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

February 24 marks the birth anniversary of Talat Mahmood, whose timeless songs remain one of Indian music’s most treasured legacies. Talat Mahmood’s mellow voice revived deep human emotions, and the magic of his songs resounds to this day. Talat Mahmood started his career as a ghazal singer before turning to singing playbacks for Hindi films. He captivated audiences with his silky, velvety voice that easily conveyed a range of emotions, making him one of the most beloved singers of his time, and even 25 years after his death, his fans around the world have not waned as his unique blend of classical and contemporary styles , combined with his impeccable diction and phrasing, continues to inspire generations. His niece Sahar Zaman, an award-winning political journalist, is writing her first definitive biography. We talked to her about the book, the idea behind it, and about his uncle Talat Mahmood. fragments.
How do you remember your uncle (Naani’s real brother)? Do you have any memories with him?

I remember him as a lovely uncle with sparkling eyes who would be thrilled to treat us and make sure we had the best time while visiting Mumbai. In later years, of course, he slowed down and became very quiet. One of my most special memories, which I also write about in more detail in my biography, is meeting him in Delhi after he received Padma Bhushan. It was such a beautiful evening. By the way, it was about the day after Eid, so it became a double celebration for us in his hotel room. It was a private affair with just six close family members. What I liked most about him, in retrospect, was that he was such a simple person. Despite his enormous fame and pioneering success, I don’t know how he managed to remain so modest.

Known as the man with the golden voice, Talat Mahmood’s journey is quite remarkable. What was the one thing about it that you think stood out?
I’ve explored and discovered so many other aspects of his career that I’ve decided to describe him as a mild pattern breaker. I know it’s hard to get beyond his charming looks and soft voice, which were his greatest assets during the Golden Age of cinema, but he was always a pioneer. His decision to become a professional singer despite belonging to a well-educated and conservative Lucknow family, his decision to be the first playback singer to start touring at his peak in 1956, his decision to perform on screen which made him independent India’s first singing star and his decision to pursue a parallel career in non-film Ghazals as well as Bengali songs. Today’s independent ghazal music industry actually rests on his shoulders! He also played a significant role in the fight for royalties for singers. He officially served as secretary of the Playback Singers Association when his friends Lata and Mukesh decided to join hands and raise their voices on the issue in the mid-1960s. Even his world tours helped determine which countries in the world have NRI populations with deep pockets for concert sponsorship and ticket buying. Many times in these cities, after the success of Talat’s concerts, other singers followed in their footsteps.

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Tell us about his biography and why 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 last book will be released soon to celebrate his 100th anniversary. But it is certainly the definitive biography. Firstly, because it is the first and only biography. Second, the professional and personal insights are unique and unparalleled. Readers will be amazed to learn about new aspects of his life and work. Being a journalist and a family member has been a blessing for me. With my professional background as a journalist, access to members of the film industry, and personal family insights, it makes writing this book an apt combination.

How easy or difficult was it to write a biography of your own grandfather’s uncle? Did being a close relative make your approach a little biased?
Once again, I think my journalistic experience really helped me here. Yes, there were moments where I felt I should be so brutally honest, or should I not reveal too many family details. So it was a tightrope walk, always keeping the right balance. They say the best biographies in the world are those where the character is treated like a real person, with all shades of black and white and everything else in between.

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You really carried the legacy of your uncle Talat Mahmood through “Jashn-e-Talat”. Can you expand on that?

Jashn-e-Talat is a tribute festival that I started in 2017. It was the first multi-performance of its kind dedicated to the music and films of Talat nana. It includes vocal performances, Kathak dancing, salsa dancing, theatrical narration of his life and LIVE portrait painting of his images on stage. We also did a flash mob of his original soundtracks at India’s largest mall, DLF Mall of India. The idea was to connect his music with youth. It’s a good thing the British Council has recognized this as a contemporary festival to watch out for. The combination of vintage music in a contemporary context was unprecedented. But Jashn-e-Talat’s journey was also what prompted me to write my biography.

Tell us about some important anecdotes from the life of Talat Mahmood that you mentioned in the book. When will the biography come out?

Talat Mahmood’s life follows the history of India and the evolution of our music and film industries. He was a rare pre-independence celebrity and post-independence movie star. I can’t give you too many details but I can assure you that this biography follows his childhood in Lucknow, his life and career in Kolkata as Tapan Kumar to Bengali songs, his move to Mumbai for the Golden Age and his non-stop world tour – everything down to the smallest detail. You compare it to his personal milestones and challenges. And voila, you have one of the most interesting stories at your fingertips. It will be a gift for all music lovers in preparation for its centenary.

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Do you have a message you’d like to share with his fans on his birthday today?
I recently came across a European website where the designer was selling t-shirts and mugs with the face of Talat Mahmood. One of the slogans on the T-shirt read: “I don’t need a therapist because I have Talat Mahmood.” I was amazed. Such is the extent of the influence of his voice on generations and nations. He was eventually introduced to American audiences as Frank Sinatra from India. You listen to it only once and it will stay on your playlist forever as a friend and confidante.

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