In 1991, ghazal singer Talat Aziz wore a gold-embroidered jacket and trousers for his first acting role in the movie Dhun. Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, the film was about the journey of a small-town boy fulfilling his dreams of becoming a rock star. Aziz, who had by then made a respectable name for himself in ghazal singing, was aiming for much more with Dhun. However, the film was never released despite the popularity of the non-ghazal soundtrack by Laxmikant-Pyarelal that harnessed Aziz’s pop singing skills. The singer’s good looks, dashing personality and great singing voice were reclaimed by the ghazal industry, which can use some of his telegenic aura.
Talat Aziz was born on November 11, 1956, in Hyderabad. His mother, Sajida Abid, was an Urdu poet and writer. Ghazal great Jagjit Singh was a family friend, and his regular visits inspired Aziz to train under the Kirana gharana as a singer. In 1979, at the age of 23, Aziz was launched with the album Jagjit Singh Presents Talat Aziz. In the ghazal “Kaise Sukoon Paaon”, written by Saeed Shaheedi, Aziz displays a command over the higher notes but lacks the same fluidity when he has to pitch low. During this period, he also began to train under ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan.
Offers to sing for the movies quickly followed. Aziz’s ghazals in Umrao Jaan (1981) and Bazaar (1982) were huge hits. In the song “Zindagi Jab Bhi”, written by poet Shahryar and composed by Khayyam for Umrao Jaan, Aziz’s textured voice glides over the composition, showcasing a deeper bass than was present in his debut album.
In Bazaar, Aziz sang the duet “Phir Chhidi Raat” with Lata Mangeshkar. Another duet, “Tumhi Se Roshan” with Asha Bhosle, followed for Lorie (1984). For the next five years, Aziz concentrated on music albums and live concerts. In 1987, he released a music video for his album Tasavvur, making it the first of its kind for any ghazal singer.
Aziz returned to playback singing in 1989 for Mahesh Bhatt’s Daddy, in which he sang “Aaina Mujhse Meri Pehli Si Surat Maange”. Aziz has sung selectively for films, but every one of his songs has been a milestone in his career.
After Daddy, Bhatt decided to launch Aziz as an actor in Dhun. The film’s soundtrack gave the singer an opportunity to collaborate with his guru Mehdi Hassan. They sang a bhajan “Main Atma Tu Parmatma”, which was a unique collaboration between the two talents who had never sung a duet before, let alone a ghazal.
In the 1990s, the music videos was the most aggressive tool to market albums. Disco beats were added to ghazals and singers were encouraged to appear in their songs. Aziz played along, having missed his acting launch.
In the video for the song “Chanda Teri Chandni” from the album Mehboob, (1997), Aziz is seen in a clinch with the actress Sheeba. The imagery is a marked departure from the demure manner in which ghazal singers are usually depicted in videos. The video offers a brief and scintillating glimpse of the heartthrob that Aziz could have become had he pursued something more than the ghazal.