Among the many tributes and special features on the legendary singer Talat Mahmood, few, if any, talk about his remarkable repertoire of superhit Bengali songs he sang in the early part of his career. Under the name of Tapan Kumar, Talat Mahmood began his Calcutta sojourn with his first record of Bengali songs in 1944. Sounak Gupta chronicles that illustrious journey, remembering the velvet-voiced singer.
Those were the days when the film industry in Calcutta was flourishing under the New Theatres banner, and the house was working on its new film My Sister. KL Saigal, back in Calcutta for the film after a brief period of being engaged with Ranjit Movietone’s films in Bombay, was ready for recording Do naina matware tihare, hum par zulm kare. Pankaj Kumar Mullick, the music director of the film invited young singer of twenty for being present during the recording. The young man, ever so moved by Saigal’s songs and films, was overwhelmed watching the legend record the classic song. Little did he know that he was soon going to be cast in a film, and that too one, with Kanan Devi, one of KL Saigal’s most well known heroines. He soon became famous in Calcutta as Tapan Kumar, not just as an actor, but as a singer with immense possibilities. The audience of Calcutta remained quite unaware of Tapan’s real name. It was several years later that Tapan Kumar began shining in the light of his own name – Talat Mahmood, a name cherished by music lovers till date.
How did Pankaj Mullick come to know the young Talat that he let him attend the recording of the most well known name of the silver screen then? The story goes back to 1941, when he was a student of the Marris College of Music (presently Bhatkhande Music Institute Deemed University), learning under Shukl Chandrashekhar Ramkrishna Bhat. Having returned from Aligarh after completing his schooling, Talat had come back to his hometown, Lucknow, and got admitted to the Marris College. It was during this time that he began broadcasting Ghazals both from AIR Lucknow and AIR Lahore. The His Master’s Voice Company didn’t fail to recognise the immense possibilities that were latent in the young singer’s voice and in 1941, invited Talat to Calcutta for recording.
The music industry of the 1941 Calcutta was shining gloriously with outpouring of talent and creativity from KC Dey, Pankaj Mullick, Kamal Dasgupta and Kanan Devi. Talat went to Calcutta, taking a short break from his classes in college, and signed a one-year contract with HMV. The same year, in the month of September, his first record with two songs penned by Faiyaz Hashmi and tuned by Subal Dasgupta (Kamal Dasgupta, as per some sources), saw the light of the day.
Pankaj Mullick was present when the 17 year old singer was recording one of these two songs, Sab din ek saman nahi tha/ Ban jaunga kya se kya mein iska to kuchh dhyan nahi tha, at the HMV Studio in Dum Dum. Impressed by the voice and musical abilities of Talat, he repeated the words of the song ‘ban jaunga kya se kya mein’, and that these were prophetic and he would be a famous singer some day. Thus, when Talat Mahmood came back to Calcutta a few years later, after having completed his three-year course in the Marris College of Music, did Mullick, affectionately invite him to watch KL Saigal record for My Sister in the New Theatres Studio. It was just a matter of time for Talat to be recognised as a great singer, he knew.
Pankaj Mullick’s words couldn’t fail to come true. KL Saigal’s My Sister was released in 1944, and in November-December, the same year, Talat’s first Bengali songs, Shono go sonar meye and Jobe esechhile tumi priyo (Composer – Kamal Dasgupta / Lyricist – Pranab Roy), saw the light of the day in a record released by HMV.
Apart from being a composer, Kamal Dasgupta had been one of the trainers most sought for during the times. A year before this, Hemanta Mukherjee had cut his first disc with Hindi songs, under Kamal Dasgupta. That was when Hemanta got his alternative name ‘Hemant Kumar’ and became known outside Bengal by that name. Now when Talat Mahmood recorded his first Bengali songs, Kamal Dasgupta named ‘Tapan Kumar’, the name which brought him fame in Bengal.
Kamal Dasgupta kept a keen eye on perfect pronunciation, knowing that Talat was not a native speaker of Bengali. He asked the lyricist to read out the words of the songs aloud, and Talat, to carefully note each of the pronunciations.
The success of first Bengali record ensured more chances of recording come the singer’s way. Though he recorded Bengali songs under the name Tapan Kumar, his records of Hindi and Urdu songs had him singing under his real name Talat Mahmood.
The year 1944 also saw the release of Tasveer tera dil mera behla na sakegi (Kamal Dasgupta / Faiyaz Hashmi), the Ghazal which gained a lot of appreciation from listeners of different parts of the country, thus proving to be a very important juncture in Talat’s life.
