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.

Hayachine Kagura

Few months  back I had a chance to know about this performing art of Japan from Prof. Sumio Murijiri, who is a Fellow of Tokyo Foundation and a project scholar of Waseda University, Theater Museum, Tokyo. He is also a visiting professor of Mangalore University. His research focuses on the comparative study of Hayachine kagura ( A performing art in Japan) and Yakshagana (A folk and semi-classical performing art of coastal Karnataka).

I was working for visual media and my work during that time was to carry out research about art and culture of coastal Karnataka for television programs. I approached the professor to know about his research and to take get a sense of his analysis of Tulu culture. During our talks the professor told me about Hayachine Kagura. He showed me the photographs and videos of this art. He gave me an article written by him about the similarities between these two art forms. It was interesting to know about two art forms which are centuries old and are geographically separated by thousands of miles to have some striking similarities between them.

Hayachine kagura

Hayachine kagura



In Japanese language, Hayachina means ‘sacred mountain’. As we know most of the Japanese relegions give a great importance to the mountains. For them these mountains are life and God. There are many villages in the foothills of these mountains following the age-old traditions of Japan.These villages are isolated from the modern towns which makes them sustain their traditional lifestyle like they do. There are many Kaguras still existing in these mountains, Hayachine kagura being one among them.

Hayachine Kagura was initially a part of royal traditions. Gradually, it got separated from the palace and developed in to being a folk art. Hayachina Kagura is performed in villages. Just like Yakshagana, there are many troups which roam from one village to another. These troups perform only in the pre-decided villages called as ‘kasumys’. It rarely happens that one troupe performing in the village allocated to other troupe. But when this thing happens, two artists from opposite troupes have to wear the Lion Mask and battle it out. The one whose mask falls first or the one whose lion’s tongue comes out will be the loser.

The artists keep the box containing the dress and other things in a house called as the ‘Kagura house’. This is either a priest’s house or the house of a daughter of an artist from their own troupe.  The villagers have a great deal of respect for these houses. The stage to perform kagura is usually the front yard of a house. The stage set-up is quite simple. The stage is open from three sides and the audience can watch the performance from these sides. The backdrop of the stage carries the symbol of the troup.

There is a special ritual to mark the taking of the dress from the box. Then a lion dance follows. The initial phase of kagura is of prayers. Then the performance starts which is full of hand movements. Unlike Yakshagana, there are no dialogues to the charecters. The artists have to say everything from their facial expressions and hand movements. Sometimes the charecters are seen wearing the masks and sometimes without the masks.  One more feature of this kagura is all the actors are given same preference. In Yakshagana that is not the case. Senior artist is always considered superior to the young artists and they appear in the later phase of the performance of yakshagana. In Kagura the singer of the backstage play a vital role, which makes him the key person or a director of the of the show.

In Yakshagana, the basic scripts are usually are based on ancient mythology and are taken from the writings of ‘Parthisubba’. Hayachina Kagura also follows the same path. The Kagura songs are based on the traditional mountain worshipping scripts of Japan. Professor Morijiri finds lot of such similarities between these two art forms. There should be more research on this area.