The real mesmeriser Talat Mahmood: His best non-film songs

A tribute to Talat Mahmood on his 95th birth anniversary (24 February 1924 – 9 May 1998)

Talat MahmoodNever before could a reader foretell what I would write on nine months in advance. But like anything in old film music, nothing can be said in absolute terms about SoY. In May last year, a new reader Harpreet, commenting on DP Rangan’s guest article, Talat Mahmood: A Mesmeriser, requested to do a post on Talat Mahmood’s non-film songs. I gave a courteous reply that I have noted his request. N Venkataraman, with his sharp analytical mind and observation, read it up as, there will be a post on Talat Mahmood on 24 February 2019, and that it would be on his non-film songs. Thus the date and the theme got written in stone, and it was futile for me to make any efforts to read down the conversation and seek some latitude for myself.

Not that I grudge. In the Golden Era of playback singers, Talat Mahmood was the only one whose fame as a non-film singer preceded his recognition as a playback singer. Though he started singing for films in 1945 (Raj Laxmi, Calcutta), and sang for films made in Bombay, too, in 1949 (Rakhi; Swayamsidhdha), the watershed year which made Talat Mahmood a sensation was 1950, with Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahan koi na ho (Arzoo; Anil Biswas). This song has become etched as his debut film song in Bombay (which is probably wrong), and some even mention it – quite erroneously – as his first film song. But he had been a rage much before that for his non-film song Tasveer teri dil mera bahla na sakegi (1944). As we all know by now, he started his singing career, in 1941, with Sab din ek samaan nahi tha. He went on to sing several ghazals, geets, naats not only in Hindi, but other languages too. He maintained his identity and continued singing ‘private’ songs parallel to his playback career. His several mega hit private songs were re-recorded many years later in his voice. Therefore, in many cases what you hear is not the first version which he recorded, but re-recorded version.

I have used the term ‘private’ songs, which may perplex readers who are not familiar with it. This is quite a misnomer, because these were as ‘public’ and commercial as film songs, and were recorded by the recording companies and marketed through the same channels as the film songs. But ‘private’ became a commonly accepted term to describe light ghazals, geets and bhajans which were not part of any film. This also became a convenient term to distinguish singers whose fame rested primarily, or almost entirely, on non-film songs, such as Jagmohan and Juthika Roy. AIR coined a term ‘सुगम संगीत’ with a separate time slot, which acted as a force-multiplier for the popularity of these songs. Rafi, Lata Mangehskar, Mukesh and Manna Dey, too, have sung private songs, but these are dwarfed by their film songs in numbers or recognition. On the other hand, about 40% of all the songs of Talat Mahmood are ‘private songs’ and, more importantly, they are no less mesmerising than his film songs. There are some singers, such as KL Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and SD Burman, whose my list of best songs is dominated by their private songs, and I have written posts on all of them.

I would have written this post anyway, Venkataramanji only locked the date. With thanks to him and Harpreet, I pay my tribute to the real mesmeriser Talat Mahmood on his 95th birth anniversary with his best non-film songs.

1. Hothon se gulfishan hain wo, lyrics Faiyyaz Hashmi, music Talat Mahmood

This song has been my perennial Talat-favourite, as it is very different from his general style of flat singing, which at times made him sound monotonous. This one has peaks and troughs, and voice modulation which one associates more with Rafi. When Atul Song A Day requested me to write a guest article for their 10K celebrations, this was my choice.

होठों से गुल्फिशां हैं वो आंखों से अश्क़बार हम
सावन से हैं वो बेखबर बेगाना-ए-बहार हम

अर्श की ये बुलंदियाँ फर्श की पश्तियों से है
उनका गुरूर देखकर बन गये खाकसार हम

परवाना आ के जब गिरा शोला तो कांप कांप उठा
उसपे न कुछ असर हुआ जिसपे हुए निसार हम

पी है किसी की बज़्म में इतनी कि फिर न उठ सके
होशो हवास कुछ नहीं ऐसे थे होशियार हम

Her lips smile like petals of flowers, while my eyes shed tears
She is not bothered by the rains, while even the spring does not delight me

The sky soars high because the floor is rooted to the ground
Seeing her swollen ego I felt even more worthless

When the moth plunged into the lamp, even the flame trembled
But the one for whom I surrendered everything remained unmoved

I have drunk so much in someone’s tavern that I cannot get up
I am not in my senses, see how wise I am!

