Jashn-e-Talat by Sahar Zaman, a celebration of the life and work of yesteryear icon Talat Mahmood, was organised at Delhi’s India Islamic Cultural Centre on 4 March. The dance-and-music concert was curated and organised by the legendary singer and actor’s grandniece, Sahar Zaman.
Zaman first thought about organising the event in 2015 and it took her three years to “finally make it happen”.
In conversation with Guardian 20, Zaman, the chief curator and organiser of the festival, revealed why she felt the need to put together this show. She said, “The thought first came to me three years ago, in 2015. I was rushing to my news studio for my bulletins with a very stressed mind. My son had a high fever but I couldn’t stay back with him at home. I put on the radio in my car and my grand-uncle Talat Mahmood’s song ‘Sham-e-Gham Ki Kasam’ was playing. His voice instantly soothed me and I felt so grateful. He has always been a great pride for the family but at that particular moment in my car, I felt indebted to pay him a befitting tribute.”
Zahar, a journalist by profession, had no experience prior to this of executing a music concert. So, naturally, she faced several challenges while working on the show. She told us, “The very fact that it took me three years to finally make this event happen is indicative of the multiple challenges that I faced. It meant taking time out from my daily schedule at office and home.”
She added, “A series of meetings with multiple brands that could be my partners, with artistes who were interested in performing, and then convincing each participant to come on board without their commercial fee. I had no funds to go ahead with but I had the blessing of very supportive senior artistes, who all come on board, either for me or for the love of Talat Mahmood. I spent from my own pocket for Jashn-e-Talat but the response and the result have been priceless.”
The multi-performance show had a lineup of both youngsters and seasoned performers, from the fields of music, dance, arts and literature. There were performances by the ghazal legend Talat Aziz, singer Dr Radhika Chopra, and the AIR artiste Sanjeev Choudhury, who sang Mahmood’s best-known hits.
As we caught up with Dr Radhika Chopra to know about her experience of performing at the festival, she told us, “It was a lovely, beautiful experience. I have always been a huge admirer of Talat Mahmood sahab, but I have never sung his songs before. It was the first time I sang them on stage. It was challenging because anytime when you try and recreate what a legend has already sung, it is not an easy task.”
She continued, “But since his grandniece was very keen that I be a part of the celebration, I was ready to do it. I liked the way she incorporated young singers, salsa dancers, and painters into it. So I think it was very creatively expressed. Something very unique and different. I am very honoured to be a part of it.”
Chopra sang Mahmood’s popular tracks like “Phir Wohi Sham Wohi Gham Wohi Tanhai Hai”, “Yeh Hawa Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni”, “Jalte Hain Jiske Liye Teri Aankhon Ke Diye”, “Shaam-e-Gham Ki Kasam”, and “Jaye to Jaye Kahan” among others.
The festival also witnessed a performance by the Kathak exponent Vidha Lal, who made an exception by dancing on Hindi film songs sung by Mahmood.
About the event and the series of singing competitions and flashmobs that were organised to acquaint the younger generation with Mahmood’s legacy of classics, Lal told Guardian 20, “When I heard his classically rich songs I really wanted to do my Kathak on them. Because during his time, even the filmy songs had very strong classical compositions. This show organised by Sahar is going to be a benchmark because of the youth involvement. Many of these children would have heard of Talat Mahmood only after Sahar’s ground series on Talat Mahmood.”
The non-ticketed event was a culmination of a long series of events which began in October last year, where college singing competitions in Delhi University and flash mobs in popular malls of the Delhi-NCR region were organised. The winners of the competitions finally got an opportunity to perform Mahmood’s songs at the Delhi show on 4 March.
Jatin Sharma, an 18-year-old student at Dyal Singh College of the University of Delhi, performed two duets at the fest. Speaking about the platform, he said, “Most of us these days like to hear party songs. But this celebration of Talat Mahmood ji took us back to the golden era of music. And as an artiste, I got a platform to showcase my talent.”
Zaman, who couldn’t spend much time with her granduncle, fondly remembers him as “very generous at heart”. She recounted a famous incident from the past. Zaman said, “He didn’t seem to have any insecurities as an artiste. There’s a very famous film of the late 1950s, starring Dilip Kumar. Talat Mahmood was at the peak of his career and he was supposed to do playback for Dilip Kumar. But he was headed out for a tour and instead recommended another voice for the complete album of the film. Imagine that. He was in a position to keep the recording on hold till he was back but he generously gave it to another singer. This teaches us a lot about the kind of person Talat Mahmood was.”
Acclaimed ghazal singer Talat Aziz who enthralled the audience with his rendition of Mahmood’s songs also talked about the iconic singer’s repertoire of work. Aziz said, “His song ‘Sham-e-Gham Ki Kasam’ that people instantly identify with, even though the younger generation might not know it’s his song, but they would still be familiar with the melody. That’s the great contribution of any artist. Even after they’re gone, the memories they leave behind through their work, it goes on and on. Even though generations change but the melody and art lives on as long as people have hearts.”
Zaman, who intends to continue “re-introducing Talat Mahmood’s music” to the youngsters, also hopes to make Jashn-e-Talat an annual event.