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Pankaj Udhas: He sang in Kannada too

Udhas also sang two Kannada songs, composed by Hamsalekha, in the film, ‘Sparsha’. The solo was ‘Chandakintha chanda’ and the duet was ‘Bareyada mounada kavithe’ with Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam. She talks to Showtime of her memories with the maestro.
Last Updated 02 March 2024, 00:15 IST

Pankaj Udhas, who passed away on February 26, was “accused” (by self-styled purists) and “credited” (by unbiased listeners) for taking the ghazal, considered an elite form of poetry, to the masses. In his own words to me, “You cannot appreciate or come to love something you cannot understand, as everyone is not well-versed in Urdu. So I took it up as a mission to simplify and popularise the ghazal with simple words and music and a sound that suited the times.”

With hundreds of ghazals, geet, nazm and film songs, Pankaj made a distinct niche for himself, and ‘Chitthi aayi hai’ from ‘Naam’ (1986), got him instant global fame and recognition. Though hailing from Gujarat, he also sang in multiple languages including Marathi, Punjabi, Marwari and Bengali.

He also sang two Kannada songs, composed by Hamsalekha, in the film, ‘Sparsha’. The solo was ‘Chandakintha chanda’ and the duet was ‘Bareyada mounada kavithe’ with Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam. She talks to Showtime of her memories with the maestro.

“This was one of the three duets I sang with this superstar in his zone,” she exclaimed. “It was sometime in 1999 that it was recorded in Bengaluru, and we were both surprised to see each other in the studio, as we had been summoned from Mumbai! Pankaj-ji told me that he did not know the language and I, who had yet to get married to L Subramaniam and settle in the city, told him that I too, as a Tamilian, was equally ignorant! The great Hamsalekha-ji and lyricist R N Jayagopal explained the meanings and nuances patiently to both of us, and Pankaj-ji worked hard on them.”

Kavita had earlier recorded ‘Aankh mere yaar ki dukhe’ (Ek Hi Raasta) and ‘Mohabbaton ka safar’ for an unreleased film of the same name with him. She continues, “The reason why Pankaj-ji was hugely popular was because he sang each and every film and non-film song from the heart and got emotionally involved with his work. The emotions showed and connected with listeners. He didn’t sing to add to his repertoire.”

Kavita first came to know Pankaj as co-students in Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College and its Sangeet Mandal in which they both participated. “He was always smiling and was kind to all, and that’s what made him so popular with everyone. He had a very beautiful voice too, and I would unhesitatingly say that he was one of the finest human beings in the industry. Professionally, I was more associated with his elder brother, Manhar-ji, in songs like ‘Ilu ilu’ from ‘Saudagar’, and he too is equally sweet-natured but a shade reserved. Pankaj-ji was very outgoing. And I would give him the credit for taking the ghazal to every home.”

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(Published 02 March 2024, 00:15 IST)

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