2. Soye huye hain chaand aur tare (Geet, 1950), lyrics Faiyyaz Hashmi, music Kamal Dasgupta

Now Faiyyaz Hashmi writes a ‘geet’ for Talat. Being not a ghazal, it is not bound by rules of radeef and kaafiya, but more importantly, the words are of different types. For example, Ab to itana kah do pyari main hun tumhaari main hun tumhari belongs to geet which you find more in Jagmohan. Just listen to the lyrics carefully, and see how the entire mood changes from a ghazal presented earlier. You might remember Hemant Kumar has sung a ‘private’ song Kitna dukh bhulaya tumne pyari.

सोये हुये हैं चांद और तारे आज की रात अंधियारी
तुम बैठी हो पास हमारे सोयी है फुलवारी
जिन आंखों में लाज भरी थी वो भी हैं मतवारी
अब तो इतना कह दो प्यारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी

एक दूजे को पा के हम तुम बहुत मिले शरमा के हम तुम
यूं ही रहे तो रह जायेंगी मन की बातें मन में सारी
अब तो इतना कह दो प्यारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी

देख ये तुमको तड़पायेगी फिए ये रात नहीं आयेगी
प्रेम मिलन की इन घड़ियों पर लाख बहारें वारी
अब तो इतना कह दो प्यारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी मैं हूँ तुम्हारी

3. Ghoomero chhaya chaander chokhe ai madhu raat naahi baaki (Bengali gaan)

I had discovered the above song’s Bengali version even before I started this blog. And I have ever since been mesmerised by it. I am surprised Talat Mahmood’s ‘official site’ maintained by his son does not mention this song. I am sure the readers who would be listening this song for the first time, regardless of the language barrier, would be as charmed by it as I was when I first heard it. For those who can read Bengali script, here are the lyrics I have copied from the YT link, posted by one Gulzar Hossain.

ঘুমের ছায়া চাঁদের চোখে এ মধু রাত নাহি বাকি এ মধু রাত নাহি বাকি
মুখপানে মোর রয়েছে জাগি মুদীর তব আঁখি মুদীর তব আঁখি।।
যে আঁখিতে লাজ ছিল গো সেথা প্রেমের ভাষা
যে আঁখিতে লাজ ছিল গো সেথা প্রেমের ভাষা
হিয়া যে চাহে এ মধু রাতে পরাতে তোমায় মিলন রাখি।।

আধো জোছনায় আবেশ লাগে অধর নিরব শুধু নয়ন জাগে
আধো জোছনায় আবেশ লাগে অধর নিরব শুধু নয়ন জাগে।।
হৃদয় কহে আমি তোমারি নিরব ভাষায় সাথিরে ডাকি
হিয়া যে চাহে এ মধু রাতে পরাতে তোমায় মিলন রাখি।।

হয়ত এ নিশী সারা জীবনে আসিবে না ফিরে কোনো ক্ষণে
হয়ত এ নিশী সারা জীবনে আসিবে না ফিরে কোনো ক্ষণে।।
ক্ষণিক মিলনে মিলেছি দুজনে রাত জাগা দুটি পাখি রাত জাগা দুটি পাখি।।
হিয়া যে চাহে এ মধু রাতে পরাতে তোমায় মিলন রাখি।।

4. Adho rate jodi ghoom bhenge jaye (Bengali geet, 1948), lyrics Anil Bhattacharya, music Nirmal Bhattacharya

Another mesmerising song of midnight, love, and Amavasya bela when sleep eludes you. When the song is so good, you don’t care whether you understand the language.

5. Gham-e-ashiqi se kah do rah-e-aam tak na pahunche (Ghazal), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naseer Kadri

Back to ghazal which was supposed to be his forte.

6. Raatein guzaar di hai taaron ki roshni mein (Ghazal), lyrics IA Minai, music Girin Chakravorty

I get the feeling Talat felt more unrestrained in non-film ghazals. The night and stars create a superbly romantic mood. Talat is in his elements with his voice modulation. The harmonium interludes add to the beauty of the ghazal. This is also special, because it is sung in ‘Geet’ style, reminding you of Jagmohan. A nice crossover ghazal.

