This week on Flashback, we look at the life and times of the ‘King of Ghazals’ Talat Mahmood who was born in Lucknow, India on Feb 24, 1924. Talat showed his musical leanings from a very young age. Later, for a very short period of time, Talat studied music at Marris Music College before people began noticing his natural singing talent and offers to sing began to pour in. Talat Mahmood began his music career at the young age of 16 when he began singing the ghazals of Ghalib, Dagh, Mir and Jigar on All India Radio, Lucknow. His voice had a quality distinct from all other singers. HMV was quick to notice this and offered Talat his first disc in 1941, when he sang the song “Sab din ek samaan nahin tha, ban jaoonga kya se kya main, iska to kuch dhyan nahin tha”.
In 1944, came the smash hit “Tasveer teri dil mera behela na sakegi”. It took the country by storm. It’s popularity was so phenomenal and unrivaled that even today it remains one of the biggest non-film hits. This brought Talat fame throughout India and soon he was beckoned by the Calcutta Film Industry, which was then the premier hub of film production in the 40’s. In 1949 Talat Mahmood came to Mumbai and was offered the song “Ae dil mujhe aisi jagha le chal jahan koi na ho” composed by the then reigning music director Anil Biswas and picturised on the great Dilip Kumar, the combination was electrifying. The record was an overnight success and set the trend for the filmi ghazal.
However, the handsome young ‘King of Ghazals’ did not go unnoticed by the film producers, who besieged him with offers to act in their films. Such was Talat’s aura, that for his film ‘Dil-e-Nadaan’, producer-director A.R. Kardar, launched an ‘All India Beauty Contest’ to hunt for a beautiful girl who would play the heroine opposite the young and immensely talented superstar Talat Mahmood. Talat was to finally accept 13 films with top heroines like Nutan, Mala Sinha, Suraiya, Shyama, Nadira and others before he decided that acting was not his forte. And hence, Talat gave up acting to concentrate on singing.
Over the years, the King of Ghazals has created a catalogue of songs for generations to come. In the year 1992 Talat Mahmood was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, in recognition of his artistic contributions in the spheres of cinematic and ghazal music. His fan following straddles the globe, he strides like a colossus in the field of ghazals – a KING whose name is surpassed by none.