IBNS: The Queen of Indian Pop, a biography on veteran singer Usha Uthup by Vikas Kumar Jha, was launched at Oxford Bookstore in Park Street on Thursday. India Blooms correspondent Souvik Ghosh speaks exclusively to her.
Do you think biographies can ever capture the life of a singer of your magnitude?
I never thought of myself as a queen of pop but an ordinary person. I am down to earth and like anyone’s mother or sister. I just look at myself as the girl next door. It would be a lie if I say I don’t see myself as someone good in my work. I consider myself good at my work. We all know when we do a good job. But it is very difficult for a biography to encompass one’s life which is why it is such a huge step taken by Vikas Kumar Jha to try and get somebody like me into pages. I am sure it must have been a huge task for him as well.
How did you develop your interest in pop music?
No, no. I never learned a note of music. So the only music I learned was what I heard. I am a radio freak. So I assimilated all that I used to hear on the radio as a child. I never thought that I would ever become a singer professionally. So nothing was planned or strategized. It was just the need to sing and communicate with people. Once I got a taste of how people loved my singing, there was nothing that could replace that for me.
Your entire career flourished from Trincas in Park Street and you never looked back since then. Do you believe in destiny?
Uhh, I definitely believe nothing happens due to coincidence. I think everything is planned and we don’t know it beforehand. But I am not a fatalistic person. I will not sit and hope something will happen. One has to work way through life and work at every moment. But yes, I believe in destiny. We are born with our own destiny.
Usha Uthup along with journalist-writer-translator Srishti Jha
And you are the best to notice the change in the nightlife of Park Street and Kolkata right?
Yes, of course. I think only cosmetic changes have happened. I am a compulsive optimist so I won’t say Calcutta (Kolkata) and Park Street are dying. I think it’s (still) throbbing with life. I love Park Street. Yes, nightlife has changed here and there but it is due to certain reasons.
In my days, I had to go to Lal Bazaar to get a license to sing. Then when the entertainment tax was imposed, it became too expensive to pay for the restaurant people, who had to earn the money too. Now with the tax coming in, the music in the nightlife started going down but never died.
How do you see the remixes or remakes of old songs which are happening greatly now?
I love it, love it, love it. I am not saying every remix is good or bad but I think it’s necessary because we would have lost some tunes otherwise totally. It’s good.
The audience is evenly divided over how music is getting impacted due to some people becoming a ‘celebrity’ through a viral song. What is your take?
What is goodwill stay, irrespective of whatever happens? The audience is not such a fool. So maybe there are singers or artists or whatever one calls them, who rise with one song and then disappear. Also, the same question is raised about the people who participate in reality shows. I believe good work will stay. No good work can be dismissed.
(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)