रातें गुज़ार दी हैं तारों की रोशनी में
अफसाने सुन चुका हूं अपनी ही खामोशी में

लरज़िश सी हो रही है आलम की कुल फिज़ा में
रोता है कोई बेकस शायद के बेकसी में

मैं महव-ए-ज़िंदगी हूं वे मायल-ए-तग़ाफुल
कुछ लुत्फ आ रहा है इस तर्ज़-ए-दिलबरी में

उकता गया है आलम अफसाना सुनते सुनते
आंखें झपक रही हैं तारे भी हामोशी में

(The third couplet uses some difficult words. It can be roughly translated as:

I am bogged down in the drudgery of life, and she is unconcerned about me
This is how I am enjoying my love affair)

6. Chup chaap akele chhup chhup ke main geet kisi ke gata hun (Geet), lyrics Sajjan, music V Balsara

Was Talat King of Ghazals or King of Geets? Switching to geet again, Talat is equally supreme.

7. Bigade huye naseeb ka afsana hi to hun (Ghazal), lyrics Baqar Ali Khan, music Murli Manohar

8. Ude ude kaare kaare badra amrit dharti par laye (Varsha Geet, light classical), lyrics and music Murli Manohar

In this song Talat displays his formal training in classical music. This beautiful song of Varsha gives a feeling of different ragas from Desh to some Malhar (experts requested to throw light). Its lyrics paint a lively picture of the season with imagery like:

साथी की अभिलाषा में सीप नयन खोले
चातक घन की बाट तके बावरा सा डोले..
मेघ बिना कौन दुख निवारे
उमड़े घुमड़े श्याम घटा दामिनी सी दमके
गरज गरज के घन छाये शीतल पवन चले
जिया में उल्लास भरी धरती की तपन बुझी
सुधा कलश शीश लिये आये.
उदे उदे कारे कारे कारे बदरा अमृत धरती पर लाये

9. Jahan mein koi nahin hai apna (Ghazal, c. 1948), lyrics Mumtaz Ali Kidwai, music Durga Sen

A superb ghazal which Talat could sing effortlessly. It has a nice beat.

10. Do kafir ankhon ne mara (Ghazal), lyrics Fiayyaz Hashmi, music Talat Mahmood

It seems some of his best non-film ghazals/geets were composed by Talat himself. Another outstanding ghazal with a unique composition – the first part of each misra is set to a slow tempo, and the second part is very fast, giving it a delightful effect.

11. Ek baar muhe preetam kahkar tum apne paas bula lo (Geet), lyrics and music Vinod Chattrerjee

12. Kho ke mehfil mein teri sabr-o-qaraar aya hun, Chand lamhe teri mehfil mein guzaar aya hun (Ghazal), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Talat Mahmood

Beautiful composition and sung so sweetly. I guess Talat himself would have played the harmonium in this ghazal.

13. Chupke se kabhi jab yaad meri (Geet), lyrics Madhukar Rajasthani, music Khayyam

14. Sab din ek saman nahi tha (Geet, 1941) lyrics Faiyyaz Hashmi, music Subal Dasgupta

And how did the silken-voiced Talat sound when he debuted with his first HMV record of Sab din ek samaan nahi tha in 1941? He was as velvet-smooth at the age of 17 as he was at the peak of his career. Faiyyaz Hashmi and Kamal Dasgupta combination were the monarchs of ‘private’ songs. (Talat Mahmood’s ‘official site’ mentions Kamal Dasgupta as the music director of this song. But our encyclopaedia, Arunkumar Deshmukh, says after discussions with several experts that it was composed by Subal Dasgupta, but erroneously credited to his more famous brother Kamal Dasgupta.)

15. Mera dukh ambar mein chhaya (Geet), lyrics Sajjan, music Madan Prakash

16. Bhale tum rooth jaao bhool jaao ae mere humdum…Sitaro tum gawah rahna (Geet), lyrics Sajjan, music Anil Biswas

Now the maestro, who gave a meteoric rise to Talat as a playback singer with Ae dil muhe aisi jagah le chal jahan koi na ho, composes a beautiful geet written by Sajjan. I understand this Sajjan is the same person as the actor by that name. What lyrical thought, O stars, you stand witness that I never forgot her.

