voice, had a fan
following that was more musically aware than those of his
Born in Lucknow, his father was a good singer as were his
sisters. But coming from a conservative Muslim background,
singing was not encouraged. Talat had to choose between a
career in acting and singing and staying at home. He opted
for the former, though the family accepted the fact only
about a decade later when the industry gained
After a three-year course in music, he came to Bombay and
did some broadcasting before composer Anil Biswas gave him
his first break.
Talat acted in a few films, but preferred singing. And
when singers arrived who shifted easily between bass and
soprano, he could not keep up -- his voice didn't allow
it. He sang few songs after that.
Naushad Ali, the legendary composer, was very close to
him. Talat and he came upon the new kind of music
together. While Naushad adjusted to the new realities, he
admits Talat had his problems.
Still, this was also the time Talat began battling with
Parkinson's disease. He couldn't sing any more and his
career came to a standstill. Naushad remembers Talat the
legend and recalls how that rich voice was silenced.
The only way to describe Talatsaab is to say that he had a
silky voice. I have always said this to everybody who
asked me. His voice never suited loud songs, songs that
demanded a high-pitched voice. Shouting or screaming
didn't suit him and so he avoided those kinds of songs
too. He only sang soft, romantic, lyrical, ghazals.
His nature was a quiet one. He was a decent man and his
voice reflected that decency and sense of calm. When you
listen to him, you get the feeling he's a soft-hearted
man. Because one's character reflects one's art too.
He lived in Lucknow and brought the culture of that place
with him. He accorded the same respect to everybody and
left a lasting impression. He always smiled, never
speaking loudly. I never heard him say anything bad about
others. Whenever I went to see him while he was sick, he
always welcomed me with a smile on his face. He must have
been laughing at the last moment too, I'm sure.
He was a legend in the industry. He acted in many films
but stopped because it didn't really suit his
temperament. We also made films from my production house,
Uran Khatola, Babul and Malik, the last with Suraiya. But
he really didn't like acting much.
Legends like him aren't born everyday and when they do
their place can't be filled by anybody. Like K L Saigal,
Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh... Nobody can fill their
places. Where ghazals were concerned, Talat had the same
stature as Begum Akhtar.
In Calcutta, he acted in a few films and sang in Bengali
too. But he sang just one ghazal and was an instant hit in
Bombay. And throughout his career, though he sang many
film songs, he was more famous for his ghazals. For my
film Babul I made him do the playback for all the songs
sung by Dilip Kumar. Talat may not have got the same
respect for the film that I did, but I definitely
benefited from his singing.
I was working in Kardar Productions in the fifties and
Talatsaab had come to meet director Nitin Bose's assistant
at whose home he was staying. That is where I met him
He met Anil Biswas first when he came down from
Calcutta. I was making a film Palkhi and I thought of
asking Talatsaab to sing a song. The song was recorded and
picturised. My partner, the director, who died before the
film was complete. Another director came in and demanded
that the song should be sung by Rafi and not Talat. I told
him the song was already picturised, but he wouldn't
listen saying Rajendra Kumar, the hero, wanted Rafi to
sing for him.
Talatsaab was very angry with me. He felt humiliated. I
explained what had happened, telling him I was under a
contract and didn't have any say in the matter. It
happened again with another film, Aadmi. There was a song
involving Dilip Kumar and Manoj Kumar, and I asked Talat
to sing for Manoj.
This film was almost finished when the producer told me
that Manoj Kumar wanted Mahendra Kapoor to sing for
him. Again, I explained to Talatsaab, but this time he
smiled and hugged me saying that it didn't matter anymore.
His voice didn't suit the new songs of the time, loud,
harsh and demanding a great deal of shouting. Which may be
why the heroes didn't like him singing for them.
His voice had transparency, it was silky. It was not that
he didn't want to sing the new kind of song. He was
successful in the sense that he won't be forgotten. His
songs have a audience and they will keep his memory
alive. Because of his disease, he couldn't sing. He wasn't
well those days. Still he was okay with me and understood
After a few months, HMV wanted me to cut a private album
and I thought that I should ask Talatsaab to sing the
songs. Unfortunately, he began falling ill often and we
couldn't do it together. His voice became more unsteady as
Parkinson's disease advanced. And he couldn't sit straight
or talk clearly.
He stopped singing and avoided stage shows. He slowly
found it difficult to say anything. He became very
dejected and stopped going anywhere. He would remain in
his house the whole day. He got trapped in his dejection,
his sadness. That worsened his health and he kept going
down. But he never showed it. He would be smiling. People
knew he was heart-broken, but they respected his silence
on the subject.
He had a good character and, despite being in this line,
was never involved in any scandals. His daughter and son
were very respectful to him.
His conservative parents had objected to him becoming a
singer though they also were musical people. Things only
began improving when people from respectable families
started joining the industry. He didn't discourage his son
from singing either.
Financially, he was well situated, though not rich. He
signed a deal for his building with the Rahejas and
invested the money wisely. Still, people go away, but
memories remain. And I believe that they are never
forgotten though the image might fade away. I will end by
saying: "Sunne wale, meri awaaz to suni, dil bhi toota hai
mera, uski bhi jhankar suni."
As told to Sharmila Taliculam