Pankaj Udhas tributes: Great singer-composer, even greater human being

Pankaj Udhas (right) with Anup Jalota and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. Photo: Pritam Sharma

“The reason why Pankaj Udhas was a superstar in his zone was that he sang each and every film and non-film song from the heart and got emotionally involved with his work!” raved Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam, who not only sang a few songs with him in Hindi (like Aankh mere yaar ki dukhe from Ek Hi Raasta) but also his only duet in Kannada, Bareyada mounada kavithe from Sparsha, under composer Hamsalekha. She added, “He was among the very finest people I have met in showbiz.”

Pankaj Udhas passed away of ‘long illness’ in Mumbai at the age of 72 in a Mumbai hospital and is survived by his wife, Farida (whom he wed despite opposition as they belonged to different religions) and daughters Nayaab (married to Indian classical musician Ojas Adhia) and Riva. He was laid to rest with full state honors on February 27.

Having met him multiple times, I remember Pankaj-ji (as everyone would call him) as an affectionate yet chilled-out human being, who was influenced indirectly by film music to become a giant in ghazals and yet stayed away from cinema until destiny beckoned him there for additional fame. Humble, accessible and always gentle and smiling, Udhas had always been a unanimous favorite of all associates.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur also posted lavish praise on the singer-composer and his huge contribution to music.

Said Anu Malik, “We have lost a shining star!”

Added close friend of 45 years, Anup Jalota: “He would never tell me, but I had an inkling that he was unwell for 5 to 6 months and I was trying to talk to him. I would thus keep in touch with Nayaab, his daughter, We have all lost a great artiste, but I have lost a friend with whom I could discuss anything. Pankaj, Talat (Aziz) and I formed a famous trio of friends who would even do concerts together. He took the ghazal to all, which was not an easy task.”

Said Shankar Mahadevan, “We don’t even get to sense what is happening; we are that heartbroken and in a state of shock. I am just praying that God gives strength to his family for this big loss.”

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain added, “The joy he has spread through his music has no parallel or comparison. We love his family, we love Pankaj-bhai so much.”

A most touching remark came from John Abraham on X, “You held me close when I was just a newcomer. You are my mentor in so many ways. May you rest in peace. I will always miss you,” he said.

Sunny Deol wrote on Instagram, “Deeply saddened by Pankaj ji’s sudden demise. We have truly lost a gem, his memories and ghazals will live on forever. My condolences to his family, friends and fans. Om Shanti.”

On an Instagram video, Anupam Kher said, “Pankaj Udhas-ji. Why do some people leave like this? There are some people whom you seldom meet, but every time you’ve met them, you have beautiful memories of them. When you suddenly realize that they have left, their memories shroud your mind.”




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