Kolkata: Indian pop icon Usha Uthup, who has wowed her audience with her pop, filmi, jazz, and playback singing for decades has now created a new record – the is the 50th year of her career.
Usha Uthup began her career at a night club in Chennai in 1969, shifted to Kolkata later that year and began singing at ‘Trincas’ bar and restaurant in Park Street, which held live floor shows. It must be mentioned here that Usha Uthup’s rendition of the song ‘Delilah’ originally sung by the legendary Tom Jones had the audience craving for more.
Now after having sung in more than 13 Indian and eight foreign languages and becoming a name to reckon with, Usha Utthup said that she has no regrets about starting her career as a ‘night club singer’.
If her husky voice is a trade mark, so are the fresh flowers in her hair, her trademark big ‘bindi with the letter ‘K’ embedded in it and her rich Kanjivaram saris, which she wears to all her live programmes even abroad. ‘K’ incidentally refers to Kolkata.
“I am happy to tell all of you that I did not start as a playback singer. I started as a night club singer and I got the opportunity to do playback because of that. In live singing there is no second take. If you have one take you had better be good, perfect,” the 71-year-old singer of the blockbusters ‘Hari Om Hari’, ‘Dum Maro Dum’ and ‘One two cha cha’ said.
Usha asserted that she always finds more energy in live performances than in playback. “In playback you get many takes, till you get it perfect. So singing live is always much better for me than to be able to do playback singing,” Usha said.
“However, it is also true that one hit song in the Hindi film industry gives me 325 shows. But the magic of the stage is something totally different. You can interact with the live audience,” added the 71-year old. In spite of such a long career, Usha has only one national award to show for it. She got the best female playback singer award for ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ in 2011. But she has no regrets.
Usha had a number of reasons to offer when asked what her USP in becoming a popular singer. “Firstly I owe my success to the fact I am an Indian,” asserted Usha. “The second USP remains that I was born into a family which was deep into music. I keep saying music has no barrier of caste, colour, creed. But the most important thing is you sing in the language of people – I found that while singing,” informed the singer.
Usha has sung in 16 Indian languages, including in Hindi, Bengali, Gujrati, Marathi, Konkani, Telugu, Dogri, Khasi, Sindhi and Odia. Among the foreign languages she sang in are Spanish, French, german, Zulu, Swahili, Sinhala, Ukranian, Russian and of course English.
Naturally she had many anecdotes to share. Usha recalled she had sung Rabindranath Tagore’s popular song ‘Purano Sei Diner Katha’ at ‘Trincas’ in 1969 to an audience which comprised Leftist stalwarts Jyoti Basu, Somnath Chatterjee and several other luminaries.
“As I went on singing everyone clapped, everyone was happy, everyone present then sang along with me. I busted the myth that Rabindra Sangeet cannot be sung at night clubs or cannot be sung with a guitar,” Usha asserted with a smile lighting up her face.
Usha informed that she had seen superstar Amitabh Bachchan, Bengali matinee idol Uttam Kumar, Bengali actress Supriya Devi and film maestro Satyajit Ray at different times among her audience at ‘Trincas’. In fact when Usha started singing at the ‘Trincas’, Amitabh Bachchan was working in Kolkata.
“Trincas changed the misconception among the people about a bar and they began expecting clean, wonderful entertainment. They found that a night club can also become a family place, a place for everybody,” she said.
Usha Uthup is not ready to talk about the negatives in present day night clubs and bars. “I am a compulsive optimist. I never think about the bad side at all – you may find a few bad people but that is not the situation. There must be one or two bad eggs in the basket, but that is not the whole of Kolkata. The culturally conscious Kolkata I know,” informed Usha.
PNN & Agencies