Shishir Krishna Sharma ji recently visited yesteryear singer Usha Timothy ji exclusively for anmolfankaar.com to discuss about her
songs, experiences and work. Thanks a lot to Usha ji for consenting to meet us and Shishir ji for making it possible. Usha ji talked
at length about her career. Details of the lovely evening are presented below.
Usha Timothy's name is not unfamiliar for ardent hindi film music lovers.It is generally believed that She was discovered by
composer duo Kalyanji-Anandji who made her first sing the song "Tu Raat Khadi Thi Chhat Pe" for the movie "Himalay Ki God Mein"
in 1964. This is not the truth though. In actuality, even though she was discovered by the duo, it was composer Pt Shivram who
gave her the first break. The movie was Producer-Director Adarsh's 1962 movie Durga Pooja, in which She sang a Sanskrit Shlok
of sixty lines!Usha Timothy was only 13 years old at the time. Her duet with Rafi, "Tu Raat Khadi Thi Chhat Pe" was actually her
second recorded song which became quite popular in those days.
Usha ji was born in a respectable Christian family of Nagpur, where her father used to work for the CBI. Recently, when we met her,
Usha ji told us that, "My family always had a strong inclination towards music which is the case even today. My elder brother Madhusudan
Timothy is a well known violinist of All India Radio and my cousin brother Vasant Timothy used to teach music at the Khairagarh University
in MP. Vasant was a famous violinist in his own right. In such an environment my inclination towards music was but natural. I used to love
listening to songs of Rafi sahab and Lata ji from childhood on the radio, singing along, although I had not yet begun my formal music training".
The Kalyanji-Anandji night which took place in Nagpur in 1956-57 proved extremely important for Usha ji. Her elder brother
Madhusudan ji was responsible for organising the program. Usha ji was merely seven years old at the time.
Stalwarts Mohd Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar had reached Nagpur for the event but no female singer was
available for it. In this situation, Madhusudan recommended her name to Kalyanji-Anandji who dismissed the idea on coming to
know her age. Inspite of this, Madhusudan and friends didn't lose heart making Usha ji stand on the stage during the interval.
Her rendition of Rasik Balma from film Chori Chori without any orchestra enthralled the audience so much that she got
requests for singing many songs one after the other. Kalyanji-Anandji were also very impressed by her formidable talent and
decided to include her in their troupe. Usha ji regularly started visiting Mumbai to participate in the programs of their troupe thereafter.
Usha ji recalls that thanks to those programs She soon became famous as Baby Usha Timothy. She was soon a regular member
of not only Kalyanji-Anandji's troupe but also those of Rafi sahab, Mukesh, C Ramchandra and also the musical group of
famous Hawaiian guitarist Sardar Hazara Singh.
At the age of 11, Usha ji began taking formal training in music. She started taking training in classical vocal from Pt Lakshman Prasad
of Jaipur. She also started learning Tappas and Thumris from Nirmala Devi too. She also learnt classical singing from Pt Shivram when she
got a chance to sing the shlokas for Durga Pooja.
Usha ji says that Rafi sahab was her guru in the field of Playback singing. He taught her breath control and also to understand emotions
behind songs, singing them with bringing elements of acting. Rafi sahab believed that a good playback singer must act while giving playback.
Usha ji had developed a good rapport with Rafi sahab. She says, "Due to this, our range and surs had become quite similar. He loved my singing
and often recommended my name to composers for songs."
"Himalay Ki God Mein" proved to be a quite big musical hit in those days. Usha ji got some benefit from it, but according to her,
her song, "Tu Raat Khadi Chhat Pe" was credited for long as an Asha-Rafi duet by Vividh Bharti. On pointing it out to the radio channel,
they rectified it. The reason for this was probably that even though She was influenced by Lata Mangeshkar's singing, her voice and
natural style of singing was closer to that of Asha Bhosle which made people think that the song featured the voice of Asha with Rafi.
Usha ji says that since her career began at a very young age, She was unable to maintain records of the songs sung by her.
She believes that She has sung over four thousand songs till now in many languages including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Punjabi
and Malyalam. Many of her Hindi songs proved to be quite popular. These include, Taqdeer Ne Kya Angdaai Li (Sunehre Qadam 1966),
London Paris Ghoom Ke Dekhen (Parivaar), Dhol Baja Dhol Dhol Jaaniya (Vishwas), Honthon Pe Inkaar Thoda Thoda (Raat Ke Andhere Mein),
Ijaazat Hai...Irshaad ... Meri Jaan Tumse Mohabbat Hai (Mera Salaam), Are Rafta Rafta Dekho (Kahani Kismat Ki),
Jab Jab Bahaar Aayi (Taqdeer), Jo Mama Mera Aayega (Heer Ranjha), Honolulu Se Aayi Hoon (Khanjar), Kali Kali Zulfon Mein (Farishta Ya Qaatil),
Ja Pori Ja (Rahemdil Jallad), Ho Bairi Saiyaan Ki Nazariya (Uljhan), Main Hoon Saamne Tu Mere Saamne (Kaanch Aur Heera),
Ae Sapnon Ke Raja (Nateeja) and Natkhat Pare Hat Chhod (Rani Padmini).
