A tribute to Talat Mahmood on his 90th birth anniversary
Anil Biswas was not the first composer for whom Talat Mahmood sang in films. He debuted as an actor-singer in Calcutta in Raj Laxmi (1945). While in Calcutta, he also sang (and acted) in Tum Aur Main (1947), Samapti and Swayansiddha (1949). During this period he sang some 40-50 songs (film and non-film) under the name Tapan Kumar. But well before he came to films, he had acquired great fame because of his non-film geets and ghazals. His singing debut was in 1941 with his first non-film geet Sab din ek samaan nahi. A few years later his another non-film song Tasweer teri dil mera bahlaa na sakegi became a national rage.
With all that why is Anil Biswas regarded as the Mentor of Talat Mahmood and why is he (erroneously) regarded as having introduced the latter as a playback singer? Some people try to explain it by labouring on the distinction between ‘playback’ as opposed to ‘singing’ per se. I am not 100% sure that all his film songs before this were picturised on him. My explanation is simple. You just listen to Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho (Arzoo, 1950), and that says it all. His first song after he shifted to Bombay from Calcutta (?), composed by Anil Biswas, is on a different plane. His velvety voice with a unique tremolo immediately put him on a special pedestal. Anil Biswas’s role was not only in composing this all time great song, but also in putting confidence in Talat Mahmood that the कम्पन in his voice was his strength and that he did not need to get rid of it to copy his rivals. This is also his first recognizable film song, and hence the wide misconception that this was his debut song in films.
Thus it was that while Anil Biswas was not the most prolific either with Talat Mahmood compared to C Ramchandra, Ghulam Mohammad and Madan Mohan, he remains the most important composer for him, so much so that you mention Talat Mahmood and Anil Biswas comes to mind. Had Talat Mahmood been alive, he would have been 90 today (b. 24 February 1924; d. 9 May 1998). Continuing my tribute to Anil Biswas in his Centenary Year, let me pay this tribute to Talat Mahmood with his songs by the Bhishma Pitamah of film music on his birth anniversary.
1. Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahan koi na ho from Arzoo (1950), lyris Majrooh Sutanpuri
An iconic song of the singer with the velvety voice on the tragedy king Dilip Kumar. This would start a short rein of Talat Mahmood as the voice of Dilip Kumar until he was displaced by the more versatile Rafi. But Talat created a passionate following regardless of the number of songs he sang (which would be a fraction of Rafi).
2. Shukriya ae pyar tera shukriya from Aaraam (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
The Maestro composes a velvety tune for Talat Mahmood, picturised on Talat himself on the harmonium, obviously in a special appearance, as Dev Anand and Madhubala were the lead actors in the film.
3. Nain miley nain hue baawre chain kahan mohe sajan saanwre (with Lata Mangeshkar) from Taraana (1951), lyrics Prem Dhawan
This Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer tragedy was a great showcase for Anil Biswas-Talat Mahmood magic. Among the best duets of Talat-Lata Mangeshkar.
4. Seene mein sulagate hain armaan (with Lata Mangeshkar) from Taraana
Matching the mood of the film, a deeply poignant duet with Lata Mangeshkar, again among their all time greats.
5. Ek main hun ek meri bekasi ki sham hai from Taraana, lyrics Kaif Irfani
Now we come to the Talat solo from the film. Anil Biswas is recognizable by the deeply sombre mood he creates and by the absence of any frills in the composition.
6. Mohabbat turk ki maine garebaan see liya maine from Doraha (1952), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
Doraha had three dulcet solos by Talat Mahmood. The best known and my great favourite is Mohabbat turk ki maine garebaan see liya maine. But this link also gives the other two solos Dil mein basa ke meet bana ke (lyrics Prem Dhawan) and Tera khayal dil se mitaya nahi abhi (lyrics Josh Malihabadi). A treat for Talat-Anil Biswas fans.
7. Mukh se na bolun ankhiyan na kholun (with Lata Mangeshkar) from Jaliyanwala Bagh Ki Jyoti (1953), lyrics Uddhav Kumar
Normally I credit duets to the male singers, but this one clearly belongs to Lata Mangeshkar, Talat playing a secondary role. But this is an absolutely charming song and has that special magic of Anil Biswas.
8. Mili man ki dagar se teri gali (with Suraiya) from Waaris (1954),
Talat Mahmood, carried away by his handsome looks, also forayed into acting, which was not a very successful diversion. Suraiya had been a top actor-singer in the late 1940s. Under the baton of Anil Biswas, the film had some great songs, Raahi matwaaley (a three-version song) being extremely popular. Here is somewhat less well known, but no less melodious, duet by the two silky singers.
9. Door hote nahi jo dil mein raha karte hain (duet with Suraiya) from Waaris (1954)
Another less known but a beautiful duet with Suraiya, bearing a clear stamp of Anil Biswas.
10. Kabhi hain gham kabhi khushiyan from Waaris, lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi
I end this post with this solitary solo from the same film. Even though Anil Biswas continued for another decade in films, and Talat Mahmood too was around for a number of years, this seems to be their last song together. Which is kind of sad because their decline could be directly attributed to the market forces. Alas, in film songs art has to marry commerce, and we can only rue the fact that their association was so short-lived.