Article Hindi

Talat Mahmood's 10 unforgettable melancholic songs


Remembering the ghazal king with 10 songs that underlined his ability to express melancholy like none other.

Shriram Iyengar

Ghazal king Talat Mahmood passed into the ages 19 years ago on this day (9 May) in Mumbai. A singer with a tremulous voice that could sway a million fans and a face made for stardom, Talat Mahmood was the unrivalled master of the poetic ghazal. His control, evocative voice, and pauses won him the admiration of fans across the Indian subcontinent.

Talat Mahmood was a rare talent whose beautiful voice was rivalled only by his charming personality. A master of the ghazal, he was often praised for the tremulousness in his voice that elevated the emotional impact of a song. It was this feature of his voice that made him a leading choice for melancholic compositions picturized on stars from Dilip Kumar to Dev Anand. His voice was one of the popular ones that echoed across the subcontinent in the 1950s.

Here is a list of 10 melancholic songs that define Talat Mahmood's immortal voice (in no particular order).

1. 'Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal' – Daag (1952)

Nobody portrayed tragedy like Dilip Kumar. His unrivalled expression of melancholy found the perfect voice in Talat Mahmood. This song, composed by Shankar-Jaikishan on lyrics by Shailendra, finds Talat Mahmood's voice soaring to deliver a pitch-perfect expression of melancholy and nihilism.

2. 'Dil-e-nadaan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai' – Mirza Ghalib (1954)

In the ghazal form in Urdu literature, Mirza Ghalib remains the golden standard. Sohrab Modi's biopic on the great poet of Delhi had Bharat Bhushan playing the title role while Talat Mahmood delivered the vocals. Mahmood's ability to grasp the emotion, and the literary accuracy of his pronunciation, made him a top pick. The song is also a highlight for the style with which Mahmood brings it to a conclusion.

3. 'Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raste' – Patita (1953)

The song is surprisingly upbeat in its opening tempo, but deviates into sadness slowly. Talat Mahmood balances the contrast between the rhythm and the meaning of the song with impeccable ease. The slight tremor in his voice only elevates the song's quality making it all the more hummable despite its melancholic quality.

Also read: Why you should check out Amiya Chakrabarty's Patita

4. 'Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal' – Aarzoo (1950)

This is another song picturized on Dilip Kumar to make it to the list. This song is from Shaheed Latif and Ismat Chughtai's film, Aarzoo (1950). A wonderfully mellow composition by Anil Biswas, it highlights the singer's ability to draw out the deepest emotions that the lyrics espouse.

5. 'Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha' – Chhaya (1961)

This wonderful ghazal does have a happier version, which plays out earlier in the film. However, this composition (based on Mozart's 40th symphony) delivers with Mahmood's controlled voice the warning of a love that should never have been. Sunil Dutt's wonderful personality adds to the magic of the song.

6. 'Phir Wohi Shaam Wohi Gham' – Jahan Ara (1964)

There was something about the poetic melancholy of the ghazal format that suited Talat Mahmood's voice. His ability to deliver the verses without taking away from the music is a quality that shines through in this song composed by Madan Mohan, a master of the ghazal composition.

7. 'Shaam-e-gham Ki Kasam' – Footpath (1953)

Dilip Kumar ruled the 1950s with Mahmood as his voice (it was not yet Mohammed Rafi's time). So, it is unsurprising that this wonderful song makes it to the list. A brilliant example of how synchronized the duo's expression was with the music of Khayyam. Little wonder then that Dilip Kumar tried to impress upon SD Burman to use Talat Mahmood as his voice for Devdas (1955).

8. 'Mitwa Lagi Re Kaisi' – Devdas (1955)

The story goes that SD Burman was not too keen on using Talat Mahmood's 'Lucknowi' voice to deliver the pathos of a Bengali hero, Devdas. He had zeroed in on Manna Dey, but Dilip Kumar wouldn't budge. Burman finally relented to give the actor's choice a chance with this song. It proved to be a masterstroke.

9. 'Jaayen Toh Jaayen Kahan' – Taxi Driver (1954)

While he did not fit the profile of a melancholic hero, Dev Anand delivered his share of pathos with style. This is a popular track from the 1954 classic, Taxi Driver, and remains a good example of why even Dev Anand could not stay away from the king of ghazals.

10. 'Tasveer Banata Hoon' – Baradari (1955)

This was the song that defined the limitations of an artiste so perfectly. Composed by the little known Nashad, and written by Khumar Barabankvi, it proved to be the song that would triple the singer's growing reputation as one of the top singers of the ghazal form.

Special mention:

'Dono Jahan Teri Mohabbat Mein Haarke' (Ghazal)

It took Vishal Bhardwaj to rediscover the magic of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poetry on screen in Haider (2014). However, Talat Mahmood, a fan of the poet, often composed on his ghazals. This is a wonderful example of Mahmood's talent to transform the most nostalgic poem into a delightful earworm.