During her singing career She sang for many composers other than Kalyanji-Anandji including Bulo C Rani, Roshan, Hansraj Behl, S.N. Tripathi,
S. Mohinder, Sardar Malik, Usha Khanna, Sonik Omi, Babul, Lala Sattar and Jagdish Khanna. She has sung with many playback singers including
Mohd Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore, Shamshad Begum, Suman Kalyanpur, Hemlata and Krishna Kalle. Remembering Shamshad Begum, she says, "Shamshad ji
had a very attractive and loving personality. She used to treat me like her own Child. Her voice had that "Khanak" and openness
which I have never seen in any other singer's. During recording, She used to say, Beta Dum (power) Ke Saath Gaao and I used
to laugh, Shamshad ji aapke jaisi power to kisi ki voice mein nahin hai!".
Not many people know that Usha ji was also a regular participant in the shows of C Ramchandra also. She says, "I used to be part of his shows
regularly. Infact, the famous Pradeep song, Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon was initially sung as a duet by me with C Ramchandra sahab for a show
"Sainikon Ke Liye" conducted in Ahmedabad Stadium. This was around two months before Lata ji presented it as a solo. Thus me and C Ramchandra
sahab were the first singers to publicly give voice to this fabulous song."
She fondly remembers Kishore Kumar as well. In comparison to the humble personality of Rafi sahab, Kishore had a very naughty and
carefree personality. He could not keep quiet for even one second. She recalls, "Once I went for a program to Indore with Kishore Kumar,
Ashok Kumar, Anoop and Amit Kumar. Suddenly Kishore made the car stop in front of the Christian College where he used to study.
Ecstatically shouting he ran into his college, did a full round of the college without stopping and came back running into the car asking it to move.
But this action of his caused a commotion in the college. Recognising him a huge crowd of students ran behind him!
I get a great sense of amusement to this day when I remember the incident".
Usha ji has great regard for composer Sardar Malik as well. She says, "He was an extremely talented composer but in
tune with his humble nature, he could not understand the tricks of the film industry. Inspite of this, he maintained the
standard of his compositions in whatever work he did. Once I had given the alaap for a song he composed for
singer Subir Sen. He was very happy with my singing and then made me sing "Natkhat Pare Hat" in the film Rani Padmini."
She recalls another interesting incident, "Once composer S Mohinder called me to sing a song for him. I was merely thirteen years
old at the time. The producer panicked on seeing me, ruing how a small girl like me could sing. Call a big singer he said.
Inspite of S Mohinder sahab's many pleas the producer refused to listen to him. On Mohinder ji's advice, the next day I wore
a borrowed Saree to the recording and the producer didn't recognise me. He was extremely happy on listening to my song.
Actress Manorama was present at the recording and said that Art does not see age. I finally got the chance to sing all songs of that movie!."
Remembering Omi ji she recalls, "Omi ji of Sonik-Omi combination used to sing very well. He was initially an assistant
to Roshan sahab and I used to often see him singing during rehearsals. I have still not understood why he didn't try
to sing in movies even though he could have been a very good playback singer."
She fondly remembers composer Roshan as well and says, "Roshan sahab helped me improve my singing a lot. He taught
me how to sing slowly with pauses while still maintaining the sur. I had sung for him for the movie Dadi Maa."
She continues, "I had also sung for Madan Mohan ji for Heer Ranjha. My first meeting with him had occured in a quite
dramatic manner. Once in a wedding function, as part of Sardar Hazara Singh's orchestra, I was singing the
song, "Yun Hasraton Ke Daag Mohabbat Mein Dho Liye" from movie Adalat. One gentleman from the crowd got up
and asked why this sad song was being sung on such a happy occasion. I started fighting with the gentleman saying,
Do you know this song is of which great composer? Madan Mohan! I was amazed to discover that the gentleman was
Madan Mohan himself. He became happy and gave me hundred rupees as a reward. Hundred rupees meant a lot in those days,
but getting it from him was a very big thing for me. I kept that note as a treasure for many years to come. Madan Mohan sahab
was a very decent person with a very sweet personality. However, when work was concerned he was very professional and
demanded punctuality from all. Once he called me at his house at Nine o' Clock. I reached his house at Eight Thirty itself.
But he sent me back, saying, Nine means Nine. And when at exactly Nine o'Clock I rang the call bell, he welcomed me with
great respect. Once I saw him sitting at the platform of the Grant Road station. He used to stay on Peddar Road's Shanti Building
at that time. I inquired about what he was doing there. He answered, I come here often and silently watch the crowds. He
perhaps used to get a sense of peace, sitting alone there among the crowds."
Since, Usha was considered close to Rafi sahab, after his death a rumour spread in the Industry that Usha has stopped singing.
Due to this She stopped getting songs but she kept herself busy singing for stage shows in India and abroad. Usha ji believes that
whatever She got from the industry was lesser than what She deserved. But her temprament is not of keeping grudges. She doesn't
have grievances against anybody in her heart and doesn't speak anything against anybody. She doesn't want to dwell on the reasons
behind her not getting her due, but She does say that many songs sung by her, when they came to the market were in voices of other
singers. Some of these songs include, Jaa Re Jaa O Harjaai (Kalicharan), Ye Waada Raha Saajna (Professor Pyarelal),
Maine Pee Hai Janaab (Rajmahal), Tere Bin Bin Tere (Pratima Aur Payal) and Maang Bhar Le Rang Sakhi Ri (Mujhe Jeene Do).
At this note we took leave from Usha ji.
Below are some of the videos of her songs.
We also provide below a few selected songs of hers for the listening pleasure of her fans.
You can also enjoy her paying tribute to other legendary singers in the videos below.
They are an indication of why She is so popular for stage shows with loads of talent and stage presence.
May God bless her with a long and happy life.
If you have any other songs of Usha ji do provide them so that they canbe played here for her fans as well.