Udit Narayan Curated
Award-winning Indian Singer
CURATED BY :
What do you think about the Bollywood songs that are made today?
I don’t want to criticise anyone, but the time has changed. The songs of the past, which were sung by Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey and Mahendra Kapoor, are evergreen, and are enjoyed even today. But many songs that are made today are not up to the mark. Films make a lot of money, but the songs are very short-lived. Though technically things have become advanced now, the quality of the work has gone down. I feel fortunate that I belong to that era and I got a chance to work with such talented music composers.
What are the changes that you have brought about in yourself to move with the times?
Over the years, I have never hesitated from adapting to the way a music composer would want me to sing a song. The way tracks sound today is different as compared to the past. So, keeping my identity and quality intact, I am open to trying out various styles of singing. I enjoy that. You are considered versatile only if you adapt to the changing times.
A lot of old songs are rehashed and used in today’s films. How do you look at this trend?
Earlier, music directors used to have their own style and identity. They used to come up with authentic creations. Even today, many composers are talented, but people are westernising old songs by changing its lyrics and presenting them again, which is wrong. It’s not their creation. Maybe a rehashed song will become a hit, but at the end of the day, there is no fun in that because it’s not your original work. If you are talented, you should come up with your own creations.
How do you look back at your journey?
I am enjoying the success that I have achieved. I sing in 36 different languages, and I have been entertaining people for over three decades now. I am thankful to God, my fans, and the film industry. Now, I feel my struggle was worth it.
You have acted in a couple of Nepalese movies. Do you plan to venture into Bollywood?
During my struggle days 35 years ago, I acted in a Nepalese film. It was a huge hit. After that, I got several Bollywood and Bhojpuri film offers, but I didn’t take them up, because I wanted to focus only on music. But if I get a good offer, I am still open to acting.
You don’t sing a lot for films now… Why?
I am a natural person, who is connected to his roots. God has shown me great times, when I used to sing for every second film. I feel it’s good that I don’t sing a lot now, because other people should also get a chance. It’s good that there is a gap between my tracks, because I get the time to analyse my work now and introspect. I want to retain the dignity and quality of my music. I like to sing only beautiful melodies. Humein garv hai ki jo kaam humne kiya hai who logon ke dimag mein hai (I am proud that my songs are remembered by people even today.)
Your son is often compared to you. Do you think it’s a greater struggle for a star singer’s child to make a mark?
People might think that the journey of a star kid is easy, but it’s actually harder. You are constantly compared to your parents, and the expectations from you are really high. People expect you to outdo your parents. Sachin Tendulkar’s son may or may not become a cricketer like him. But it’s okay. It’s all in the hands of God. But if you are hardworking, honest and passionate about your work, you will get what you deserve. I am proud of Aditya. He started singing when he was five. I am delighted with the kind of work he is doing.
Did you expect to be felicitated with the Padma Bhushan?
I feel like I am living a dream. I always wanted to become a famous singer, who would be remembered by people and whose songs would play on the radio. My father was a farmer, and I used to live in a village in Nepal. I started singing in my village and in my school. People used to love my voice. My mother was a folk singer, so even I started singing folk songs. But my father wanted me to become a doctor or an engineer. Magar wahi hota hai jo manzoor-e-khuda hota hai (Whatever is destined to happen, happens). I was so inclined towards music that I used to sing for a radio in Katmandu. Then I got a musical scholarship from the Indian embassy in Nepal, and I came to Mumbai. After struggling for 10 years, I got my first break with QSQT. So, from being a boy from a village to receiving a Padma Bhushan now, it seems like a dream. I feel I deserved the award. But, I never expected to get one.
You went to Nepal after your education. What was the story?
After completing my SSC from Bihar, I went to Kathmandu, Nepal. There, I joined the radio station, Radio Nepal, and worked there for eight years. Initially, I used to sing Maithili songs, and after a few years, Nepalese songs. In the night, I used to attend college and finished my intermediate. During this time, I used to visit the Indian Embassy to perform on Diwali, Dusshera and other important functions. And, when I used to perform there, the ambassadors and officers used to say, ‘Yaar, this boy sings well.’ And, the silsila went on.
