Dev Anand Helped and Played a Pivotal Role in Usha Uthup's Transition from Nightclub Singing to Bollywood Sensation
- Posted on April 17, 2023
- By Top Stories
- 88 Views
Despite making mistakes and encountering stumbling blocks along the way, she was able to transform her negative experiences into positive ones, thanks to her quick thinking and her desire to become a master of disguise. Beginning her singing career at a young age, Usha Uthup started performing at nightclubs in sarees, eventually earning credit for her contributions to Bollywood blockbusters. Considered to be India's first female pop singer, she has also acted in numerous multi-lingual productions.
In an interview with the Times of India, Usha offers unprecedented insights into her life. She delves into her childhood and reminisces about some of her most cherished memories. Usha discusses her tomboyish tendencies, which included making kite strings at home and climbing guava trees.
She also speaks about the excitement of receiving her first paycheck, her initial encounters with Dev Anand and Marathi legend Dada Kondke, as well as what she misses most about her life today. Additionally, Usha shares information about her forthcoming acting project with Kay Kay Menon and Ranvir Shorey and reflects on her childhood memories with her best friend Roshini Irani, who happens to be the sister of Boman Irani. Let's see some conversations and more
You have a very distinct image as a singer and celebrity, but how was your personality as a child?
During my childhood, I was an excellent student. I grew up in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), specifically in the area of Byculla on Clare Road, where I attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary School. Thus, I consider myself a true "Mumbai girl." My family was of middle-class status and resided in a modest neighborhood. My father was a member of the police force and was stationed at the Byculla police station. We lived in a spacious, British-style pavilion, but were very unpretentious people.
We continued to maintain our simple way of life with a focus on high thinking. I grew up in a family of six siblings, and I was the fifth child. Despite our limited financial resources, we lived a contented, albeit modest lifestyle. We cherished our little world and took pleasure in the simple things in life. In fact, having very little was quite enriching. I believe that being raised in such an environment can be tremendously beneficial for a child.
On my birthday, my brother gifted me a bottle of ink, which we were both thrilled about.
Can you please share some more memories from your childhood?
According to my mother, I was a well-behaved child, but also mischievous at times. I had a distinctly tomboyish nature, as evidenced by my penchant for climbing guava trees in the courtyard and fashioning kite strings, or "manjas," at home. It may seem unbelievable, but in those days, I would even grind broken glass bulbs and mix the shards with refined wheat flour, water, and food coloring. My mother always kept these coloring agents in the kitchen, using them to make sweets for us. Nowadays, it would be unheard of to ask a child to handle broken glass in this manner.
I derived immense pleasure from making "manjas" and exchanging these little gifts with my siblings. Throughout my childhood, I was a dutiful and obedient child, always following my parents' guidance. I have many fond memories of my school days, particularly of my Marathi teacher, Mrs. Raikar. I enjoyed conversing with her in Marathi and singing Marathi songs. Our connection went beyond the classroom, and I would often visit her at her home when I had the opportunity. When I reflect upon my childhood, it fills me with a sense of joy and appreciation, knowing that these experiences hold deep meaning for me, and are not merely a recollection of events.
Truly, it was a time of struggle for us. As a middle-class family, we lived in a joint family, and our possessions were few - two uniforms and two pairs of shoes, one black and one white. Despite this, we were content with our circumstances because we were not exposed to much beyond what we had. Nowadays, however, children are exposed to so much more. It's astonishing how kids know all the brand names and other such things.
Did your singing career ever affect your studies or academic pursuits?
I always excelled in languages academically. This was because my school's medium of instruction was English, with Hindi as the second language, Marathi as the third, and French as the fourth. At home, we spoke Tamil, so language was always my forte. Having grown up in Mumbai, Maharashtra, my Marathi skills are also commendable. Besides languages, I was also good at History and Geography, but when it came to Maths, I was a complete failure. Science, too, wasn't my cup of tea and didn't interest me much.
How did you make the transition from singing in hotels and clubs to singing for Bollywood films?
My journey in Bollywood music began with a memorable incident when Dev Anand visited a nightclub in Delhi to hear me sing. I was thrilled when he approached me after the show and offered me a chance to work on his project 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna'. This was a significant turning point in my career, and I cherish the memory of our meeting because he was genuinely impressed with my voice and singing style. This led to further collaborations with renowned music composers such as RD Burman, Bappi Lahiri, and many others.
You also managed to transition to acting during your career in Bollywood.
The acting was never a career path I actively pursued. Opportunities came my way, and I tried them out. I feel grateful to have worked with some incredible actors, such as Amitabh Bachchan, although I was much younger at the time. However, the real learning experience for me in acting came from my work in a Malayalam film alongside Mammootty, a senior and accomplished artist. I gained invaluable insights from working with him, as well as with Nedumudi Venu and other talented actors. In the film 'Saath Khoon Maaf', I had the pleasure of working with Priyanka Chopra, a true professional in her craft.
What's your take on modern music and new singers from the industry?
Singers today have no limits to their potential. The music industry is blessed with some incredible talent such as Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Arijit Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, and Hariharan. Their singing abilities are exceptional and without a doubt, they are amongst the best in the industry. It's evident that today's music is simply exceptional.
How would you describe yourself as a mother, wife, daughter and grandmother?
In my opinion, I have been a good mother, but I also recognize that there's always room for improvement, and I wish I could have done more for my family. Nevertheless, I believe that I have been a good wife and daughter. My mother always spoke highly of me as a good child, and now, as a grandmother, I feel that I'm doing a great job.
If not a singer, what other profession would you have pursued?
If I hadn't pursued singing, I would have loved to explore teaching or tailoring as profession. I have received great feedback for my Karadi Tales, and my songs 'Chai Chai Coffee Coffee' and 'I'm Just Like You' have gained popularity among children. It's surprising to see the kind of following I have received because of these songs among kids. During the lockdown, I also started knitting woolen clothes, which turned out to be quite successful.
Audiences and fans have always seen you in sarees. What is your fashion mantra?
In my opinion, fashion is all about feeling comfortable and being consistent with oneself. When one is comfortable in their own skin, that's the best fashion statement they can make, and they will never go out of style. I believe in wearing what makes me feel comfortable, rather than changing my style just to follow the latest trend. Some people may follow a trend like wearing a saree in a different way, but that's not something I would do just because it's popular. To me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable and consistent with my own fashion choices, and I think that will always be in style.
What's that one thing that you really miss in your life right now?
Since COVID started, I have been missing spending time with my grandchildren. The fear of the virus has taken away the freedom to go out and move around without being scared. Even though I miss my daughter and grandchildren, the bigger picture is that the freedom to enjoy life has disappeared. Previously, I could sing without any worries, but now, I'm always worried because my son has a kidney problem and is on dialysis. I constantly pray for my safety so that he can be safe too. This fear is always at the back of my mind. I miss the freedom to enjoy my success without any worries. The times have changed, and we always have to be cautious. I long for the freedom to relish life the way we did before.
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