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Queen of entertainment

Usha Uthup is back with Karadi Tales. Thereby hangs a tale, which she discloses to PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA

HER VISUAL impact is as strong as her voice. The bindi, sari, churi and the body language that warms the cockles of one's heart is her trademark. Usha Uthup has been there, done that many times over and audiences still turn up in numbers to hear her. With no high sounding labels of queen of pop or melody or rock, she has managed to entertain us, down the decades. So, here is what keeps her there:

Q. Your staying power. How come you have remained in the field for so long?

The true sign of an artiste is to reinvent oneself with the times and to `hang out there'. I have always said that music is not my business, communication is, and that is what gives me this staying power. At every stage I have communicated with people, and it is this bond that warms them to me and me to them. Perhaps the relationship I have managed to establish with the people keeps me here.

Q.Your latest ventures?

I have just finished recording the second track of Karadi Tales. Presently I am doing a song for Ram Gopal Varma's `Bhooth' and Subhash Ghai's `Jogger's Park'. The song for `Bhooth' is a terrific song, to be used in promos and in the original soundtrack. The title song and a situational song in Ghai's film, where the music is done by Tarun Suthradhar from Bengal.

Q. Karadi Tales again? Tell us more about it.

The present Karadi Tales, which should be out later this month, has been a fulfilling experience for me. It is so strange. In 1968 I had applied for a job with the Films Division and was rejected on the ground that my voice was too `sing-song', not fit for documentary. Through the years I have been working on jingles and commercials, even doing voice overs, but at the bottom of my heart I had become very conscious of my voice. So when Karadi Tales came up it was a real challenge, a real challenge for my voice.

This album has no tales or stories but is a mix of music, education and fun. Through a song on Dusshera, the children learn of the different ways `amma' is addressed in our country. This song has a lot to do about bangles, `bindis' and `payals', all for little girls. Another song is about names and places. A beautiful connection between the child, the place she lives in and the language she speaks is established, and through this the unity among the diversity of the country is brought forth. The child is familiarised with the music of the place. Then come songs on monsoon and on a cricket match which are very catchy.

Q What do you feel about the new language of songs-Hinglish?

I regard myself as the pioneer in this field. "Hinglish' sounds derogatory, but if it can be an effective medium of communication then it is wonderful. For that matter it can be Tamilish or Bonglish or Hinglish... But in speech or writing I believe in proper grammar and idiom.

Q Your contribution to Malayalam music is negligible.

That is an unfair accusation. I have never lived long enough in Kerala but people closest to me reside here. I have sung three devotional Malayalam cassettes, and two very popular songs.

Q So many years in this industry... .

Yes, so many years without a godfather or godmother in this industry is indeed a big thing. But for me it is the magic of the stage that keeps me going. People have seen me down the ages and they know I am not fake. My sari is another reason for my being still there. I have never posed a threat to women in the audience. I have moved with the times.

Q What do you think of the upcoming young singers of today?

There is plenty of talent among the young voices of today, but the point is how long will it last? The ability to work hard and to hang out there during a lean season is what I believe is required. Get real is what I would say and drop artificiality.

Q Did you ever try singing classical songs or ghazals?

I did not venture into classical, because I never had the opportunity to do so. You cannot play around with classical music. If I have to sing classical music I'll have to unlearn all what I have hitherto learnt from experience.

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