How was the struggle during your Bombay days?
I had thought I would become a star overnight, but that didn’t happen. At that time, even gaining an entry into Bollywood was a big thing. There was no chance in front of biggies like Rafiji, and Kishore saab. Still, I kept on gaining experience which continued for around 10 years (1978-1988). When I was short of money, I used to take local trains/ buses and when I had no money at all, I used to walk. In the monsoons, I used to spend my nights at the station and get very ill frequently because of that. High fevers were a common part of my struggle.
How did the major break happen in your musical career?
I got the break I was desperately looking for. I was offered QSQT (Qayamat se Qayamat Tak) in which I was supposed to sing all the tracks for the hero. The movie was a flop till the second week of its release and I started to feel this was the end of my career. Then, I don’t know what miracle happened—the movie became a super duper hit thereafter. You won’t believe that when I went to watch the movie in the first week, even I was disappointed. People were saying the movie was not up to the mark and they were lambasting the Papa Kehte Hain song. But, the music became a hit. Aditya was born at this time and it was a divine coincidence. Before his birth, my life was a disaster—it wasn’t even a struggle—it was a disaster. There was no house, no money, nothing. But after QSQT and Aditya’s birth, I never looked back. I got Rs 1,000 in cash after the first song recording and felt like I had received everything. At that time, it was equivalent to a lakh now and money was valued then. QSQT paid me a handsome amount of Rs 3,000-5,000 per song. I remember, I was jumping with joy, thinking, ‘Kamaal hai yaar, miracle ho gaya. (Wow! It’s a miracle!)’And, for that, I am indebted to Nasirji, Mansoor Khan saab and Anand-Milindji.
आप मोहम्मद रफ़ी के बहुत बड़े प्रशंसक हैं। उनके गीतों उनके गीतों के लिए क्या यादें हैं?
Having given your voice for superstars like Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and many others, who do you think your voice suits perfectly in films?
आपके पसंदीदा गायक कौन हैं?
अगर आप गायक नहीं होते, तो आप क्या बन जाते?
How did you manage to sing in more than thirty two languages?
Many people don’t know that you have acted in films. You made your debut in a Nepali film ‘Kusume Rumal” on 1985. How did acting happen to you?
I never wanted to be an actor, though I was getting offers both from the Bhojpuri and Nepalese industry. My wife Deepa suggested that since I wasn’t getting work, I should consider this offer as it would get us some much needed money.
How was the competition between you and Kumar Sanu, who was also another superstar singer during your time?
We were professional rivals, yes. But beyond that there was no acrimony. He was getting his films and I was getting mine. We weren’t eating into each other’s songs. And we’ve sung duets together like Yeh bandhan toh (Karan Arjun 1995) and Neend churai meri (Ishq 1997). So it wasn’t as if we never got along.
How do you see your son Aditya’s struggle in his musical career?
His struggle is different from mine. I had to start from complete anonymity. That isn’t so in his case. But he still has to strive because he will always be compared to his father. And that’s a bigger hurdle to clear, believe me.
Where did you grow up and how was your journey before becoming “The Udit Narayan?”
Our surname is Jha. I come from a Maithili Brahmin family. So our family has originated in Milthila- a city where Ram and Seeta got married. I grew up in my uncle’s place in Bihar which is situated on the Indo- Nepal border. After my matriculation exam, I went to Kathmandu for college education and even worked in Kathmandu Radio. There I got a music scholarship from Indian embassy and came to Mumbai in 1978 to study classical music in Bharati Vidya Bhavan. In my free time, I started making rounds of music rooms of various music directors.
आपका गाया, “पापा कहते हैं बड़ा नाम करेगा” जो पीढ़ियों के लिए एक पंथ गीत बन गया है। सनसनी गायक बनने के बाद आपके पिता की प्रतिक्रिया क्या थी?
