Talat Mahmood was a famous Bollywood playback singer, and to a lesser extent an actor. He was very active in the 1950s and early 1960's and has many notable films to his credit.
Talat Mahmood was born on Feb 24th 1924, in Lucknow, India. He was one of six children. His father was named Mansoor Mahmood.
Talat Mahmood in Lucknow - 1941
Mahmood's family was a rather conservative family, and music was certainly not encouraged. However the young Mahmood took a liking to music very early on. He used to frequent the record stores as a youth, and he spent a lot of time attending all night musical gatherings. His family rejected Talat's interest in music and did not accept it until long after he attained professional success in the film industry.
Young Talat Mahmood
Talat's musical career was marked by a steady rise. His training began under Pandit S.C.R. Bhat at the Morris Music College in the 1930's. In 1939 when he was only 16 years old, he began to sing gazals on All India Radio. In 1941, HMV contracted him to sing his first disk; this was Sab Din Ek Samaan Nahin Tha. In 1944 his hit, Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Behela Na Sakegi sold over 100,000 copies; this brought him to national attention. It was at this time that he moved to Calcutta and began to sing and act for the film industry there. While in Calcutta he often performed under the name Tapan Kumar. It was in 1949 that he moved to Bombay and began to work in the film Industry there. During the 1950s he was a big name Bollywood playback singer.
Early performance of Talat Mahmood
Talat was known for his unique style of singing. He had a characteristic quiver in his voice that was unique. Initially many music directors saw this as a flaw, but it was Anil Biswas who saw this as a characteristic that had potential. He encouraged Talat to develop this and it ultimately became his trademark for an emotive rendition of a song.
Talat Mahmood in early publicity photo
Fame and success in the film industry is often a fleeting thing. Talat Mahmood's success was to prove short lived, as changes in popular tastes started to leave him behind. More of the playback singing was given to Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh. One of the problems with his career was that Talat became associated in the popular mind as a singer of sad songs of the gazal variety. When popular taste began to demand more upbeat songs, this reputation hurt him. So from the late 60's onward, Talat Mahmood was often unkindly thought of as a "has-been". His last recording was Mere Shareek-e-Safar, recorded in 1985. He died on May 9, 1998, at the age of 74.
Talat a few years older
Talat Mahmood may have passed on, but the passage of time allows us to look upon his career, with a clearer sense of perspective. Although his peak barely spanned a decade, he has produced some of Bollywood's most treasured songs. This accomplishment has earned him a placed in our hearts and souls for all time to come.
© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney
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