Usha Uthup is an Indian pop, jazz, and playback singer. She is famous for being the pioneer to bring 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 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: 5′ 4″
Weight: 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 first got married to Ramu Iyer who died. 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 by singing on the Ovaltine Music Hour in Radio Ceylon. She sang a number there called “Mockingbird Hill.” After that, she gave several appearances in her teenage. When she turned 20, she started singing in a small nightclub called in Chennai at Nine Gems in the basement of the erstwhile Safire theatre complex on Mount Road. She gave performances for the night clubs like Trincas and Talk of the Town (now known as Not Just Jazz by the Bay). It was when she was performing at Oberoi hotel, a film crew belonging to Navketan unit and Shashi Kapoor visited 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; “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 was with the song “Love is Just Around the Corner” for the movie “Chattakkari (1974).”
Usha made her Tamil debut as a singer was 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 was he thinks 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
- 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 she was in school, she was thrown out of her music class because of her voice. But her music teacher recognised her interest in music and provided her with clappers or triangles to play.
- She never got professional training in music but she grew up in an atmosphere of music. Her parents used to listen to Western Classical and Carnatic music including Kishori Amonkar and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan on the radio. She used to join them and loved listening to Radio Ceylon.
- His 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 lost her chance at the end moment. According to Usha, she and Asha rehearsed together for the song but on the day of recording, she wasn’t called. She finally called R. D. Burman to confirm her schedule and Burman replied that only Asha would sing the song. But later, she got the chance to sing the English part of the song.
- In 1968, she recorded covers of the pop songs in English, “Jambalaya”, “Greenback Dollar (by The Kingston Trio)” and “Scotch and Soda (by The Kingston Trio)” on an EP titled, “Love Story.”
- During this period, she also spent some time in London where 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, brought by Karadi Tales.
- She has also served as a judge in 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 by the former president of India, APJ Abdul Kalam
- She has worked with several governmental and non-government 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. She met Mother Teresa during her visit to a homoeopath named Sr Amy. The singer would often stop to visit Mother 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. She also performed many charity concerts for Missionaries of Charity, especially in Kolkata and still does so.