The mid 40s were not only important for Talat Mahmood as it brought him to the limelight as a singer, but also because it was during this time that Talat Mahmood shaped himself as an actor. Kanan Devi had left New Theatres back in 1941, and was working for Rajlakshmi, her seventh film under Muralidhar Chatterjee’s M P Productions. Talat, too was cast in a role. Directed by the famous poet and author Premendra Mitra, the film, released in mid-1945, and had well known actors like Chhabi Biswas, Jahar Ganguly and Tulsi Chakraborty in the cast.
Shono go shonar meye (1944, Kamal Dasgupta / Pranab Roy)
Talat Mahmood sang two songs in the film, Is jag se kuchh aas nahin and Jaago musafir jaago (Robin Chatterjee, Dhirendra Chandra Mitra / Suresh Chowdhury). The film was not a big success and didn’t add much to the achievement of the new singer-actor. However, the music director Robin Chatterjee didn’t fail to take note of Talat’s possibilities as a singer. He invited Talat to sing in Sukumar Dasgupta’s film, Saat Nambar Bari. In this film, released in April, 1946, Talat Mahmood sang two songs, Kotha noy aaji raate and Ke daake amay seki tumi (Robin Chatterjee / Pranab Roy), which brought him a lot of appreciation, as anticipated by the composer. Unfortunately, the success of this songs didn’t bring him many more playback assignments for reasons not known.
In Calcutta he sang a few more songs in films like Tum Aur Main (1947), Banchita (1948), Swayamsiddha (1949), Samapti (1949), etc. Some of the songs from these films maybe listed here –
1. Purwai pawan lehraye o jiya jaye (Tum Aur Main, 1947 / Robin Chatterjee / Zakir Hussain/)
2. Bhenge gelo jodi basa michhe keno aar maya (Banchita, 1948 / Subal Dasgupta / Pranab Roy)
3. Jo beet gaya so beet gaya (Swayamsiddha, 1949 / Prafulla Chowdhury / Bhavaniprasad Mishra)
4. Din beet chale (Swayamsiddha, 1949 / Prafulla Chowdhury / Bhavaniprasad Mishra)
5. Mujhko apna banaya kisne (Samapti, 1949 / Timirbaran / Pandit Bhushan / with Suprova Sarkar)
6. Rangeen baharein hai yeh (Samapti, 1949 / Timirbaran / Pandit Bhushan / with Suprova Sarkar)
7. Man ki mayna bol rahi hai (Samapti, 1949 / Timirbaran / Pandit Bhushan)
8. Hay yeh main ne kya kiya (Samapti, 1949 / Timirbaran / Pandit Bhushan)
Bhenge gelo jodi basa michhe keno aar maya (Banchita, 1948 / Subal Dasgupta / Pranab Roy)
In the films Talat Mahmood sang for in Calcutta, apart from him, eminent names such as Kanan Devi, Shanta Apte, Suprova Sarkar, Kalyani Das, Hemanta Mukherjee, Tarun Banerjee and others had lent their voices. However good the songs may have been, they didn’t prove to be big successes.
Apart from singing, Talat Mahmood also acted in Tum Aur Main (1947) opposite Kanan Devi and in Samapti (1949) opposite Bharati Devi. The films too didn’t get significant response from the audience. Talat Mahmood, after his break in playback singing in 1946, had to actually wait till 1950 for his second big success. But that’s going too far too fast.
The Bengali music industry, since its early days, laid no less importance to the non-film ‘Basic’ records of singers than those of film songs. Talat Mahmood, as Tapan Kumar, didn’t thus need too many hit film songs stay in the hearts of listeners. He gained huge fame through the non-film Bengali songs that he sang, right from his first record in 1944. Less than a year’s time after cutting his first Bengali disc, Talat’s second one was released in September, 1945. The songs from the record, Duti pakhi duti teere, majhe nodi bohe dheere (Lyricist – Girin Chakraborty), Ghumero chhaya chandero chokhe (Pranab Roy), tuned by Kamal Dasgupta again, were not only hits then, but remained so famous even over three decades later, that Talat Mahmood had to rerecord the songs for the thousands of his admirers in Bengal using the developed recording technologies of the times.
