- Birth Date: 24 Feb 1924
- Birth Place: Lucknow
A tremor in voice which would have been considered a fault, proved an asset to Talat Mehmood. The tremendous effect of the velvety voice conveyed the urge and intensity of emotions which marked his individuality.He was known as Melody King and Ghazal King.
Born in Lucknow on February 24, 1924, his father was a good singer as were his sisters. But coming from a conservative Muslim background, singing was not encouraged.His conservative parents had objected to him becoming a singer though they also were musical people. 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 respectability.
He was a man of Adab (culture) and Tehzeeb (manners and etiquette), having been brought up amongst the most polished citizens of Lucknow.His nature was a quiet one. He was a decent man and his voice reflected that decency and sense of calm. He was a soft-hearted man because one's character reflects one's art too. He first tried acting in films under the banner of New Theatres of Calcutta. He came back to Lucknow, as he could not succeed to become a popular cine star and concentrated on singing.
He learnt classical music from Pandit S.C.R. Bhat at Morris Music College some time in the 30s. He started his career purely as a ghazal singer in 1939. His reputation as a fine and promising ghazal singer was not limited to his hometown of Lucknow, but it reached the city that proved to shape his destiny - Calcutta. The then famous ghazal singers were Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, K.L. Saigal and M.A. Rauf. The classical songs he sang were ‘Sapnon Ki Suhaani Duniyaa Ko’ for film Shiqast and ‘Laage Tose Naina’ for Chaandi Ki Deewar.
In those days, the Gramophone Company released some ghazal records sung by Bengalis, which lacked the finesse of chaste Urdu pronunciation. Around 1940, Talat Mehmood went to Calcutta where he met his singing idol, K.L. Saigal. The famous brothers Kamal and Subal Dasgupta offered him to sing the song ‘Sab Din Samaan Nahin Thaa’.He cut his first disc in 1941 and became a singing sensation in 1945 when one lakh copies of ‘Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Behla Na Sakegi’ were sold 1945, which took him to the heights of name and fame. He also sang many Bengali songs for which he was known as Tapan Kumar Sinha.
From 1940 to 1950 was the golden era of Mehmood . He was a well - dressed and unassuming person of distinct style and inimitable voice.A typical example of his ghazal is, ‘Hothon Se Gul Fishan Hain Wo Aankhon Se Ashq Baar Ham’ that is set in raag Darbari blended with Bageshwari. Dilip Kumar reminisces about him 'he was a fine singer as he was a man gentle, refined and extremely amiable'. His forte was soulful songs and he was treated as one of the finest singers of sensuous ghazals.
Naushad Ali, the legendary composer, was very close to him. Talat and Naushad came upon the new kind of music together. 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.
In 1948 Talat got his first break from Naushad for the film Babul. He came to Mumbai in 1950, when he sang under the direction of Anil Biswas in the film Tarana. He sang for film Samapti when he was just 20 and then for Jago Musafir and Raaj Laksmi. The films in which he acted were Raaj Lakshmi, Samaadhi, Malik, Waaris, Laala Rukh, Raftaar, Aaraam, Dil e Nadaan, Diwaali Ki Raat, Ek Gaon Ki Kahani and Sone Ki Chidiya. Between 1945 and 1958 he acted in 13 films, in which he was the hero in 9 films.
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.
He was a legend in the industry. He acted in many films but stopped because it didn't really suit his temperament.Talat Mehmood sang a total of 784 songs of which 212 were non-film songs. Music director Snehal Bhatkar made him sing in films Pagle, Aarzoo and Bindiya. Khayyam offered him to sing in the films Footpath and Shaam e Gham Ki Kasam. His favourite lyricists were Ghalib, Momin, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Prem Dhawan and Rajinder Krishan. He acted with many famous heroines of his times such as Nutan, Suraiya, Shyama, Nadira and Mala Sinha. He sang duet songs with many eminent female singers in which almost 100 songs were with melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. He rendered playback singing for Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and V. Shantaram.
He began falling ill often . His voice became more unsteady as his 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.
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. He passed away on 9th May 1998.