Singer Anuradha Paudwal, who was recently awarded Padma Shri and whose hits include Aashiqui and Hero, says she had lost voice in her childhood due to some illness but regained it later. Excerpts from an interview with Tridib Raman
How do you respond to Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
I pray for the success of the cleanliness drive. I’m surprised that people are not careful about maintaining cleanliness in India while they are very cautious when they go abroad. In our own country they have the “chalta hai” attitude.
You have mentioned farmers. What is your response to the news of farmer suicides?
I have been working in the direction of providing in-house industries for the farmer families. I have tried to arrange for chillies- grinding machines and for seeds. In Marathawada at the Lokarpan programme of Gunsanchar, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwatji had come to grace the occasion. He asked me what we were doing. I told him about Suryodaya. It is a good organisation but it is not too big and it does not have enough space for work. I’m basically doing the work of a bridge or the motivator who operates between the farmer community and the organisations which can help them. I know that awareness is very important and when a well-known person speaks it makes a difference. Therefore, I try to make a difference by speaking for the cause of farmers.
You mentioned that you are working for women empowerment...
The subject of women empowerment is very close to my heart. But it is one that is open to much debate. The subject of women empowerment is linked to political games and the vote bank too. So very often the real strength of women is not addressed. My belief is that the hand that rocks the baby, rules the world. Women are the essential givers. She is Adi Shakti, she is the birth-giver, the preserver and the destroyer. She is the first school to which a child goes and gets trained in sanskar.
What is your response to Modi’s “Beti padao, beti bachao” mission?
Let us not mix up the issue of women with too much politics. Women’s education is very important because it is closely linked to children’s education. But let us not create an imbalance between two different areas. Let us not go overboard in linking up everything.
In the present day world who is your inspiration?
Sudha Murthy. I think she represents perfect womanhood. She is above all gurus. I have met her just once and was absolutely floored. At no point does she transcend certain boundaries.
You have been helping the families of soldiers and martyrs who died for the country.
I do not do this for publicity. I’m in touch with the families but I simply give and forget. I do not continue the association for too long as it might lead to disappointment and disillusion.
Has the award been too late in coming?
To be very honest, 10-15 years ago I thought of getting the Padma Shri award. That was the time when Hinduism and devotional point of view were taken very lightly. Therefore I decided that I would never give my bio-data for the award and I stopped waiting for it. It so happened, that about 11/2years ago I turned my attention and started working for poor farmers, for the down-trodden, and for the children who didn’t have sources to sustain themselves. I had started working for the cause of the army men families and women empowerment.
Suddenly, out of the blues, when it was the least expected, I came to know about the award. I didn’t believe it. When my sister told my mother about it she asked ‘What for?’. My sister answered that it was for my singing. My mother was very surprised that there could be an award for singing.
What do you want to say about gaurakshaks?
I don’t think it is a political issue. We have our own opinions about these matters. We do not have to be afraid of others and we need not listen to outsiders about how we should feel for the cows.
What is your response towards the reports of violence and killings by gaurakshaks?
I strongly believe that it is not a political but a personal agenda, caused due to personal enmity. It is not about the cows but a matter of personal ego. It is all about instilling fear among people.
Do you believe in destiny?
In 1971 I had got a big break. But in 1973, Jaidev ji gave me a real great break. 1976 was the year of important film releases. In the film industry, a strange thing is that very quick or impulsive judgements are made by people. While some are suddenly viewed as stars, others are seen as flops. I remember that there was a young girl from abroad who sang this one song and people started speculating that she could overthrow a singing legend. This is what I do not like. Such sudden judgements in the film industry are in opposition to the great struggle that go into the making of real legends.
What has been the turning point in your career?
The film ‘Hero’ was very important for me. The song ‘Tu mera janu hai’ contributed a great deal to my career. ‘Ashiquee’ too was very important in promoting my career. The song ‘Lal duppata’ brought me a lot of recognition. I had been in the film industry for very long but people suddenly began to see me in a new light. It was as if I had just started my career in singing for films. Visibility is a very important factor in the industry, unless one is visible, one’s talent is not noticed.
Who are the music directors who have influenced and inspired you?
