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Pankaj Udhas tribute: How the Ghazal maestro almost refused to feature in Naam

en Bollywood News Pankaj Udhas tribute: How the Ghazal maestro almost refused to feature in Naam

The great ghazal singer and composer is no more. What’s more, he excelled as a film singer too! Pankaj Udhas was one of a kind, both as a human being and an artiste. He was a warm, accessible human being who would be besieged by calls every time we met for an interview, but would never come back with a fake “Where were we?” that many celebs are prone to voice. The complete attention and focus would be back, and he would recall where we had stopped. Never falsely humble, he was matter-of-fact about his own achievements, yet never arrogant or conceited. And he was excellent copy!

Pankaj Udhas tribute: How the Ghazal maestro almost refused to feature in Naam

The world knows that Pankaj Udhas, having done his Bachelors in Science in Chemistry, was planning to do something in that field. But Pankaj was attracted to music and loved the songs of Begum Akhtar in particular. His father, elder brothers, Manhar and Nirmal Udhas were all into music and Manhar had already got a break in Kalyanji-Anandji’s Vishwas and was taking lessons in Urdu from a moulvi (priest). Listening to the moulvi was very fascinating and Pankaj, who loved to sing as well, decided to take up music as a career.

Usha Khanna, the lady responsible for discovering multiple singers, gave Pankaj a break in the 1972 film, Kaamana with the Mukesh-like melody ‘Tum kabhi saamne aa jaao’, but Pankaj had little interest in playback singing, though he loved film music, especially that of Shankar-Jaikishan, Naushad, S.D. Burman, Roshan and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. “The radio was always on in our house,” he noted once.

It was after his 1980 debut on the ghazal scene with the album Aahat that he got an offer from director Ravi Tandon to sing for his film, Jawaab. “I was so busy that I never needed film songs for my livelihood either, so I was hesitant, but I was told that the hero, Raj Babbar, was playing a ghazal singer. So I agreed,” he said.

Word spread and Bappi Lahiri also called him then for a song for a film named Kamla. And then, one day, Pankaj received a historic call from actor Rajendra Kumar. The mega-star of yore told him, “You have to act in my film!”

A surprised Pankaj told him that he would reply in a couple of days. And since he did not want to act, he avoided calling up, until an irate elder brother, Manhar, asked him why he was being so disrespectful to a senior star, as he was quite close to the actor. Pankaj explained his stance and Manhar suggested he call the actor up and express his reservations. And Rajendra Kumar laughed and apologized with “Oh! I did not explain what I wanted properly. The song will be filmed on you as Pankaj Udhas on stage. If I had wanted an actor, I had many options!”

History was written when Pankaj recorded what was to become his signature tune—‘Chitthi aayi hai’ for the film, Naam. Not only has it remained his most popular song ever but it soon became a compulsion at every live concert as well. The music for both Jawab and Naam was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

Since then, Pankaj must have recorded close to about 100 film songs under composers as varied as Naushad and Khayyam (in albums) and Uttam Singh to Rajesh Roshan, Viju Shah, Aadesh Shrivastava, Anand Raaj Anand, Mahesh-Kishore, Nikhil-Vinay, Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen, Raju Singh, Amar-Utpal, Jatin-Lalit and Himesh Reshammiya. However, his maximum output has been with Bappi Lahiri, Nadeem-Shravan, Anu Malik and Anand-Milind.

Pankaj Udhas’ film work, which included singing even for Shammi Kapoor (‘Mummy kehti I love you’/ Pyar Ka Rog), besides Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor, Salman Khan and both Sunny Deol and Govinda more than once. Raj Babbar, Chunky Panday and even Kay Kay Menon and Manoj Bajpayee were among his other actors, and as became necessary in a few films like Yeh Dillagi, Baazigar and Gola Barood, some songs were again filmed on himself as a ghazal singer.

What’s more, Pankaj even sang, in his limited film career, duets with Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Kumar Sanu, Sukhwinder Singh, Mohammed Aziz, Sadhana Sargam and Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam, but his maximum association was with Anuradha Paudwal and Alka Yagnik.

Pankaj even scored music for Ek Hi Maqsad, a small film in 1988, and almost acted in the lead in a film called Hriday, a role he accepted only because it was that of a ghazal singer. And so he did not really mind when that film never took off!

Happily, Udhas proved his versatility at film songs as very few non-film or classical artistes do. And that was because of two firm convictions: one, that mastery at diction also led to skills of emotional expressions, which are so vital for playback singing, and two, that he always believed in simplicity of language and music and being in sync with changing trends. These reflected in the way he could excel in a complex song like ‘Sabak jinko wafaa ka yaad hoga’ (Jawaab) or a song as trite as ‘Ek ek ho jaaye phir ghar chale jaana’(Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswati). And for good measure, Pankaj also rendered the devotionals ‘Kar daya hum pe’ (Maa Santoshi Maa) and the chant that was ‘Sai Baba geet sudha’ from Maalik Ek.

And here is the crème-de-la-crème of Pankaj Udhas’ film songs.

1. Aaj phir tumpe pyar aaya hai / Dayavan / with Anuradha Paudwal
2. Aankh mere yaar ki dukhe / Ek Hi Raasta / with Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam
3. Chhupana bhi nahin aata / Baazigar
4. Chitthi aayi hai / Naam
5. Dil deta hai ro ro duhaai / Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee
6. Dil ki baatein hain / Gawaahi / with Anuradha Paudwal
7. Gaa gaa mere sang / Gunahon Ka Faisla / with Lata Mangeshkar
8. Jeeye to jeeye kaise / Saajan
9. Jo geet nahin janma / Sangeet / with Anuradha Paudwal
10. Mitwa re mitwa / Jawaab
11. Mohabbat inayat / Bahaar Aane Tak / with Anuradha Paudwal
12. Na kajare ki dhaar / Mohra / with Sadhana Sargam
13. Sabak jinko wafa ka yaad hoga / Jawaab
14. Tujhe dekhte dhadakta hai dil / Ghaath / with Alka Yagnik
15. Woh ladki jab ghar se nikalti hai / Tejasvini

If the ghazal scenario today is udhas (despondent) without him, so is film music, which was elevated by that velvet voice.

Also Read: RIP Pankaj Udhas: Shah Rukh Khan got his first earning of Rs. 50 by working as an usher at the Ghazal singer’s concert in Delhi


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