A tribute on his birth anniversary February 24
When you think of Talat Mahmood you think of his iconic soft, sentimental melodies like Meri yaad mein tum na aansoo bahana, Jalte hain jiske liye, Humse aya na gaya tumse bulaya na gaya, Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahan koi na ho, Zindagi denewale sun, Jayen to jayen kahan etc. These are all solos obviously, as would be the case if you have to choose the best songs of any great singer. Then why I am doing my first Talat Mahmood post on his duets?
Hindi films are essentially about romantic love, and it is inevitable every singer would get to sing duets too picturised on the hero and the heroine, and sometimes on side actors. I view duets as a special category, more so in the case of Talat Mahmood whose many duets brought out a breezy side of him. His solos in a blue mood on Dilip Kumar for films like Arzoo, Babul, Devdas, Tarana, Sangdil, Shikast, Footpath, Daag etc. in many ways consolidated the latter’s image as the Tragedy King. This also became a trap for Talat Mahmood who unfortunately was the first one among his contemporaries to fade away. Rafi and Mukesh had debuted in playback singing several years before Talat Mahmood’s Bombay debut in 1950 with Arzoo (he was already famous as a singer because of his non-film songs, and some film songs in Calcutta). Yet Talat stopped getting any worthwhile offer after Jahan Ara (1964), whereas Rafi and Mukesh continued to reign strongly for many more years. And just as Dilip Kumar wanted to break free of this image before his reel life tortured his real life – with comedy capers like Azaad (1955), Kohinoor (1960) and Leader (1964), and later Ram and Shyam (1967) – perhaps Talat also needed the company of a female singer to break free of his image trap, in several duets.
For someone like Talat Mahmood, who is among my top favourites, I am quite late in doing a post on him (though his songs would have figured off and on). So to make up for my omission, let me present a different side of Talat Mahmood with his breezy duets as my tribute on his birth anniversary, February 24.
1. Chahe nain churaao chahe daman bachao by Talat and Lata from Aas (1953), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
Top of such duets in my list is this beautiful foot tapping number with Lata Mangeshkar Chahe nain milao chahe daman chhudaao. This is an idyllic setting in the midst of meadows , and river and mountain in the background. A group of villagers, apparently fishermen, are enjoying themselves when a man and a woman (not the lead actors) from the group get up and break into a dance. Then you see the lead pair Shekhar and Kamini Kaushal, emerging in the scene from behind and happening upon this group. The couple seems to be recently married, with the hero looking somewhat abashed and the heroine extremely coy. The song now acquires meaning as the hero’s tentative flirtations with the lady to open her up synchronises with चाहे नैन चुराओ चाहे दामन बचाओ प्यार हो के रहेगा (Whether you shift your gaze or evade my touch, we can not but fall in love)
2. Humein haal-e-dil unse kahna tha kahiye by Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle from 24 Ghante (1958), lyrics Raja Mehadi Ali Khan, music Bipin Babul
Talat-Asha combination had a good number of superb duets, both breezy and melodious. Here is a foot tapping number with a very pleasant beat. Premnath and Shakila seem to have just finished their picnic lunch. As Shakila washes the plates in the garden waterbody, you see Premnath reclining on the picnic durrie browsing a magazine (such an insensitive MCP !), but there was no doubt about gender roles those days. You would think now they should be heading back home, but Premnath breaks into this song while still reclining, then gradually rises. Having done with the dishes, Shakila also joins him, swirls around with the picnic basket (by now empty) in her hand, dancing to the beautiful beat. As they cavort around the bushes in what would soon become the most recognizable Bollywood cliché, the Director chooses to give it a quirky touch by highlighting the prop of the picnic basket, with the lead pair playing with it and tossing it to each other. The most remarkable thing about this song is the composer (duo?) Bipin Babul, about whom I know little and can not recall their any other famous song. I am always fascinated by everlasting songs composed by unknown music directors. So here is my big Talat-Asha favourite.
3. O dildar suno ek bar by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from School Master (1959), lyrics Pradeep, music Vasant Desai.
