I have adapted to changes to stay relevant for four decades, says Ghazal Maestro Talat Aziz who was in Hyderabad to perform at the centenary celebrations of his alma mater, HPS. In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, the Ghazal King shared his vivid memories from his school days at the HPS.
You have been invited by people like the King of Morocco, PM Vajpayee and L.K. Advani to perform at the most prestigious venues. How does it feel to be invited by your alma mater to perform in its centenary event?
Very good, because this is the Centenary celebration. I've been fortunate to have performed in the golden and platinum jubilee also.
Any special memory from your HPS days that you would like to share?
I have some great memories. It is not just a school, it's an institution. It gives all-round development for a child. Classes used to be from 9am till 3pm and after that, sports was mandatory. You had to take part in some sport. Now I believe they have a swimming pool, which is of Olympic standards with eight lanes. Even then we had a swimming pool. In fact, I spent more time in school than at home. I used to take the school bus at eight o'clock from my home in Himayatnagar on Liberty Road. Attend the nine o'clock assembly in classes. Lunch time, I had a special place, everyone had.
I have very fond memories of my school. I enjoyed each moment of it. I passed out in ‘72. It's a long time back. I'm actually raring to go back and see what changes they have made. I believe there's a new amphitheatre, where there used to be a dispensary at the back where the cricket field was. There used to be a firing range, In fact I got a marksmanship certificate in the rifle firing, as an NCC cadet. So as you can see, it was not just studying. I took part in the inter-house competitions and won. I started singing here. I sang ‘Phoolon ka taaron ka’ and my Vijayanagar House won a trophy.
I did a mono-act. So I'm very glad to be part of the centenary celebrations because this is once in a lifetime. I don't think I can see another centenary. So I'm really looking forward to it. It's a lot of memories flooding back. Mr. Jacobs was the principal when I joined. Mr Devadatta was the sports teacher—very prim and proper, like a military man in tapered trousers, ironed shirt, black tie, hair slicked back and our cricket coach was Mr. Habeeb Khan, six foot six inches tall. He used to play for Railways, a fast bowler. I still am in touch with people, we have a group of the ‘72 batch.
So WhatsApp helps you stay in touch?
Yeah, we had a reunion. But I couldn't come for that. But we are in touch. I see that they keep posting on the group. Every day, there are about 20 posts from all over. So they posted this also. I'm very happy to be in my hometown and in my school there's nothing like evocative memories.
Your memories of Hyderabad...
The Hyderabad I left is no longer there now. But Hyderabad—the food, the culture, the atmosphere, the temperament of old Hyderabadis, still is the same. And I'm an old Hyderabadi. But I've changed because most of my life I have spent in Bombay. Professionally, I've become very different. I cannot function like a Hyderabadi there. Hyderabad is laid back, relaxed.
There was a phase in late eighties and early nineties when there was a craze for Ghazals and Ghazal albums of used to sell like hot cakes. You have been a part of that golden age of ghazals along with the likes of Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh. Then it shifted to music videos and remixes around mid-nineties. What do you think led to this change?
I came after Jagjit Singh and then it was Pankaj. I was the first one to make a music video in ’87. See—change is constant. So one has to keep on changing and adapting and being relevant. Even today. Last night when I had a concert in Pune, if you're seeing the concert everywhere, a lot of people remarked, we have actually seen the first Ghazal rock concert. If you go to my social media today, you will see a lot of people have posted clips of last night's concert in Pune, you will see this interaction with the crowd and the audience. It was very warm. I'm leaving for the US next week for a tour. So the animals acting I've done acting roles and web series and web movies Between this and that, I have to manage my singing career concerts. I'm teaching music also. I have 75 students from all over the world the last three years I teach online.
So, you have adapted to stay relevant.
Yeah. Tell me, in which profession is anybody relevant in 43 years? There is a very famous saying that any species which doesn't want to become extinct has to adapt—that’s the law of nature. If you do not adapt, you're out!
Between singing and acting, which one satisfies your inner self the most?
You see when you're singing, with audience, you get an instant reaction. So the feedback is instant. But when you act, the feedback comes after it's released.
Of all the all your albums, which one is your personal favorite
That is impossible. Anything which is popular, which l have to sing is ‘Umrao Jaan’, ‘Bazaar’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Kaise Sukoon Paon’, ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid na Karo’ and lot of others which I do. So these are standard. And every time I sing, people start clapping. So I've adapted to that also. In ‘Kaise Sukoon Paon’, we do a little rhythm take and then people start clapping like in a rock concert. So, we have a rock ghazal now.
Tell us about your upcoming projects
I'm leaving for the US on a tour. I have shows in Houston, Dallas, New Jersey, New York. Then once I return, I've got a major project, which I have to work on, which I cannot reveal as of now. It is a very big project sorry and we'll get to know later. It will be something on Ghazal, but not singing only. Just watch it. I would be going to Australia, New Zealand in February, Singapore in March, then comeback. Then I have my concert here and then there are my classes. I am playing Hrithik’s father in the film—‘Fighter’. I get a lot of offers, but I only select ones which I like.