'We're a musical family'

THE BIRTH of his son was the most momentous event in his life — a day he'll never forget. It was a day that comes once in a lifetime. For Bollywood singer Udit Narayan, it was the day when his life was divided into before and after.

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

Published: Sun 15 Apr 2007, 10:55 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:46 PM

udit'Before, it was a life of hard work, struggle and disappointments,' said the singer, sitting in his hotel room, dressed in cotton trousers and yellow bush shirt with flower prints, on a recent visit to Dubai where he officiated as a judge for the auditions of the Indian Idol show, a Sony TV singing talent contest to determine the best undiscovered young singer in the country.

Born to a farmer in a village called Bharadah in Nepal, Narayan longed to be a singer from childhood. 'I had this dream to be a singer,' he said, 'though my father wanted me to become an engineer.' He started by singing Maithili, Bhojpuri and Nepali folk songs for Radio Nepal in the early 1970s, for a pay of Rs 100 (about Dh8). In 1978, he moved to Mumbai on a music scholarship and trained in classical music for six years at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. During the time, he also began making the rounds of music directors' offices, hoping for a break. He got nothing but false promises.

'I thought I was not going to succeed,' he recounted. 'I had lost all hope.' After almost a decade of futile tries, he was finally give a small chance in 1980 by music composer Rajesh Roshan to do a song for the Hindi movie 'Unees Bees', in which he got an opportunity to sing with his idol, Mohammed Rafi. But the movie flopped and he continued to struggle, trying to stay afloat. Meanwhile, in 1985, Narayan married Deepa Jha, an accomplished Nepali singer.

Around 1988 when his wife was expecting Narayan was summoned to sing a song for a new film, 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.' He recorded the song and after a few days his son, Aditya, was born. The next day, Narayan's QSQT song was released. It became an instant hit, went on to top the charts, made him an overnight star and eventually brought him his first Filmfare Award. The song was: 'Papa kahete ke bada naam karega; beta hamara aisa kaam karega.' Of course, he also sang a couple of other songs in the film.

'Call it coincidence or whatever, but I like to call it God's grace. In the film the song was sung by a son, with reference to his father and the father's feelings, and I was thinking of my father, who wanted me to be an engineer,' recalled Narayan with excitement, almost getting up from the sofa. 'And my son came and made me famous with that one song. To me, that song linked three generations of my family. I can't ever forget it.'

With his new-found fame, Narayan became a celebrity in Nepal and sang in popular Nepali movies and even went on to act in a few, though that didn't succeed as well as his singing. Till date, Narayan has sung in 30 Indian languages, even recording an album, 'Dil Deewana' with his wife.

In 2005, the singer and his wife launched UD Movie Productions, and produced the first big budget Bhojpuri film, 'Kab Hoyebi Gauna Hamaar.' A period film shot in Mauritius, it was a huge hit. Their second Bhojpuri film 'Kab Kahbaw Tu I Love You', shot in Gorakhpur and Darjeeling, was recently released. In both the films, husband and wife have sung all the songs.

Not only has Narayan's son Aditya brought him fame and fortune, but he himself started singing with his father when he was barely 5 or 6. Aditya went on to establish himself as the voice of child artists, and even acted as a child artist in hit movies like 'Pardes', 'Rangeela', and 'Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai.'

'He learnt classical music, and now he is 19 and is in the UK learning western music,' Narayan said.

He pointed out that the Indian Idol show was his first appearance on TV, though he has been in the movie industry for over two decades. He said Sony TV has been trying to enlist him as a judge for over a year but he always resisted. 'Not because I'm a big star or something. Actually I'm a shy person,' he said. His wife, who was sitting next to him, then goaded him to tell the real reason, and he sheepishly confessed, 'Actually, my problem was, if a bad singer was auditioning, how could tell him or her that he or she is bad. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. That's why I took a year to decide.' And even then he wouldn't have joined, if his wife and son hadn't prevailed upon him. 'They said my fans have heard my singing, but they haven't seen me, so I've to go on TV,' he smiled.

Narayan said the emergence of media, channels and shows like the Indian Idol is a good development for young talented singers. 'It was very difficult in our time, because the time itself was difficult. There was no media like today,' he pointed out. 'When I came to Bombay, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and other greats were alive. Nobody could easily get into movie industry. Even they themselves had to struggle hard. So their singing was sort of our platform, inspiring us to try even harder.'

He said today everything is changed. 'The pace of life has changed; the world has changed. I don't think people even have the patience to struggle like we did,' he said. 'And I don't think today's singers can struggle like we did. They don't even have the time to struggle. With today's ready-made platforms, any talented singer can come up overnight, get name and fame... everything. But how long you will survive no one can predict.'

And as with everything else, he added, even the music has changed. 'It's changed a bit because nowadays they prefer fast numbers, a little westernised,' he explained. 'But melodies will never die. In Indian music they love melodies. Old after all is gold. I like both, old and new music. But there is no comparison with old music.'

When asked what he thought of music composers who blatantly plagiarise tunes from foreign and other sources and use them as their own, he said, 'Personally, I don't like it. My view is: if you are a creator, you should create your own thing. Of course, you can always get inspired, but you can't and shouldn't copy.'

Udit Narayan has really come a long way from the village of Bharadah in Nepal, the son of a modest farmer who preferred not to fulfill his father's wish and went on to become one of the greatest singers of his generation. Though surrounded by the gilded trappings of stardom, he's still a simple, down-to-earth and God-fearing man. He considers himself truly blessed, with a wife and son who are singers. 'We're a musical family. It's all of course God's gift.'

On a many a mornings, the three of them do their riaz, practice together, and their apartment in the Mumbai suburb of Andheri reverberates to mellifluous strains of Indian melodies.

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