‘Jeeye toh jeeye kaise bin aap ke’: Ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas passes away at 72

PTI, Feb 26, 2024, 5:34 PM IST

Pankaj Udhas (Credit: PTI)

Mumbai: Renowned ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas, whose velvet smooth voice gave expression to the many colours of love, longing and heartache in songs such as ”Chitthi Ayee Hai” and ”Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatein”, died here on Monday after prolonged illness. He was 72.

Udhas, who also made a mark as a playback singer in many Hindi films, including ”Dayavan”, ”Naam”, ”Saajan” and ”Mohra”, died around 11 am at the Breach Candy hospital.

”With a very heavy heart, we are saddened to inform you of the sad demise of Padmashri Pankaj Udhas on 26th February 2024 due to a prolonged illness,” his daughter Nayaab wrote in an Instagram post.

”This is not only a personal loss, but the whole nation has lost a prolific singer and a great human being,” Breach Candy Hospital Trust said in a note. The last rites of the singer, who hit his peak in the 1990s, will be held on Tuesday. He is survived by wife Farida and daughters Reva and Nayaab.

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among the many who mourned the singer’s death. ”Pankaj Udhas ji, honoured with Padma Shri and other awards, made an important contribution in popularising music. My condolences to his family and fans,” the president said.

According to the prime minister, Udhas’ singing conveyed a range of emotions and his ghazals spoke directly to the soul. ”He was a beacon of Indian music, whose melodies transcended generations. I recall my various interactions with him over the years. His departure leaves a void in the music world that can never be filled. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” Modi said.

Udhas, one of those credited for making the genre popular along with Talat Aziz and Jagjit Singh, released his first album ”Aahat” in 1980 and went on to release over 50 albums in a four-decade career. This was apart from the songs, evoking gentle romance, he crooned as a playback singer.

He is perhaps most famous for ”Naa Kajaare ki dhar”, ”Aye ghame zindagi kuch to de mashwara”, ”Maikhane se sharab”, ”Chandi jaisa rang hai tera sone jaise baal”, ”Aaj fir tum pe pyaar aaya”, ”Mohabbat inyat karam dekhte hain”, ”Jaaneman karwate badal badal” and ”Chahat desh se aane wale”

Udhas was synonymous with ghazals, an Arabic word that means “conversing with the beloved”. It developed in Persia in the 10th century AD from the Arabic verse form ‘qasida’, according to rekhta.com But he was much more than that. ”Ghazal singer, art lover & an avid reader. I love to travel to different destinations; I relish different cuisines. Apart from ghazals, I listen to Beatles,” his Facebook profile says.

Udhas, who received the Padma Shri in 2006, was also a science graduate working to eradicate thalassemia, according to his X profile.

He was born in Gujarat’s Rajkot town to a family of musicians. His father Keshubhai Udhas played the string instrument dilruba. And his two elder brothers Manhar Udhas and Nirmal Udhas were well-known singers too. The young Pankaj initially started learning tabla at the Sangeet Natya Academy in Rajkot.

But he was more inclined towards Hindustani classical music and started learning from Ghulam Qadir Khan. Shah Rukh Khan recalled in an interview that he earned his first money by working as an usher in an Udhas concert and used the Rs 50 to travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

Udhas is also credited with making John Abraham a popular face, giving him the opportunity to appear in his album ”Mahek” in 1999. The songs ”Chupke chupke sakhiyon se baatein” and ”Yun mere khat ka jawab aya” were a rage and the actor became a familiar face. The tributes poured in.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said Udhas’ death is an ”irreparable loss” to the music world.

”Deeply saddened the news of passing of Pankaj Udhas ji. His career, spanning more than 4 decades, enriched our music industry and gifted us with some of the most memorable and melodious renditions of gazals,” he wrote on X.

Long time friend and fellow singer Anup Jalota said he knew Udhas had been unwell for the last several months but didn’t realise he would go away so soon.

”I’ve lost my friend. We would discuss everything. Pankaj, Talat and I… our trio was famous. We had great fun together. We would do concerts together. He has had a great contribution in making ghazals popular and accessible. It can never be forgotten,” Jalota said.

Anuradha Paudwal who collaborated with Udhas on many songs, including ”Mohabbat, inayat, karam” and ”Tere khamosh hoton se”, said she was shocked by news of his death. ”He was a very good artist for the world but to me he was a very close and dear friend… We studied together in St. Xavier’s and then we both joined the industry. We recorded many duets, many of them were popular. He was a great singer, a great artist, very soft spoken… but over and above that, he was a very nice human being. He was close to everyone,” Paudwal told PTI.

Actor Madhuri Dixit, who featured in ”Saajan”, her 1991 film with Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan, also remembered Udhas’ hit number ”Jeeye toh jeeye kaise bin aap ke” from the film.

”Deeply saddened by the loss of a music legend, Pankaj Udhas Ji. His gazals touched the souls of people worldwide. His legacy will forever linger in our hearts! Om Shanti,” she said in a post on X. Singer Daler Mehndi said his heart was heavy with the news of the death of the gentlest music exponent.

”Chitthi na koi sandesh… wishing you a beautiful, peaceful journey ahead… sureeley Pankaj-ji, your songs remain etched in our memories,” he said in an X post.

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