By SHRI RAM SHAW
New Delhi, 5 July: To save money, singer Udit Narayan used to walk some 10-15 kilometers each day and visit the various music rooms and recording studios near Girgaum in a bid to get work. Most singers begin their careers by singing in the chorus. But he stayed away from that. To make ends meet, he started singing at hotels. After a sweltering struggle in Mumbai for 10 years, he finally got a break with the film Unnees-Bees (1980), in which he sang the song ‘‘Mil gaya…mil gaya’’ under Rajesh Roshan’s baton on 5th July. His co-singers were legendary singer Mohammed Rafi and Usha Mangeshkar.
“I’ve been in the Indian film industry for 41 years now. This industry has been kind to me. It has given me everything. I am living a dream. Main toh apne geeton ke madhyam se logon ke dilon ko sukoon dene ki koshish karta hoon,” says renowned playback singer Padma Bhushan recipient Udit Narayan, looking back at his career with affection. The singer says he didn’t even have a phone back then. “Rajesh Roshan called up all my known haunts and asked them to convey the message that I should reach his studios immediately. I got the message just in the nick of time. I couldn’t believe that I would be singing with Mohammed Rafi Saab. He saw my nervousness and told me to give my best shot.”
Oliver Goldsmith had rightly said, ‘‘Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.’’ In today’s times, where show- off has become more important than real talent and arrogance has become synonymous with any tiny achievement, meeting an artiste like Udit Narayan comes as a pleasant surprise. This uncrowned king of male playback singing in Hindi film music, whose several songs are still ruling the charts, comes across as an extremely simple, down-to-earth friendly guy without a trace of ego.
His path to fame was full of hard work, perseverance and toil. After singing in Rajesh Roshan’s Unnees-Bees and RD Burman’s Bade Dilwala, where his work went unnoticed, he continued his struggle to get a stronger foothold up the popularity ladder. His first major break came, when recommended by the music director duo Anand-Milind , film maker Mansoor Khan decided to give this fresh young voice a chance to sing for debutant Aamir Khan in the film Qayamat se Qayamat Tak. ‘Papa Kehte Hai’ was an unprecedented hit song and the rest, as they say, is history.
And even after 41 years now, Udit Narayan, who has crooned several chartbusters, is still going strong. He has launched his own ‘YouTube channel’ to mark his four decades in Bollywood.
About the Bollywood songs that are made today, he said, “I don’t want to criticize 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.”
About the new trend of old songs being rehashed and used in today’s films, Udit Narayan said, “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 westernizing 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.”