Talat Mahmood was a playback singer and film actor famous for his rendition of ghazals. Born in Lucknow to Manzoor Mahmood, Talat was musically inclined from a very young age and enjoyed all-night musicals where the biggest names in Indian classical music performed.
Talat’s musical career began in 1939 when he started singing ghazals on All India Radio, Lucknow. He had earlier apprenticed under Pandit S.C.R. Bhat at Morris Music College. Noticing his talent, HMV offered Talat his first disc, “Sab Din Ek Samaan Nahin Tha, Ban Jaoonga Kya Se Kya Main” in 1941. Despite his accomplishments at such a young age, Talat gained the approval of his conservative family only after a decade of singing.
His hugely popular ghazal, “Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Behela Nah Sakegi”, brought him considerable fame and he was soon called on by the Calcutta film industry. Talat always wanted to be an actor and starred in about 13 films. He sang several songs in Bengali under the name Tapan Kumar before moving to Bombay in 1949, as the film industry shifted from Calcutta to Bombay.
His big break in films came with the Anil Biswas composition “Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal Jahan Koi Na Ho” (“Arzoo”, 1950). Though many top heroines of the day like Nutan, Mala, Sinha and Suraiya starred against him, he decided to concentrate on his music and gave up his acting career.
With the arrival of rock-n-roll and Mohammad Rafi in the late 1960s, the popularity of the likes of Talat declined. Also his quivering voice, once considered an asset, proved to be a problem as music directors started prefering the more assured voices of the likes of Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh.
Talat was one of the first Indian singers to tour foreign countries extensively. In 1956, he went to East Africa and found enthusiastic fans awaiting him there. He performed at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London and Madison Square Garden in the US. After his film career waned, he focussed on concerts and toured the world till 1991.
Some of his memorable songs include “Main Dil Hoon Ek Armaan Bhara” (“Anhonee”, 1952), “Sham-E-Gham Ki Qasam” (“Foothpath”, 1953), “Dil-E-Nadaan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai” (“Mirza Ghalib”, (1954), “Jaayen To Jaayen Kahan” (“Taxi Driver”, 1954), “Humse Aaya Na Gaya” (“Dekh Kabira Roya”, 1957), “Jalte Hain Jiske Liye” (“Sujata”, 1959) and “Phir Wohi Sham Wohi Gam” (“Jahan Aara”, 1964).
Talat fell in love and married Latika Mullick, a Bengali Christian. Nasreen Mahmood, as she came to be known after the wedding, had two children with Talat, Khalid and Sabina.