At 3.30 pm on a cloudy afternoon, I'm at a swishy sea-facing Juhu building block.
On the lower level of his duplex, Talat Aziz is being woofwoofed at by a couple of pet pugs. Cut to our talkie business:
Don't you think out of sight is out of mind?
What do you mean by that? I'm pretty much around, giving finishing touches to an important project. I've also been travelling extensively for my concerts.
What's that important project, if I may ask?
Sure, you may. It's a musical work on Mirza Ghalib. People know him as a poet, not as a person. I did Bayan-e-Ghalib with Farooque Shaikh in Kolkata. It worked well with the audience there.
That encouraged me to compose an album on Ghalib. I'm also singing for it. Sonu Nigam is part of the project too. We'll be recording the album soon. That kept me busy.
Isn't there a dearth of young ghazal singers today?
Yes, there is. I mean, I don't see another generation of pure ghazal gayaki around. And please, I don't buy the theory that there aren't too many young listeners.
As a fact, even children relish ghazals today, though they may initially have reservations. Ghazal programme tickets are quite costly.. yet they're sold out in advance. <b1>
Many listeners are young men and women. Perhaps they come because of established names. This may be disheartening for fresh singers.. there aren't too many platforms for them within the mainstream. Albums have gone out of fashion. There isn't enough encouragement.
Ghazal gayaki is not dead, though at this rate it may die soon.
What is the senior generation doing then?
We are doing what we can. For instance, Pankaj Udhas has organised festivals to showcase young talent.
Can singers be friends? How do you look at your friendship with Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and Jagjit Singh?
We've been together for more than 25 years. In fact, for Pankaj's silver wedding anniversary, I organised a small dinner party. About Jagjit Singh, I'd say he's a senior whom I respect.
Weren't there problems between Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh?
Yes, there were. They were not on talking terms.. but that's an old story. Why dig old graves? Whatever happened is between them. I'd rather not comment.
Okay. Don't you think Pankaj Udhas' songs promote alcoholism?
No, they don't! Ghazals can have any subject from sharab and shabab to nationalism and politics. Pankaj, for that matter, has done far more work than what you have heard.. there's more to him than his sharabi ghazals.
Why didn't you act on television again?
I was among the pioneers. I stopped doing television around 1999. I found it too rigorous. The quality has deteriorated drastically. I've never seen an episode of
Kyunki Saas Bhi..
No one ever took me seriously as an actor. I've acted in Dhun, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayee and a few TV serials.. Noorjehan and Saahil. After that, no one approached me, neither did I.
How about composing music and singing for films and television?
Please, I'd rather do my music shows, concerts and recordings. I recently sang for Yatra, the song was edited from the film. I'm glad Khayyam saab liked the song. I can't be singing those high-pitched, loud numbers.
At one point, I composed the title tracks of many television serials.. but beyond a point, that didn't interest me.
Did your parents influence your career?
They were both Urdu literary figures. At 52, I miss them the most. Had they not been an influence, I wouldn't have chosen to be in this profession. <b2>
I was more into cricket in my youth. They acquainted me with the finest poets and singers of their time. That classic influence has stayed with me.
My mother Sajida Abid was a reputed Urdu poetess and writer of her time. Today, sadly, I find Urdu literature dying because there's no one to contribute to its growth.
What about your children?
Adnan is 17 and Shayan is 15. The older one wishes to pursue mass communication. He loves watching movies. He may want to take up acting in the future. Shayan is heavily into music.. he lays his hands on everything pertaining to it.
What is your wife Bina up to these days?
She curates art shows. Some international art galleries from South East Asian countries have approached her to curate too.