Pankaj Udhas: Pioneer in popularizing Ghazal – Part 1

Chitthi Ayi Hai….With this super hit ghazal in Mahesh Bhatt’s movie NAAM, Pankaj Udhas, the ghazal stalwart of the 80’s reached the zenith of his career. In fact the phenomenal success of the ghazal paved way for the fading culture of ghazal in movies. While other ghazal singers of that era like Jagjit Singh, Talat Aziz, Anoop Jalota, Hariharan etc. gave a new dimension to the contemporary ghazal, Pankaj Udhas has played a vital role in simplifying the complex ghazal and popularizing it among the masses and the youth.

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Pankaj Udhas turns 63 this week. Raaga.Com wishes him birthday greetings and prays for his success in his efforts to once again revive ghazal, which is yet again losing its allure in the pop culture of 21st century.  

Born on May 15, 1951, Pankas Udhas was in a zamindar family in Jetpur near Rajkot, Gujarat to Keshubhai Udhas and Jituben Udhas.

Music was in the family. Though his ancestors were zamindar and had no bond with music but it was Pankaj Udhas’s mother Jituben Udhas who used to sing the folk songs so well that in all the village ceremonies she used to be the leading singer and win applause. In fact few know that Pankaj’s father Keshubhai Udhas too used to play music instruments amazingly.  Further his eldest brother Nirmal Udhas was the first in the family to explore music professionally and is a renowned name in Gujarati films. Motivated by his success his other brother elder brother Manhar Udhas (Best remembered for his song Hum tumhe chahte hai aise… from Feroz Khan’s hit movie QURBANI) too made a successful career in Bollywood. Thus Pankaj Udhas’s influence towards music was natural.

Pankaj Udhas recalling his passion for music in an interview said, “I remember my elder brother Manhar used to learn Urdu from Maulavi Syed Mirza sahib, who used to come to our house. One day, as I was playing in the house I heard Mirza sahab listening to ghazals of Begum Akhtar and Mehndi Hassan. Though I did not understood a single word but I was fascinated to the captivating music. Since then I pestered my father to let me learn Urdu from Mirza Sahab. Later I joined Sangeet Natya Academy in Rajkot and learned tabla.”

When Pankaj Udhas was enjoying music and learning the nuance of Urdu language suddenly the family sifted to Mumbai and Pankaj had to concentrate on his studies. He was admitted to Mumbai’s prestigious St Xavier's college from where he completed his graduation in Science and began dreaming of becoming a doctor. However while in college his friends and teachers encouraged him to make career in singing because he was the star entertainer in all the college functions. His singing used to fetch him Best singer awards.  Thus after graduation when he was offered to sing a solo song in the movie KAMNA (1972) by legendary music composer Usha Khanna he was on sky nine. Unfortunately his dream shattered as the movie was shelled. Nevertheless he did not lose and struggled tooth and nail to make his mark in Bollywood but quit after sheer disappointment.