17. Zindagi ki udas raahon mein dil mein khushiyon ke geet gaaye hain (Geet), lyrics Shameem Shahbadi, music CK Chauhan

This sad song is surprisingly set to a very fast tempo. This ‘private’ song is closer to a film song in composition and orchestration.

18. Le ja meri taqdeer mujhe jahan bete dinon ki yaad na ho (Geet), lyrics Raj Kanwar, music S Chakravarty

This is quintessential Talat in a blue mood, similar to Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal. In both the songs the protagonist has lost his agency to go on his own – in one case he calls his heart, and in the other his fate, to take him where no person or memory of the gone days was there.

19. Vida ki bela tumne kaha tha bhool na jana likhna paati (Geet), lyrics Madhukar Rajasthani, music Talat Mahmood

Madhukar Rajasthani was another strong name, besides Faiyyaz Hashmi, very popular for ‘private’ songs. Talat’s composition is as beautiful as the lyrics, and his voice is always matchless for such songs. In this song the hero reminisces the parting when the lady asked him not to forget her, and to write letters. There is also a lovely detail, when the lady came from behind, and covering his eyes asked him ‘Who am I?’, and the man replied, ‘You are the music of my life’, just like the lamp and the wick.

विदा की बेला तुमने कहा था भूल न जाना लिखना पाती
गूंज सुरों में गीत छुपाती भेज रहा हूं तुझको साथी
लिए मेरी आवाज़ है आती भूल न जाना लिखना पाती

याद है मुझको एक दिन तुमने नयन मूंद मेरे पूछा था
कौन हूं बोलो कौन हूं बोलो कौन हूं बोलो
मैंने कहा था तुम हो मेरी जीवन वीणा ज्यूं दीपक संग बाती
भूल न जाना लिखना पाती

जीवन भर भी अगर लिखूं तो शेष न होगी फिर भी पाती
गीत अधूरे छंद अधूरे आज रागिनी नीर बहाती
अब तो आ जा साथी भूल न जाना लिखना पाती

20. In bheegi bheegi raaton mein yaad koi jab ata hai (Geet), lyrics Kamaal, music Durga Sen

I started this post with a superb ghazal, I end it with an equally great geet. I have not made any conscious effort to balance ghazals and geets. My Talat Mahmood’s non-film favourites happen to be an even mix of the two forms. I am still leaving out a number of my favourites. That shows Talat Mahmood’s dominant position in the space of ‘Private Songs’ or ‘Sugam Sangeet’. SoY readers have often complained that I have not given due importance to (film) lyricists. In the non-film songs, lyrics have to reign supreme, because these do not have the vehicle of a big-banner film, or a famous music director. Ghazals attract because of their structure in which the two lines of the first couplet have to be humradeef and humkafiya (end common words, and rhyme), and in the other couplets, the first line has to merely follow the same meter (and not kafiya, radeef), and the second line has to have the same kafiya/radeef. This unexpected twist gives an element of enjoyment. Geet on the other hand has no such prop, and it has to be absolutely lyrical to stand on its own. From the above ghazals and geets, you would also notice that the hero in virah, in ghazal, at times tends to be bitter and sarcastic, but in geet, he is at peace with himself in solitude, he does not blame anyone, he might shed a silent tear in lonely nights. This superb geet, set to equally great music by Durga Sen, and sung so beautifully by Talat Mahmood is a fitting finale to the real mesmerizer Talat Mahmood.

In these moist nights when I am filled with the memories of a dear one
My broken heart is overcome with emotion
I lighten myself by crying and crying
In these lonely nights of separation

इन भीगी भीगी रातों में याद कोई जब आता है
घायल दिल भर जाता है
रो रो जी बहलाता हूं बिरहा की बरसातों में
इन भीगी रातों में..

प्रेमी सब मिल जाते हैं और मल्हारें गाते हैं
दूर कहीं एक बिछड़ा साथी थामे है दिल को हाथों में
इन भीगी रातों में..

कैए बिताऊं ये दिन रैन पल पल रहता हूं बेचैन
खो बैठा हूं जैसे सब कुछ प्रेम की मीठी गांठों में
इन भीगी भीगी रातों में..

The song links have been embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure for the music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the original owners, such as Sa Re Ga Ma India Limited and others.

Source: songsofyore

The real mesmeriser Talat Mahmood: His best non-film songs