Laxmikant Pyarelal are institutions in themselves. They have a special style which is unique. I have very high regard for them and there is lot to learn from them. It has always been a dream to sing for them. Jaidev too is an excellent music director. Nadeem Sharvan, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad, and C Ramchandra too are great music directors who have the place of very high respect in my heart. I have sung with nearly all the important singers in the film industry like Kishore Kumar and Talat Mahamud, all except Lata ji. I have sung with nearly all the well known play back singers. Kishore Kumar is a treasure house of knowledge. He is full of newness but does not lose touch with the ground reality. RD Burman is another legend in the world of film music
How did your career shape up after “Hero”?
There was much high expectation after the film ‘Hero’. But this was the time for multi-starrer films with music albums sung by a number of playback singers. It was not a very happy time for me. I could not make a mark in a situation where I got to sing just one line in an album. At this time I was approached by the company “Music India”. I met Anup Jalota and Pankaj who told me that there is no market for devotional songs. They said that I should sing songs, not bhajans. But I was not interested in singing songs, I liked to sing bhajans.
Then T-Series entered the scene. It was the new company in the world of music. Its main focus was to make cassettes and to sell the new and modern versions of old songs. Gulshan Kumar the founder of T-Series said that his venture was successful due to the blessing of Vaishnav Mata in whom he had great faith. I told him that he should then not confine his work to remixes of old songs but should try to make new and original music. It was the time when the songs like ‘Lal dupatta’ and ‘Jeena teri gali mai” were very popular.
This was also the time when radio and Delhi Doordarshan presented programs on popular film songs. In order to include our new songs from our new albums, Gulshan Kumar thought of making films. This was done to help our songs to get noticed, to become more popular among music lovers. Gulshan Kumar approached the director Mukesh Bhatt ji for this purpose. The rest is history. The film ‘Ashiquee’ was a hit and all its songs became extremely popular.
What did you learn from your association with Gulshan Kumar?
It was an experience of working with a group of people focused toward a common cause. There were no individual ambitions and no individual desires. This was the reason behind the superlative quality of music. All the people in the group thought only about music. Money was a factor that came much later. Gulshan Kumar was a blessed soul. There was no one like him. All the members of the group became well-known and came into lime light, all because of him.
You had to sing only for T-Series for a long time as the company promoted you as the T-Series artist.
I was happy with this arrangement. I had no personal ambitions. All the ten songs of ‘Ashiquee’ like ‘Nazar ke samne’, ‘Dhire dhire se’ and all the other songs became absolute hits. After Gulshan Kumar I decided to leave the film industry.
There is a story that you lost your voice in childhood.
I was a great fan of Lata ji. I was hypnotised by her voice. It became a psychological obsession for me to sing like Lata ji. The situation was such that I became very ill and almost lost my voice. But I am a devotee of goddess Kali. After I recovered from my illness, I began to sing once again.
You have been holding many stage shows in the past with your children.
Yes, my children Kavita and Aditya always join me in these shows. Most of these shows feature devotional songs. Such songs are my first priority. Once I was in West Bengal for a stage show. During those days an item song was very popular and an artist was going to present the song. After this song when I went to the stage, I was quite apprehensive about the audience response. I was afraid that after the item song nobody would like to listen to devotional songs. The organisers had arranged for some dancers to perform behind me as I sang on the stage. But once I began singing, the audience rose up in protest against the organisers. They said that they did not want to hear me singing any other songs except devotional songs. They condemned the organisers for making the dancers dance while I was on the stage.
A biopic is being made on Gulshan Kumar.
I’m very happy that a biopic is being planned on Gulshan Kumar. I feel blessed to have worked with him. It is because of him that a mandir has come up in every house.
How do you balance family and work?
For me the family and children come first. I’ve been working for very long, but once my eight-year-old son stopped me from going out for a song recording. When I told him that it was important, he said “You are Anuradha Paudwal, not my mother” I immediately took of my slippers and went back to him. The role of a mother is important than any career. This is not to say that women who are contributing so much to the society are not doing significant work. But I believe that to create a good society a mother should first teach sanskar to her children. I want to repeat that the woman who stays back at home is not weak or useless. In fact, her role is very significant. I would like to say that my husband Arun Paudwal and my in-laws encouraged me a lot in my career. My mother-in-law has been particularly helpful in supporting me.
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