Her bright Kanchivaram silk sari making every lady jealous, legendary singer Usha Uthup performed along with the Sami sisters at the Rhythm and Blues festival in the Capital recently. The singer, who agreed to perform for a fundraiser campaign by Genesis Goundation, later candidly talked about her music and career in a conversation with Kunal Roy, who caught up with her. Excerpts:
In recent days, Bollywood music is seen brimming with the re-creation of old songs. Has contemporary music in the cinema lost its creativity and originality?
No! I think it’s fantastic. Otherwise those melodies would’ve been completely lost. I am a compulsive positive thinker and I cannot stand any negativity. Whatever is happening is great because all those wonderful tracks are now getting exposure to the younger generation. There are some “not so good” things which are happening too, but that’s okay! Many purists would think that the tune might get corrupted. But as far as I am concerned, I believe this is good. Music, like life, is cyclic. Everything comes back in full circle.
You didn’t receive any formal training in music. How did you break through into this industry?
I didn’t start off thinking that I would become a playback singer in Bollywood. I am a complete live performer. I was never in any kind of rat race or competition with my contemporaries. In 1969, I was performing at the Oberoi Intercontinental in Delhi, where Dev Anand and R D Burman would come and listened to me and that’s how “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna” happened. Whatever has come to me through the film industry has been a bonus. Bollywood was never a destination.
When you started singing for cinema, noted singers had already became the voices of leading actresses. Was it tough for you to get recognition as a heroine’s voice?
My lifeline has become, “Jo bhi kiya, shaan se.” The actual story is that nobody had ever expected that a person like me and a voice like mine would ever get an opportunity in a world, which was already full of misconceptions that a good girl must have a high-pitched voice and bad girls must sound like me. There are many more stories, which are attached with the same. It was late R D Burman, who told me to do whatever I wanted to do while we were recording “One, two, cha cha cha” for the movie Shalimar in 1978.
Would you agree to the statement that the current generation of singers are not getting the fame and recognition they deserve?
I would very rarely say anything negative as I am a highly optimistic person. In a country of billions of people, how can you limit yourself to a set of four or five people? Youngsters are getting more chances and exposure with the help of reality shows and other platforms, which I think is fantastic.
Many aspiring singers believe Bollywood is the final destination. What is your advice to them?
It is very sad that people think that Bollywood is the final destination. That’s not what it’s all about. There is much more to it. My advice to the younger generation is: To believe in yourself. Be dedicated and hundred per cent honest towards your craft. If you are not honest on the stage, it will never work.