What changes have you seen in India according to ' SafaiGiri '?
What did Aditya Narayan say when you asked him to marry Neha Kakkar?
You won’t believe I keep teasing Aditya with Neha and I have told him to marry her. But, he ignores me and says he wants to focus on his career. Neha is a top singer in today’s time and is doing really well for herself.
Is there any truth to your son tying the knot with Neha Kakkar?
I suspect this link-up and marriage rumours with Neha are just to boost the TRPs of Indian Idol where she’s a judge and my son is the anchor. I wish the marriage rumours were true. Neha is a wonderful girl. We’d love to have her as our bahu (daughter-in-law).
What do you think about Neha Kakkar?
Neha Kakkar is a very sweet girl. She sings songs very beautifully. I like Neha very much. Not only just me, but people also like her. I really like her and she has made a name for herself in the industry. I also keep listening to her songs. Both of them (Aditya-Neha) are also pairing up, but the rest is unknown to me. All this news is going on TV, but if they get married, I would love to see a female singer joining my family.
Tell us about your concert on October 18.
A: You can expect a string of beautiful melodies from the 90s. And, since it’s all three of us together — Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and me on — stage, it can be safely said that the entire 90s era belonged to us. Get ready for the hits that dominated that era. We will have a lot of masti [fun] and I promise it will be a rocking show.
What have you observed about Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu?
Both Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan have been slow-and-steady in their rise to stardom. We are similar on that front. We have ruled the music scene for over three decades and we are very consistent in our singing. We have that in common.
How relevant are 90s songs and what’s your take on remixes?
The 90s was the last era of melodious music because after that period music lost its soul. A whole lot of noisy and experimental kind of music was made after the 90s. Even the music composed now has doesn’t have a soul. I am absolutely against remixes... remixes ruin the original song and it completely destroys it.
Which was the best and the worst remix you have heard?
There is no best or worst here. In my eyes, they are all one worse than the other.
What is your advice to upcoming musicians?
Remain focused. I have seen many of them become successful initially, but they get carried away due to distractions in life and in society. So their focus shifts from work and they get busy with other things and thus losing the essence of what they are doing.
If you could redo any of your songs, which would you choose?
I would probably redo all of them because I feel I could have sung them so much better. I’m self-critical and analytical about myself.
You are an iconic singer from the 1990s, how difficult is it to sustain your success?
I have never deliberately tried or thought about sustaining my position because I have just done my work with utmost sincerity. Whatever I sing, I do it from the heart and if it touches people, then you continue to be there in their hearts and therefore sustain yourself.
How would you describe your journey in Bollywood?
My journey has been extremely satisfying, fulfilling and a lot of fun. I have got so much of love and affection from people. They have appreciated and encouraged me so much that my heart is filled with all their love. I couldn’t have asked for a better journey and I cherish every moment of it.
Tell us about what to expect from your concert in Dubai?
Alka, Udit and I will be performing together in Dubai for the first time. [People] can expect us to sing our hit songs of the 90s. This is the main motto
How relevant is 90s music?
The songs of our times used to be more melodious, not to say that the present day songs are not melodious but comparatively less. However, good songs are still being produced and there are many good singers out there but the priority given to songs, voice and also the heroes coordinating with the songs back then are not there. Music has become the main criteria and the voice doesn’t matter. This is the difference between 90s and now.
What is your take on remixes?
Nowadays, people are re-making old songs and that’s good for us because the teenage audiences will get to know who the singer was and who is singing now. It will even be heard by small kids. Everything is positive in these remakes and in the ways the song is rearranged. But I have a suggestion that they should not change the tune or music of the song. Also if [original] singers are capable of singing then the song should be remade in their voice. It will have a better effect.
What is your advice to the upcoming musicians?
All they have to do is to put in hard work to build up their identity and work on creating their distinct place in the industry. If they work on these things, they will succeed.
What can you expect from you concert on October 18?
90s was a golden era in music, but today’s music is made per today’s demand. Generations have changed and so has music.
