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Love in a gentle tremolo

Talat Mahmood
The Silken Voice
Rs 275 (5 cassettes)

Jalte hain jiske liye from Sujata is perhaps Talat Mahmood's most famous song. He almost never got to sing it. S D Burman wasn't too happy with the tremolo in his voice, and only reluctantly agreed to record him. That it turned out to be a delicate masterpiece and a huge hit is history.

The aspect that set Talat apart was this tremolo. And it served him excellently when he had to sing the ghazal, a poetic form used in many Hindi films of his time.

The ghazal in Hindi cinema is a courtly statement of emotions -- unrequited love, anguish, loss, death.

Talat Mahmood's voice is the perfect expression of this form. It renders poetry without climactic conclusions but with quiet stoicism in every situation.

Gentlemanly, restrained, courtly even in laying blame at the beloved's door, the gentle tremolo in his voice only accentuated all that was best in this style. No wonder that he was the undisputed king of ghazal.

In a tribute to Talat Mahmood on his first death anniversary (9 May 1999) HMV presents a collection of 110 unforgettable hits. There are familiar and well loved ghazals like Mein dil hun ik armaan bhara, Jaye to jaye kahan, Yeh hawa yeh raat, Tasveer banaata hoon, to name a few, but there are some rare non-film ghazals and songs which form the true treat.

The informative booklet accompanying the album gives us some interesting details. Even before a warm, friendly Bombay could embrace him, Talat Mahmood was popular among ghazal lovers in Calcutta. In fact, the album begins with the song Anil Biswas composed for the film Arzoo, Ai dil mujhe aisi jagah.

Many in Bombay had put off Talat from approaching Anil Biswas, warning him that the composer would not like the quaver in his voice. He tried desperately to get rid of it before going in for the recording. But Anil Biswas was shocked to find the originality of his voice lost and ordered him to immediately revert to his old, original style of singing.

The rarely-heard ghazal from the 1954 film Gulbahar is built with simple piano chords and seems to be a pleasant love song, but the words and the music suddenly let out the tragic unattainable nature of his love

Ghar teri nawazish ho jaye
ghar tera ishaara ho jaye
ghar mout sahara ho jaye
ghar tufaan kinara ho jaye

You can keep listening to this one!

Kahte hai dil tumko from Memsahib(1956) is another lovely song one rarely hears. The then favoured waltz rhythm with the piano accompaniment announces a typical love song. It was also used in Do dil dhadak rahen hai from Insaaf(1956). Chand sitare from the 1955 film Adl-e-Jehangir is a simple tune. The high pitched flute playing the second lead through-out adds a very piquant sound to the song. Teri zulfon se pyar is lyrical, the movements full of surprising turns. It doesn't fall within the musical style we now associate with the ghazal.

Dil jawaan arzoo jawaan is a breezy tune, never heard before by this reviewer. It is from the film Samundari Daku(1956). With a guitar and an accordion composer Jaidev has created a lively song in Bhoop, without using heavy beats or drums. In fact the song has the faint sound of horse hooves serving as rhythm!

Full of elegant tunes in Talat's soft voice, this five-cassette album is a nostalgic delight.

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