“I don’t need a therapist because I have Talat Mahmood”: a preview of the legendary singer’s biography

February 24th marks the birth anniversary of Talat Mahmood, whose timeless songs remain one of the most priceless legacies of Indian music. Talat Mahmood’s mellifluous voice brought to life deep human emotions and the magic of his songs resonates to this day. Talat Mahmood started his career as a ghazal singer before turning to playback singing for Hindi films. He captivated audiences with his silky, velvety voice that expressed a range of emotions with ease, making him one of the most beloved singers of his time and even 25 years after his death, his global fan following has not waned with his unique blend of styles. classics and contemporary, coupled with his impeccable diction and phrasing continue to inspire generations. His great niece Sahar Zaman, an award winning political journalist is writing his first definitive biography. We talked to her about the book, the idea behind it and her great-uncle Talat Mahmood. Parts.
How do you remember your great-uncle (naani’s real brother)? Do you have any memories of him?

I remember him as a cute great uncle with bright eyes who would be excited to treat us and make sure we had a good time when visiting Mumbai. In his later years, of course, he slowed down and became very silent. One of my most special memories, which I also write about in more detail in the biography, is when I met him in Delhi after he received the Padma Bhushan. It was such a beautiful night. By the way, it was a day or two after Eid, so it became a double celebration for us in his hotel room. It was a private affair with just six of us close family members. In hindsight, what I liked most about him was that he was such a simple person. Despite his massive stardom and pioneering success, I don’t know how he managed to remain so humble.

Known as the man with the golden voice, Talat Mahmood’s journey is quite remarkable. What was the one thing about him that you think stands out?
I researched and discovered so many other aspects of his career that I chose to define him as a gentle mold breaker. I know it’s hard to look past the charming eyes and smooth voice that were his biggest USP in the Golden Age of cinema, but he was always a trailblazer. His decision to become a professional singer despite coming from a well educated and conservative Lucknow family, his decision to be the first playback singer to start touring at the height of his career in 1956, his decision to act on screen which made him independent India’s first singing star and her decision to pursue parallel careers in non-film Ghazals as well as Bengali songs. Ghazal’s independent music industry of today rests on his shoulders! He also played a significant role in leading the battle for singers’ copyright. He officially held the position of secretary of the Playback Singers Association when his friends Lata and Mukesh decided to join hands and raise their voices for the cause in the mid-1960s. Even his world tours helped establish which countries in the world had an NRI population with deep pockets to sponsor shows and buy tickets. Often, other singers followed suit in these cities after the success of Talat’s concerts.

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Tell us about your biography and the reason you named it – The Definitive Biography? Do you think the previous ones didn’t paint the right picture?
I just finished the first draft of the biography and wrote about 70,000 words. The final book will be released soon to celebrate its centennial. But it is certainly the definitive biography. First, because it is the first and only biography. And second, the professional and personal insights are unique and unrivaled. Readers will be delighted to discover new facets of his life and work. It has been a blessing for me to be a journalist and a family member. Because of my professional training as a journalist, access to insiders in the film industry, and personal insights from my family make writing this book a suitable combination.

How easy or difficult was it to write the biography of your own grandfather’s biological uncle? Has being a close relative made you a little biased in your approach?
Again, I think my journalism background really helped me here. Yes, there were times when I felt I had to be so brutally honest or not give out too many family details. So it’s been a tightrope walk to constantly strike the right balance. They say the best biographies in the world are the ones where the protagonist is treated like a real person, black and white and all.

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You really carried on your great-uncle Talat Mahmood’s legacy through “Jashn-e-Talat”. Can you elaborate on that?

Jashn-e-Talat is a tribute festival that I started in 2017. It was the first multi-performance show dedicated to the music and films of Talat nana. It includes singing performances, Kathak dancing, salsa dancing, theatrical narration of her life, and LIVE portrait painting of her images on stage. We also did a flash mob to their original soundtracks in India’s biggest mall, DLF Mall of India. The idea was to connect his music to youth. It was fitting when the British Council listed it as a contemporary festival to look out for. The combination of vintage music in a contemporary context was unprecedented. But the Jashn-e-Talat journey is also what prompted me to start writing the biography.

Tell us some important stories from Talat Mahmood’s life that you mentioned in the book. When will the biography come out?

Talat Mahmood’s life flows along with the history of India and the evolution of our music and film industry. He was a rare pre-independence celebrity and post-independence movie star. I cannot give much details but I can assure you that this biography traces his childhood in Lucknow, his life and career in Kolkata as Tapan Kumar for Bengali songs, his move to Bombay for the Golden Age and his non-stop world. tours – all this in great detail. You share that with his personal life milestones and challenges as well. And presto, you have one of the most interesting stories at hand. This will be a gift for all music lovers in preparation for their centenary.

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Any messages you would like to share with your fans on your birthday today?
I recently came across a European website where a designer was selling T-shirts and mugs emblazoned with Talat Mahmood’s face. One of the slogans on the T-shirt read: “I don’t need a therapist because I have Talat Mahmood.” I was amazed. That is the reach of his voice’s influence across generations and also across nationalities. After all, he was introduced to the American public as the Frank Sinatra of India. You only listen to him once and he will remain in your playlist as your friend and confidant forever.

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