Talath Mahmood: King of gazals

Talat sketch

One of my lecturers used to say that the soul of vintage music can only be felt when you close your eyes while listening to it; as melody doesn’t require any celluloid visuals to prove its worth. You will realise this when you listen to the songs of Talat Mahmood. His songs can create a new world inside you. As you listen to his songs, the melodious voice takes you into a magical world, where you get to see different people with different emotions. You may see an emotionally wounded lover, a teenage fun loving guy, a depressed drunkard, a painter or a romantic prince.The voice of Talat Mahmood is very unique for the fact that it gently grows inside you. I think no other singer can sing light romantic songs, sad songs and gazals the way Talat saab did. His expressive style and emotional nuances are hardly found in any other singer.

‘bechain nazar betaab jigar, ye dil hai kisi ka diwana haye diwana’

This light romantic song says the feelings of a lover boy with utter simplicity and Talat conveys the lyrics in much more simple way yet touching our hearts. There are hundreds of such master peices sung by Talat.

‘mera qaraar le jaa mujhe beqaraar karjaa dam bhar tho pyaar kar jaa’

‘ye hawa ye raat ye chaandni’

‘ankhon me masthi sharaab ki kaali zulfo me aanhe shabaab ki’


‘mein dil hu ek armaan bharaa tu aake mujhe pehchaan zaraa’

Songs like these represent the same mood yet retaining its uniqueness. Talat has worked with many eminent music directors. Naushad, S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Shankar Jaikishan and O P Nayyar to name few of them.
I find a very strong relation between Talat saab’s songs and the beautiful evenings. His songs are enjoyed better in the evening. Perhaps, this is why he has sung many songs on the theme ‘shaam’.

‘shaam-e-gham ki kasam’

‘phir wohi shaam wohi gham wohi thanhaayi hai’

When it comes to Urdu lyrics, who else can sing the poetic lines of Ghalib – with that kind of passion – other than Talat Mahmood?

‘dil-e-naadaan tuje hua kya hai?’

I love the duets talat sang with Shamshad begam, Suraiyya, Lata Mangaeshkar, Asha Bhosale and Geeta Dutt. They are too melodious and will haunt you forever.

‘milte hi aankhe dil hua diwaana kisi ka’

‘mohabbath me eise zamaane bhi aaye’

‘samaa ke dil me hamaare zara khayaal rahe’

‘chaahe naina churaao chaahe daaman bachaao pyaar hoke rahega’

‘pyaar par bas to nahi hai’

‘itna na mujhse tu pyaar badaa’

I can’t think of any songs by other singers which can match up to the caliber of these romantic songs. Romantic songs come out very beautifully in the velvet voice of Talat.

talat - orchestra

The one genre of songs which Talat Mahmood was famous for was the sad songs.

‘hai sab se madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur me gaathe hai’

‘andhe jahaan ke andhe raasthe jaaye tho jaaye kahaan?’

‘aansu samajh ke kyo na mujhe aankh se tune gira diya’

‘ei dil mujhe eisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho’

‘ei game dil kya karu Ai vahshate dil kya karu’

‘ei mere dil kahi aur chal gham ki duniya se dil bhar gaya’

‘chal diya karvan lut gaye hum yahaan’

‘dekh li teri khudaayi bas mera dil bhar gaya’

He has sung folk-based songs also. I wonder the way he balances the variety of light romantic, folk and gazals and manages to carry the ‘trade mark of talat’. In urdu songs he emphasises the royal richness of zaban-e-urdu and in folk songs he maintains the utter simplicity of rural life.

‘chali kaun si des gujariyaa tu sajh dhaj ke’

‘jaa jaa re sub na jaa re kahee de sajanwa se’

Talat was born in Lucknow in 1924. He began his music career at the age of 16. Initially he used to sing gazals of Galib, Mir and Jigar for AIR. HMV was the first recording company to recognise his singing talent. HMV did the honours of bringing out his first gazal album. This made him a star and he was soon welcomed in Bombay film industry. His first few songs made him the king of film romantic songs and rest is a history as we know today. He passed away in 1998. But his songs and his memories will be always cherished by his fans all over the world.


15 thoughts on “Talath Mahmood: King of gazals

  1. Talat saab was a class apart. The only other person who could match his brilliant renditions was the legendary Manna Dey, whom I had the good fortune of interviewing.
    Yes, these singers, including Mukesh, were non pareil in belting pathos-ridden numbers… songs that touched the soul and tugged at heart strings…
    I love the way you have likened Talat’s voice to performing meditation. I turn on Mukesh and Mohd. Rafi when I’m depressed… and I get even more depressed:)
    There’s some strange pleasure in pain, is it not?

  2. Yes I do agree with you. There is some strange pleasure in pain. I read it some where that the word gazal can be interpreted as pain.
    Manna Dey is my favourite aswell. You must be so lucky to meet the legendary person. My father has a huge collection of audio cassettes most of them are old classic film songs. He has a special place for the cassetes of Talath, Manna Dey, P B Srinivos, Gantasala and A M Rajah.

  3. It happened quite by chance that I interviewed Manna Dey, for it had been over 12 years since he spoke to the media!

    Come to think of it, I’ll write about the manner in which I got to interview him in a post sometime soon:)

    What was unforgettable about the whole episode was that he sang my favourite song “Aye mere pyare watan… ” on my request!

  4. Anand, That sounds great. Please write about those wonderful moments in your blog. I will be waiting. Among Manna Dey’s songs I like ‘Kaun aaya mere man ke dwaare, paayal ki jhankaar liye’ very much. The song ‘sur naa saje kyaa gavoon mein’ is also very good. ‘Aye mere pyaare watan’ is superb as hundreds of his other songs.

  5. Out of so many songs not even a single song which is bad to listen. He sings from the heart and sings to the heart.His songs does not have modulation or alteration of lyrics. Full of depth of meaning

  6. Great fan of Talat Mahmood myself, thanks for the great blog. Your listing of his great songs can help me find what I am missing. Every night I listen to his songs from the obsolete casettes, yet helps me to dive into deep sleep.

  7. I have no words to express the silky voice of Talath saheb, there is no singer like Talath. Some of his songs while singing tears roll down my cheeks. 100% of his songs are master peice:

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