The New Talat Mahmood Book Reflects the Voice of an Era
In this beautifully nuanced and poignant review, Sahar Zaman delves into the book that is written on her grand uncle.
Talat Mahmood is a name that holds a special place in people’s hearts. For me, as his grand niece, it means much more than just a singer who lent his remarkable voice to India’s best-known actors such as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand and rendered the most poignant verses, including bringing alive the words of Mirza Ghalib.
It’s interesting how the birth or death anniversary of an artist revives a sudden interest in the artist’s work.
Falling in Love, All Over Again
When I recently wrote for his death anniversary on May 9, I went to the store to buy a friend some CDs of Talat Mahmood. The store manager said that the previous customer had bulk bought the entire collection of the singer’s CDs before me. The customer said he was reminded of Talat sa’ab because of a recent article he’d read. The friend whom I wanted to introduce my grand uncle’s music to was Shashi Tharoor. He had tweeted my article with much appreciation and soon Talat Mahmood was trending among the world’s twitterati.
I used to call him Bambai-Nana and that stuck with most people when they read my piece. It feels great to be a part of this renewal of interest. I choose to call it renewal because today, most of those who follow his music are in the age bracket of 35 years and above. I would like to introduce his gentle, subtle and mellow notes to today’s 18-year-olds so that they too can fall in love with his voice just as their parents or grandparents had.
Recollections of his Children
I am so happy that celebrated writer Manek Premchand has contributed towards this aim. Published by Manipal University, his latest book The Velvet Voice is on Talat Mahmood. Different chapters in the book are written by people from different walks of life.
My favourite is the first chapter written by his daughter, Sabina Talat Mahmood Rana. It’s an extremely poignant piece on a beautiful father-daughter relationship and reflects on the greatness of her father, as an artist. A child of the swinging ‘60s, she was keener on the reigning duo of Rajesh Khanna-Kishore Kumar. He would make sure to take her to Kishore Kumar concerts while also buying her his LPs.
His son Khalid Talat Mahmood writes of how he was amazed to see that his father had a rockstar following abroad. He realised this first hand when he began travelling with him.
My Bambai-Nana’s Music Legacy
The writer Premchand’s own account of how he fell in love with Talat’s voice is quite telling of how a young boy, who understood nothing of Urdu poetry or complicated emotions of love, was still touched by his voice. Having met him years later, he was delighted to know that the signer was as much a gentleman in life as he sounded in his songs.
A delightful piece by Lata Jagtiani urges us not to remember the singer as merely the master of melancholic emotions. She lists his peppy hits like ‘Dil mein sama gaye sajan’, ‘Yeh hawa yeh raat’, ‘Yeh nayi nayi preet hai’, which showcase his voice in happy, elated and seductive emotions with as much élan.
When he came to perform in Delhi in 1991, I was 11 years old. I was well aware of my Bambai-Nana’s music legacy. But it was fascinating to see how he painstakingly tried to sing most of the requests from the audience. Sitting in the front row, I looked back at those shouting out his name. Some were wiping their tears, some were too overwhelmed with reverence for him to say anything at all.
(Sahar Zaman is an independent arts journalist, newscaster and curator. She has founded Asia’s first web channel on the Arts, Hunar TV.)
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