Which was the best and the worst remix that you have ever heard?
The best remix I like the most is my own song ‘Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast’. I sang this song years ago and I was called in for the remix too.
What is your advice to the upcoming musicians?
Work hard, be patient and have positive thoughts. Be honest towards your music too.
How difficult was it to sustain your success?
t’s difficult to attain success in Bollywood. But once you get it, it’s even more difficult to sustain. It calls for a lot of hard work and sincerity.
What’s a perfect song in your eyes?
It’s a difficult one to answer because all songs have a different charm to it. But prefer a song such as ‘Papa Kehte Hai’ because it has a positive message.
If you could redo your song, which one would it be?
While I have tried my best to deliver all my songs to the best of my ability, I would redo all my songs if I am given that opportunity and if I am not satisfied.
How do you look back on your journey in Bollywood?
In our struggling days, there were no platforms like you have today. Nobody could have struggled for ten long years from 1978 to 1988. I have struggled and knocked from door-to-door. Finally with God’s blessings, I got a break in ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ in 1988. Since then, the good wishes of my fans have spurred me to sing for all the superstars. In fact, my recent song ‘Jugraafiya’ from ‘Super 30’ has become very popular in 2019.
Where do you get this kind of energy to perform non-stop and with such perfection ?
I enjoy singing and this crowd is encouraging! My fans give me the energy and encouragement. ?
About your background, I know that you started off your career in radio singing sings in Mythali ?
Yes, yes, I started that way, I was with the Kathmandu Radio station as a folk singer, singing in Nepalese and Mythali, before moving to Bombay and training in classical music at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan. From Udit Narayan Jha I became Udit Narayan.
What has the success of Lagaan and its music meant to you, your career?
It was and still is like a dream, we knew it would be a hit, but we all were surprised and very very happy that it got the Oscar nomination. Everyone was devastated when Lagaan did not win. Everyone in India, every Indian, all over the world, was hoping it would get an Oscar. Wherever I go I am asked to sing the O ri Chori maan bhi le the song from Lagaan, people seem to love it so much.
Which music director do you enjoy working with, the most?
That�s hard to say. I really find Rahman�s music most challenging and fun, I also like working with Anu Malik,Uttam Singh and Rajesh Roshan and the very talented Ismail Durbar.
And your favorite co singer?
Again I like them all. Lata ji is the very best and Alka Yagnik comes close. She is the most talented and versatile among this generation of singers and it is a pleasure to work with her. She is also full of energy and enthusiasm.
What are your upcoming projects?
There are many many interesting and good songs I am recording, my fans will love them all very much.
Do you enjoy these musical tours and singing for concerts abroad?
I do, I prefer to do one every three or four years. I don�t like to do too many cities. Tomorrow I am performing in California, which means that we have to fly out in the early hours and I will not be able to rest my voice fully. But, sometimes, ho jaata hai scheduling mein problem!
How many more concerts in this tour?
After the one in California, we have to perform in the West Indies, Surinam and in Holland. Then we head back home.
I saw your son�s name in the list of performers, why is he not touring?
He will be going into 10th grade next year and is studying for his exams, we did not want him to miss out.He is a good singer but education is so important, na? This was an unfortunate scheduling conflict.
Is Deepa performing today?
Yes she is, the last song, maybe. She is very good ( looks at Seema teasingly)
what is your message to your lokvani readers and fans?
Please continue to support my music, I am here, I am Udit because of the love and support off my fans. I want to thank you all for loving my music.
Finally, one hears all the time about how hard it is to be a successful singer in Hindi movies. There are so many talented singers and none to guide them. What is your advice to fledgling aspiring singers?
I had to work very hard and be very patient for where I am today. Hard work is the key, do not give up. Keep working hard till you have what you have always wanted and you will get it.
Are you saying that you got everything you ever desired?
(Laughs and shrugs)
It has been great talking to you and the lokvani team as well as our readers wish you luck!
Thank you, please convey my love to my fans.
What is your coronavirus crisis message for India?