Monday, February 27, 2006

Talat Mehmood, the little brother of Mohammad Rafi

Talat’s singing career story is a sad one. I will not tell you as mentioned in Wikipedia or documented articles. I will tell you as his distant grandson told me about him.

He ran away from his home. He wanted to become a star. He was one of those Nakhrailu (fussy) categories of ‘sensitive artists’ who cannot bear to hear loud noises and are perfectionists about Urdu words. One of those Faiz Ahmed Faiz type soft spoken hippie liberals, who want to do everything from singing, acting to directing but end up doing very little and generally failing.

But his voice was pure silk. The little tremble in his voice, peeved off Naushad and an array of music directors. But that tremble is what makes all of us hum along to his songs. But he was rejected by music director after music director, as his style would remain that classical ‘Ghazal King’ unlike Rafi sahib, with his dynamic voice, could sing to any tune and sing as the music directors wished.

People joke that Rafi was the big brother of Talat. Talat would be the guy who would get the leftover songs, like the leftover whisky from Rafi’s bottle*. He would be the guy who would boldly venture out to act and make movies but fail miserably, while wise old Rafi would focus on singing and daily Riaz (voice practice).

Shaame-gham kii Kasam is one song which is definitely not left over and it epitomizes the true worth of Talat as a ‘King of Ghazal’, where even the great Rafi sahib was no match.

It is sad that Talat sahib stopped singing in 60s. But then time moved on but Talat didn’t. He remains today in my car stereo, as the silky voice which soothes me with the song ‘Meri Yaad mein tum naa aansoo Bahana’ (don’t shed tears in my memory) **

*No evidence has been found of Talat’s or Rafi’s joint drinking habits, hence the writer does not claim that these two singers used to drink heavily or at all. They did perform Hajj together in 1978/79 though.

**Attempted tributes to Talat on his death anniversary recently in Lahore (as shown on Indus Music Channel), were hopeless. Who can ever dance on a Talat Mehmood song?! Only overly ambitious Lahoris can.

And who can sing ‘meri yaad mein tum aansoo naa bahana’ (Don’t shed tears in my memory) with a Punjabi accent?!! Surprise, surprise…only Lahoris can! My fellow country men just downgraded a legend into a bhangra sensation!!