Talat Aziz’s voice has always been an ocean of calm, honed to perfection under the guidance of two of the finest ghazal singers in the subcontinent, Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh. His kind of music may have disappeared from Hindi cinema but of late, Aziz is often seen on screen as an ageing father or the friendly family guest. It all started with Rahul Chittella’s Gulmohar in 2023 where he played a family friend who sings a typical party song. “I wanted a jovial man for the part, ideally who could sing himself so we could have the actor/ singer perform the part and the song. The best thing I loved about Talatji is that despite all that he’s gone through in his life, he remains an optimist who genuinely loves himself, much like the character. And it helped that he hadn’t sung a film song for a long time so the nostalgia box was ticked for me as the song that we composed was such,” says Chittella. “I don’t think I discussed the role much with him. I met him [for the first time] and loved his personality and thought it would be great to have him as the family friend. He had the warmth, nostalgia and optimism that we needed for the story,” Chittella adds. Aziz has also been seen in Scam 2003 as well as in Fighter in the role of Hrithik Roshan’s father.
He lives in Mumbai, does shows throughout the year and also trains youngsters. Aziz, who is well kept at 66, has acted briefly onscreen before on TV and had a small role in Fitoor (2016). He’s had quite a life story. He was a serious cricket player in his home city, Hyderabad, and practised with the greats. And then due to various kinds of politics, he had to give up the sport. He went into a shell and for months was depressed. He would listen to Mehdi Hassan songs during this period, locked up in his room. He was then taken to Canada by his family where he decided to travel by road and around that time, at a home mehfil, he saw Mehdi Hassan perform live. He became his student. That’s how he started singing. And never stopped.
“Can you please turn on the air conditioning in the lounge? We’re melting,” asks a swish Mumbai socialite. “They have a habit of washing utensils just when cameras are rolling,” says another, pulling up her domestics in the kitchen. And a self-satisfied, smirking designer says, without irony, “We have three people in the staff whose only job is to polish our antiques in batches.” BBC Two’s three-part documentary Streets of Gold: Mumbai looks at India with rose-coloured glasses with a glass of rosé in its hand. There’s Nadir Godrej guffawing about how the old rich lived in bungalows but the new rich live in highrises. There’s Yash Birla pointing to the carelessly clashing luxury labels on his person. And there’s Gautam Singhania alighting from a helicopter (“It beats the traffic”) to play with his race cars. Thoroughly spoilt, utterly excessive, this is the world of Mumbai’s one per centers, where being rich is cool. While the world’s documentarians have so far focused on a ground-up view of Mumbai, Streets of Gold looks at the city as the home of the rich or the aspiring rich— whether it is the small businessman in Dharavi who is making plastic pouches by the thousands or the young girl from the slums who wants to become a supermodel. As for the super rich, they seem to be partying ceaselessly, carelessly, and cheerfully. The stark difference in the quality of life that would have bothered earlier generations is feted, no doubt as Mumbai is the city of dreams for Indians, and the world. Of course, the figure who is shown as having kicked the door open to all this is former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Scene and Heard
A chance encounter in a flight with actor Janhvi Kapoor who was escorting her sister Khushi to the sets of the latter’s new film with Ibrahim Ali Khan got me thinking. Janhvi has talked often, with regret, about missing out on her mother Sridevi’s guidance on the sets of her first film Dhadak, because she was so conscious of her star stature. Clearly, Janhvi has decided to help her little sister Khushi, whose debut in Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies was a tad underwhelming. Janhvi is also increasingly going back to her roots, and this is nowhere more evident than in her forthcoming film Devara, where she is cast opposite Junior NTR. His grandfather NT Rama Rao was a co-star with Sridevi in at least 10 films. This is one legacy pair worth waiting for.