Eminent composers like Durga Sen, Nirmal Bhattacharjee, Subal Dasgupta, Jaganmoy Mitra (Jagmohan), Robin Chatterjee, worked with Talat to create memorable songs like:
* Adho raate jodi ghum bhenge jay (1948/ Nirmal Bhattacharjee / Anil Bhattacharjee)
* Takhono jageni prabhatero shuktara (1948/ Jaganmoy Mitra / Charu Mukherjee),
* Natomukhe keno phire chole jao (1948/ Durga Sen / Pranab Roy)
* Hay bhalobasa se ki aleya (1949/ Subal Dasgupta / Pranab Roy,) and others.
In Calcutta, Talat Mahmood also collaborated with composers Durga Sen, Girin Chakraborty, Subal Dasgupta, Kamal Dasgupta, to create several melodious Ghazals and Geets in Urdu, Hindi.
Talat Mahmood was one of the last singers to gain fame in undivided India. After partition in 1947, the poet Faiyaz Hashmi penned two songs speaking of religious harmony, that were termed as ‘Milan Tarana’. The songs, Jai Hind! Allah Ho Akbar! and Bharatmata ke do pehlun, composed by Subal Dasgupta, was sung in chorus by Talat Mahmood, Jagmohan, Supriti Ghosh and Husna Banu. In 1949, Talat Mahmood inaugurated the shortwave transmission in the Dhaka Radio Station with Feroza Begum (another eminent singer trained by Kamal Dasgupta).
After having progressed in his career from Calcutta for over half a decade, Talat Mahmood permanently left for Bombay in 1949. But this was not before he could be sure of the answer to the question he asked through the words of his own song in Saat Nambar Bari,
Ke daake amay,
Se ki tumi, tumi go
Ke daake phire phire
Se ki tumi, tumi go
(Who calls me, is it you? Oh, is it you? Who calls me time and again? Is it you? Oh, is it you?)
Ke daake amay (Saat Nambar Bari, 1949)
What was the answer? Who was to answer? This would take us back for a while to 1945 when the Eureka Pictures’ film Dotana had released. The audience didn’t fail to notice the very young actress playing the role of the heroine opposite the much senior and acclaimed actor Jahar Ganguli. This was Latika Mullick, who they had also seen in New Theatres’ Kashinath, playing the role of child Kamala.
Latika, at twelve years old, was the youngest heroine of the times when Dotana saw the light of the day. The young actress, one of the many admirers of Talat Mahmood in Calcutta during the late 40s, was thrilled to meet the singer-actor during one of his frequent visits to Calcutta. The handsome singer-actor’s heart was stolen, and love blossomed. The Calcutta connection resulted in the meeting of Talat Mahmood and Latika Mullick, who was renamed Nasreen after their wedding in 1951. That was exactly a decade after Pankaj Mullick had said that the words ‘Ban jaunga kya se kya main’ for Talat would be prophetic for him. The prophecy had come true. When Talat went to Bombay, he realised that his name was already a known one there!
Bombay had success after success waiting for Talat Mahmood, beginning with Aarzoo. However, his connection with Bengal was never cut off. Bengal kept craving for Tapan Kumar’s songs. One after the other, Talat too, kept recording Bengali songs like:
* Chander eto alo, (1952 / Robin Chatterjee / Kamal Ghosh)
* Alote chhayate dinguli mor (1952 / Robin Chatterjee / Gouriprasanna Majumdar)
* Je mala shukay je khela phuray (1956 / Shyamal Mitra, Pabita Mitra)
* Ei rimjhimjhim barosha (1958 / Sudhin Dasgupta)
* Jetha ramdhanu othhe hese (1959 / V Balsara / Shyamal Gupta)
* Ruper oi pradeep jwele (1961 / Kanu Ghosh / Shyamal Gupta)
and others, nearly throughout his career.
In Bengal, Tapan Kumar remained Tapan Kumar for some, while for most, gradually becaming Talat Mahmood. Through each song he sang, the velvet voiced singer kept proving true the prophecy ‘ban jaunga kya se kya main’ through every song he sang, in a newer way!
Tapan Kumar (Talat Mahmood’s) Bengali Songs Jukebox
1. Bimane Bimane Alokero Gane – Sitanshu Sekhar Ghosh
2. Sabare Ami Nomi – Kanan Devi
3. Aajo Mone Pore – Juthika Roy
4. Ogo Mor Geetimoy – Geetashree Sandhya Mukherjee
5. Yesterday’s Melodies Today’s Memories – Manek Premchand
6. HMV’s Record Sangeet Magazine, Record Booklets, Film Booklets
7. Jetha Ramdhanu Othhe Hese – Shankarlal Bhattacharya (courtesy – Ananda Bazar Patrika)
(Pictures: Sounak Gupta’s collections and Internet)
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