Usha Uthup is an Indian pop, jazz, and playback singer. She is famous for being the pioneer of the pop culture in Indian Music. She is addressed as “Didi of Kolkata.”
Usha Uthup was born as ‘Usha Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami Iyer (maiden name)’ on Friday, 7 November 1947 (age 71 years; as in 2018) in Bombay (now Mumbai). Her zodiac sign is Scorpio. She did her schooling from St. Agnes High School, Mumbai.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Weight (approx.): 82 kg
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Family, Caste & Husband
She belongs to a Tamil Brahmin Family. Her father, Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami was a Deputy Commissioner in Bombay Police. She has three sisters named Uma Pocha (doctor), Maya Sami (singer), Indira Srinivasan (travel industry executive), and a brother named Shyam Iyer.
She was married to Ramu Iyer. After the sudden demise of Ramu, she got married for the second time to Jani Chacko Uthup (businessman).
She has a daughter named Anjali Uthup (radio jockey) and a son named Sunny Uthup (event manager).
As A Singer
She started her career as a singer with the ‘Ovaltine Music Hour’ of Radio Ceylon. In the show, she sang a number “Mockingbird Hill.” After that, she made several appearances in her teens in various shows. When she turned 20, she started singing at the Erstwhile Safire Theatre Complex in a small nightclub called Nine Gems on Mount Road, Chennai. She even gave performances in the night clubs like Trincas and Talk of the Town (now known as Not Just Jazz by the Bay). While she was performing at Oberoi hotel, a film crew belonging to Navketan unit and Shashi Kapoor noticed her and gave her a chance to sing playback for a movie.
She then made her film debut as a singer with the English movie “Bombay Talkies (1970).” She sang two songs in the film- “Good Times and Bad Times (English)” and “Hari Om Tat Sat.”
She then sang for the Bollywood movie “Devi (1970).” She made her Malayalam debut as a singer with the song “Love is Just Around the Corner” for the movie “Chattakkari (1974).”
Usha made her Tamil debut as a singer with the song “Love Is Beautiful” from the movie “Melnattu Marumagal (1975).”
Her Telegu debut as a singer was with the album “Keechurallu (1991).” She recorded her first album with the Indian Composer, Luis Banks, for which she was paid Rs. 3500.
As An Actor
She made her debut as an actor with the 1975 Tamil movie ‘Melnattu Marumagal.’
She made her Malayalam Debut as an actor with the movie “Pothan Vava” in 2006.
She also made a special appearance in “Bombay to Goa” in 1972. She made her Kannada movie debut with the film “Parie” in 2012.
In 1983, Usha filed a defamation suit against Jatin Chakroborty, the then Public Works Minister of West Bengal, after he made several remarks on the singer. Jatin previously had filed a petition to ban Usha from state-owned institutions to protect West Bengal’s tradition and culture from Usha, who he thought was contaminating it through her cheap, disco, perverted culture. Two months later, the High Court’s verdict came in favour of Usha, declaring that she had every right to perform and there were no restrictions imposed on her.
- Padma Shri in 2011
- Filmfare Award for the Best Female Playback Singer for the song “Darling” from the film “7 Khoon Maaf” in 2011
- Mirchi Music Awards- Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017
- Food: Bhel Puri, Pani Puri, Rasam, Sambhar, Kali Dal
- Actor: Shah Rukh Khan
- Actress: Deepika Padukone
- Sports: Cricket
- Her traditional South Indian upbringing influences her signature-look; Kanjeevaram Saree with a coin-sized bindi.
- She knows more than five languages. She considers English as her first language, Hindi as second, Marathi, French and Tamil as the third, fourth and fifth languages respectively.
- She has sung in more than 16 Indian and six foreign languages.
- When Usha was in school, she was thrown out of her music class because of her hoarse voice. Later, her music teacher recognised her interest in music and provided her with clappers and triangles to play.
- She never got professional training in music but she grew up in a musical atmosphere. Her parents used to listen to Western Classical and Carnatic music including the singers like Kishori Amonkar and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan on the radio. She used to join them and loved listening to Radio Ceylon.
- Her next-door neighbour, S.M.A. Pathan’s (deputy commissioner of police) daughter influenced Usha to learn Hindi and take up Indian Classical Music.
- She met her husband, Jani Chacko Uthup for the first time at the Calcutta night club, Trincas.
- Initially, she was supposed to sing “Dum Maaro Dum” from “Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)” with Asha Bhosle but could not do so. According to Usha, she and Asha rehearsed together for the song but on the day of recording, Usha wasn’t called. She finally called R. D. Burman to confirm her schedule and Burman replied that only Asha would sing the song. However, later, she got the chance to sing the English part of the song.
- In 1968, she recorded covers of the pop songs “Jambalaya,” “Greenback Dollar (by The Kingston Trio),” and “Scotch and Soda (by The Kingston Trio)” in English in an EP titled, “Love Story.”
- While she was recording the songs for her EP, she also spent some time in London and she frequently visited Vernon Corea’s BBC office in Langham, London.
- She was also interviewed on one of the popular radio programs called ‘London Sounds Eastern’ that aired on BBC Radio London.
- In the late 1960s, the then Prime Minister of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, made Usha an honorary citizen of Kenya.
- She has also sung for the two volumes of children’s rhymes “Karadi Rhymes,” which are Indian rhymes for Indian Kids by Karadi Tales.
- She has also served as a judge on the reality singing shows like “Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star– Season 2 (2012),” “Star Singer,” “The Voice,” and many more.
- She also composed and recorded the song “The Peace Prayer” based on the poem of the former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam
- She has worked on several governmental and non-governmental projects in aid to the various social causes such as women empowerment, trafficking, child abuse, health problems, etc.
- She likes to watch IPL. She supports the team Kolkata Knight Riders.
- She was associated with Mother Teresa for more than 47 years. Usha met Teresa for the first time, during her visit to a homoeopath named Sr Amy. The singer would often stop to visit Teresa on her way to the recording studio. Mother Teresa would also invite her to sing in her three ashramas, Prem Daan, Shishu Mandir, and Mother House. Usha has also performed many charity concerts for Missionaries of Charity, especially in Kolkata and still does so.