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Anuradha Paudwal recalls mom’s reaction to Padma Shri honour: ‘What for?’


Singing legend Anuradha Paudwal needs no introduction. From her debut as a playback singer in 1973 till now, she has obtained popularity in the hearts of her fans. In a chat with Hindustan Times, the 68-year-old icon shared the secret behind keeping herself relevant in the ever-growing music scene. She also recalled the golden era of Bollywood, as she calls it, while working with Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and others.

Singer Anuradha Paudwal recently released short film, Silent Chaos on World Deaf Day.
Singer Anuradha Paudwal recently released short film, Silent Chaos on World Deaf Day.

With so many years in the industry, you have witnessed the arrival and departure of many celebrities. How did you keep yourself relevant even today?

Anuradha Paudwal: I have been in the industry for 50 long years. We have delights like Asha Ji and Lata Ji who have been singing into their 90s. So we have no excuse, we have to get up all the time. I just marvel at the way Asha Ji dances and sings, she has so much gusto. Hats off to her!

Music is in our blood. It’s going to be there till our last breath. Of course, I have to practise my skills even today, maybe not a lot but it’s a must. You see, the music scenario has changed completely.

What do you mean by that?

Anuradha Paudwal: It’s not even 10-15% of what it was. In those days, puri duniya ikathi ho jati thi ek gana sunne k liye (everyone used to come together to witness a recording) during the recording. I feel superlatively blessed to have experienced that era. It’s the golden era. Yes, but the more I see today, the more I remember yesterday.

Has it changed for good?

Anuradha Paudwal: Sometimes I watch these reels…The whole concept of entertaining people has changed. You see popular, extremely successful heroes and heroines, like a female would be talking in a male voice. I wonder what is the necessity? What kind of entertainment is this? A beautiful heroine who has delivered hits and the audience also connects with her emotionally… I mean this is my point… I am not saying people should agree with me but when you connect with an artist emotionally and suddenly you find the same person is talking in a man’s voice, it’s like a jerk.

This reminded me of singer Sona Mohapatra. She recently posted about actors, and influencers mimicking lines for Instagram reels…

Anuradha Paudwal: Yes, that is so true. It pains me. I belong to the era when stalwarts maintain such a low profile. They were like demi-gods, compared to nowadays, like Lata ji, Asha Ji, Rafi Sahab, Mukesh Ji, Kishor or Hemant Da. Having worked with them for years, you feel bad. Sirf aaj nahi woh aur 100 saal raj karenge (They will entertain people for the next hundred years). But, that was entertainment, sunte hi jo dil ko sukoon ata tha (music that soothes the soul). This form of entertainment where a man talks in the voice of a woman and vice versa; it’s like a culture shock to be very honest. But with that, I think it’s not fair to be judgmental also.

Recently a lot has been discussed about the safety of singers during concerts, especially abroad where fans are seen attacking artists on stage and throwing bottles or whatever they have. In India, recently a mismanagement was reported during a concert too.

Anuradha Paudwal: That must be happening when more number of tickets than the auditorium are being sold. Over there you only have the organisers to tell.

When it comes to the safety of singers, were there any such concerns back in time?

Anuradha Paudwal: No.

If we go back in time, I found out that you did not receive any formal training in music. Is it true? How did music happen to you?

Anuradha Paudwal: Yes, neither did I go to a (music) guru nor attended any gurukul because I come from a family where my father was like ‘Kisi ache ghar ki ladkiya gaati nahi hai (girls from good families don’t sing)’. My emphasis was always on education. My mother was very fond of my singing. She was very keen that I should sing but only one song. Unhe dekhna tha…meri beti ka ek gana record hoga (she wanted to see me recording one sing), but that’s it.And then when she came to know all the time I was only doing recording, she was like ‘Oh she and her recordings!’

Basically, they were very humble people. I trained myself with Lata Ji’s Bhagvat Gita, devotional songs. She was an institution in herself.

After attaining fame and money, did your parents’ perspective change towards your musical profession?

Anuradha Paudwal: Not really because my father passed away very young. I had barely entered the film industry. Where my mother is concerned, she is happy but as I told you, I come from a very simple family. There was no showsha that ‘Oh my daughter is a celebrity’, it was never there.

Of course, she was very happy when I got the D. Litt, degree. I remember my sister telling my mother that I got the Padma Shri. She reacted, ‘What for?’ (laughs) My sister was like ‘Because she sang songs, no?’ Mom said, ‘But who gives Padma Shri for singing songs?’ So that simplicity was there. Sar pe chadha ke (mom never spoiled us), like we see in today’s world.

Having so many years of experience in the industry and also as a senior, do you think it has become different for female singers to make a place for themselves in the industry? The competition is so much, but is it easy or difficult than before?

Anuradha Paudwal: Nowadays in reality shows so many singers are born overnight. We took years to reach where they are. I’m talking about reaching people not sustaining. The added advantage we had was that we had time to grow on people. Jo upad chadhne ke liye time lagta hai, woh utna der waha tike rehte hai (one who struggles can only sustain for long).Reality shows me there are singers coming out every year, how many will you remember? There are singers who are remembered for their songs. Fame from performance is short-lived.

So, what’s next? You just released a short film, Silent Chaos.

I really don’t know. I just take one day at a time. Well, let’s just hope I can help more and more people.


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