You see the pretty B Saroja Devi and this funny looking guy in a neta type dress and Chaplinesque moustache (he is surely not the hero Karan Dewan, then why did they make this beauty flirt with this clown?) on a horse carriage singing this racy duet. They stop by a pond in the wilderness, and in a similar gender stereotyping, Saroja Devi goes to fetch water from the pond. And what do you see here? A lavish picnic repast in a huge tiffin- carrier! They continue their frolicking around water, and now the pail of water becomes a prop in her hand to play with while they sing and dance. But alas, as they get lost in their revelry, they seem to forget about the spread-out food and the hungry horse, which is merrily helping himself to the spread. By the time they come back from their frolicking exhausted, I doubt if they would find any food left. (PS: YT have removed the video link. I have replaced with an audio link)
4. Teri nigahon mein teri hi bahon mein by TalatMahmood and Ash Bhosle from Bahana (1960), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
Bahana starring Meena Kumari and Sajjan had several MM’s signature style melodious songs such as Talat Mahmood’s solo Beraham Asmaa and Lata Mangeshkar’s Ja re badra bairi ja. And you have this fabulous Talat-Asha contrast which would make your feet dance. The video is not available so you can only guess it might have been picturised on the lead pair
5. Chori chori dil ka lagana buri baat hai by Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle from Bada Bhai (1957), lyrics Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, music Nashad
Oh, I can not have enough of Talat Mahmood-Asha Bhosle duets. The actor (Anant Kumar?) is pulling the lady (Ameeta?) on a cycle rickshaw. But apparently he does it effortlessly as he frequently looks back to her and sings this breezy song. The music director Nashad (not Naushad), has created some everlasting music in a number of films. With such huge talent I wonder why he felt the need to change his name to one sounding like Naushad (his real name was Shaukat Ali Dehelvi and later took the name Nashad because, as the anecdote has it, he thought some of Naushad’s fame might rub on him).
6. Itna na mujhse tu pyar badha by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Chhaya (1961), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Salil Choudhary
This is an iconic Talat-Lata duet with Salil Choudhry’s familiar foot tapping style. You only wonder what is holding back Sunil Dutt and Asha Parekh from breaking into a dance. A great Talat-Lata duet composed by Salil Chaudhry,which is inspired by Motzart’s Symphony No. 40.
7. Aha rimjhim ke ye pyare pyare geet liye by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Usne Kaha Tha (1960), lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Choudhry
Another iconic Talat-Lata-Salil Choudhry number. You again have Sunil Dutt, but now the lady is Nanda. And mercifully they are not as stiff as Sunil Dutt-Asha Parekh were in Itna na mujhse pyar badha. And what beautiful scenery of the night in a forest, raindrops falling and the lead pairs drenched, but no suggestion of any amorous thoughts crossing their mind, only pure bliss and joy (the rain drenched lovers stranded in a remote hut, getting into a situation where they would have to later remorsefully say Humein ye paap nahi karna chahiye tha, had not yet become the norm).
8. Rahi matwale with Suraiya from Waris (1954), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Anil Biswas
Talat Mahmood, also the hero of the film, discovers the person on the adjacent seat in men’s dress is actually a woman, who has some reason to be in disguise, travel in the men’s compartment and tell a lie to the conductor. In the beginning he disapproves of her, but it does not matter. The setting is enough to prompt Talat to break into this beautiful song to the beat of the train. The lovely Suraiya in reverie gives romantic glances, and later joins in the duet. This song has at least three versions in the film, this one is a foot tapping duet and befitting addition to my list.
9. Ye nayi nayi preet hai with Lata Mangeshkar from Pocketmar (1956), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
Dev Anand, the eternal romantic and Geeta Bali, with a lovely pout make a great pair. Madan Mohan, who created quintessential sad Talat songs like Humse aya na gaya and Meri yaad mein tum na ansoo bahana, changes tack and creates this breezy romantic duet.
10. Ayi jhoomti bahar with Lata Mangeshkar from Insaniyat (1955), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra
Choosing the the last song of a post is always difficult, more so if my choice was between Dev Anand in moustache in this song and Shammi Kapoor in moustache in Kehta hai dil tum ho mere liye in Mem Sahib – both equally unappealing. Frankly the romantic Dev Anand looks quite odd, more like a school masterly Abhi Bhattacharya, but I choose this song because of the beautiful Beena Rai and sweet C Ramchandra music.