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Poetic expressions of life

Pankaj Udhas who was in the city recently commended Chennaiites for supporting cancer patients. In an interview, the ghazal king speaks about his commitment to society.

"THERE'S NO short cut to success", says Pankaj Udhas. It is the story of his life. Looking suave in a superbly tailored white churidar kurta, the singer was a picture of poise and culture. Soft spoken and genteel, the ghazal singer was in Chennai to sing for a cause... that of cancer patients.

"I lost my father to cancer," said the singer. A pregnant pause later, he added, "I know the pain and trauma that one undergoes. It is a menace and I think, each one of us has to come out and support the cause." A little known fact is that Udhas is the chairman of the Parent's Thalassemic Unit and has helped raise huge amounts for the Cancer Patients Aid Society through his concerts.

The singer, who visited the Cancer Institute in the city, spoke of the commitment and dedication of the doctors working at the institute, especially Dr. Shantha. "It was really an overwhelming experience. In fact, Dr. Shantha told me that there has been a significant rise in the number of breast cancer patients in the past few years. It is alarming. I am an anti-tobacco person. I plead with all those hooked to tobacco to give it up. They not only help themselves but also their family, and society at large." There was an urgent plea in his voice.

That Udhas is committed to keeping the ghazal alive was evident when he decided to revive the Khazana concerts, which were started in 1983 and discontinued after 1987. In June, Mumbaikars were treated to a two-day ghazal extravaganza with performances by such artistes as Anup Jalota, Bhupinder and Mitalee Singh, Neena and Rajendra Mehta, Peenaz Masani, Talat Aziz, Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain, and, of course, Pankaj. "It was a lovely experience. We all had a great time," recalls the singer. The concerts are to be telecast on Zee TV sometime in November.

What about bringing the Khazana series to Chennai? "Oh yes, we are coming to Chennai. It might happen sometime between January and March next year," he promises with a smile, and adds, "Meanwhile, we are off to New York for the annual Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan concert. Ghulam Ali will also be performing."

Udhas, who cut his first album "Aahat" in 1980, saw success with "Afreen" which was awarded the Triple Platinum status. His most recent album is "Muskan", a collection of eight soft and lilting nazms and ghazals. "I have tried to give it a traditional feel by using the sitar, sarod, santoor and flute. The focus is more on the lyrics and less on the music. Also, the songs are easy on the ear, and each number has unique flavour."

Talk about his two daughters and his eyes light up. The proud papa is all praise for his girls, who are training to be singers. Naayab, who is 16, is already learning classical music while Rewa, 8, has just begun lessons. "I feel one needs a strong foundation in music. Look at the several girl bands that have hit the scene in recent times. They become popular at a young age and then struggle to remain in the limelight. I don't want my girls to take that route. They are talented and they have been an important part of my musical journey. So they are aware of the ups and downs."

Pankaj Udhas is looking forward to his forthcoming projects, including one as music director for a film to be produced by T-Series. Meanwhile, this Guru Dutt fan, who has been closely watching Wimbledon and the NatWest cricket Series, will be glued to television watching the ICC matches. "Next week, I want to watch Devdas", is his parting shot.

SAVITHA GAUTAM

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