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The voice of seduction

February 25, 2003 15:57 IST

Music is said to soothe the soul of the most savage beast. This holds true particularly for Talat Mehmood's songs.

Talat's soft, dulcet voice holds reservoirs of serenity and depth. This master of the art of understatement was confident enough to never raise his voice and yet weave a web of sonic entrancement. Talat Mehmood

Though Talat sang all kinds of songs when he was a busy playback artiste in the 1950s, most of his repertoire consists of sad songs, especially ghazals. The singer's range is encompassed within 1953's Zindagi dene wale sun teri duniya se jee bhar gaya to resonant emotion 10 years later in the 1963 song Dekh li teri khudai bas mera dil bhar gaya.

But as Talat sang, Hai sabse madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur mein gaate hai.

Fortunately, he had to face few upheavals in his life. A musical prodigy, the 1924-born Talat learnt music in his native Lucknow and started getting offers to sing professionally while still in his teens. Young Talat sang on the radio, cut private songs like the successful Tasveer teri mere dil ko and in the mid-1940s moved to Kolkata to try his luck as a singer while enacting supporting roles in films like Rajlaxmi and Samapti.

In 1949, Talat shifted to Mumbai and started accepting playback singing assignments for Swayamsiddha and Raakhee. The dawn of the 1950s saw the birth of a new star when Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal from the Dilip Kumar-Kamini Kaushal starrer Arzoo (1950) won Talat widespread appreciation for his inspired rendition. Arzoo's

Talat Mehmood's famous solos
 Year  Song Film (picturised on)
 1950  Aye dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal  Arzoo (Dilip Kumar)
 1950  Mera jeevan saathi  Babul (Dililp Kumar)
 1952  Main dil hoon ek armaan bhara  Anhonee(Raj Kapoor)
 1952  Aye mere dil kahin aur chal  Daag (Dilip Kumar)
 1952  Yeh hawa, yeh raat, yeh chandni  Sangdil (Dilip Kumar)
 1953  Zindagi dene wale sun  Dil-e-Nadaan (Talat Mehmood)
 1953  Shaam-e-gham ki kasam  Footpath (Dilip Kumar)
 1954  Jaaye to jaaye kahan  Taxi Driver (Dev Anand)
 1956  Lagi re yeh kaisi  Devdas (Dilip Kumar)
 1957  Humse Na Aaya Gaya  Dekh Kabira Roya (Anup Kumar)
 1959  Jalte hain jiske liye  Sujata (Sunil Dutt)
 1964  Phir wohi shaam  Jahan Ara (Bharat Bhushan)
mellifluous music was scored by Anil Biswas and the consequent friendship between the duo lasted five decades.

Talat followed Arzoo with a series of deeply romantic hit songs (Milte hi aankhen and Mera jeevan saathi) in Babul, a blockbuster released later in the year. His voice retained subtle, velvety even when faced with Shamshad Begum's powerful, firing-on-all-cylinders voice. What is more it registered an impact. Matters didn't work out with Naushad thereafter and Talat lost out on the chance to sing with him. Even their late 1960s rapprochement with Aadmi (1968) didn't prove very fortuitous.

After Arzoo and Babul, Talat was recognised as the voice of Dilip Kumar leading to some heart-stoppingly beautiful collaborations in Taraana, Daag, Sangdil, Shikast, Footpath, Devdas. He was flooded with work.

The first half of the 1950s was the busiest period in Talat's life.

Leading composer of the time rushed to capitalise on that special romantic kashish so crystal clear in Talat's voice. Shanker-Jaikishan utilised his voice effectively in the gloom-and-doom numbers of Daag and Patita (Aye mere dil kahin aur chal, Andhe jahan ke andhe raaste) while C Ramchandra made Talat render an exquisite ghazal for Parchhain, Mohabbat hi jo na samjhe, woh zaalim pyar kya jaane.

Even the notoriously demanding Sajjad Hussain was a frequent subscriber to Talat's vocals and their team resulted in the perennial classic Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni. S D Burman utilised Talat as a specialty voice and used him sparingly but to maximum effect in films like Taxi Driver where Talat sang just one song but the most popular Jaayen to jaaye kahan, Devdas and Sujata.

Like his contemporary Mukesh, Talat was bitten by the acting bug. Talat was dazzled when major filmmakers like Kardar (1953's Dil-e-Nadaan) and Sohrab Modi (1954's Waris) offered him roles. Kardar even held a contest before choosing Peace Kanwal as his heroine in Dil-e-Nadaan. But the soft-spoken, unassuming Talat's acting career remained, at best, unspectacular.

Between 1953 and 1958, he played the hero in seven other films -- Dak Babu, Raftaar, Diwali Ki Raat, Ek Gaon Ki Kahani, Lala Rukh, Maalik and Sone Ki Chidiya. Popular heroines like Suraiya, Nadira, Mala Sinha and Nutan were cast opposite him and in Sone Ki Chidiya, he left some impact as Nutan's feckless lover.

At the end of the decade, Talat reverted full time
More golden stuff!
 Song  Film  Co-Singer
 Duniya badal gayi  Babul  Shamshad
 Seene mein sulgate hain  Taraana  Lata Mangeshkar
 Aaja aaj tera intezar hai  Sazaa  Lata
 Dil mein sama gaye sajan  Sangdil  Lata
 Jab jab phool khile  Shikast  Lata
 Dil e nadan tujhe  Mirza Ghalib  Suraiya
 Rahi matwale  Waris  Suraiya
 Chali kaunse des bijuriya  Boot Polish  Asha Bhosle
 Sach bata tu mujhpe fida  Sone Ki Chidiya  Asha
 O dildar bole ek baar  School Master  Lata
 Itna na mujhse tu pyar jata  Chhaya  Lata
 Aye sanam aaj yeh kasam khaye  Jahan Ara  Lata
to his first love, singing. He regained some of the ground he had lost. 1959's Jalte hai jiske liye teri aankhon ke diye from Sujata was a smash success and it reaffirmed Talat's ability to induce aural seduction with his feather light crooning.

The sixties were in many ways a harsher decade cinematically. Talat's old-world charm looked increasingly out of place. Old friend Madan Mohan (their teaming went back to the memorable Meri yaad main tum na aansoo bahana in the early 1950s) gave Talat one last hurrah with Jahan Ara which sparkled with Talat beauties like Teri aankh ke aansoo pi jaoon, Main teri nazar ka suroor hoon and Phir wohi shaam.

Talat still sang straight from the soul but he couldn't adopt to changing trends in Hindi cinema. Thereafter, Talat sang only for the odd, little-known film while he concentrated on private albums and on concerts held repeatedly in the US and all over the world.

Talat Mehmood passed away after a cardiac arrest in 1998. Born February 24, Talat would have been 79 had he been alive.

Dinesh Raheja