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“Titli Udi, Ud Jo Chali” – Sharda

28 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Sharda. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

In the 1960s, with the film Suraj’s song Titli Udi, a melodious voice reminding me of the sound of a mountainous rivers gurgling echoing in the valleys entered the film industry and captured the hearts of crores of music lovers. On top of that, this happened in the period when the Mangeshkar sisters ruled the film industry. However, the path ahead was not that easy. 

Sharda ji’s voice used to attract me from childhood. Her voice had the gaiety of youth which not only gave an independent identity to it but also increased its sweetness manifold. To put it simply, her voice had the natural pride of teenage which had a magic like effect on the ears of the listeners. I don’t know whether to call it a miracle or the good fortune of the audience that the freshness of that sweetness, natural gaiety and youth is still the same even today. For this reason, Sharda ji has been a favourite singer for me then as well as now. For this reason, Sharda ji was among the artists I interviewed first for the weekly Sahara Samay. I first interviewed Shashikala, Shyama and then Sharda! Sharda ji is one of the few artists with whom I have been in constant touch since then. 
 

Sharda. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Her voice had the natural pride of teenage which had a magic like effect on the ears of the listeners. I don’t know whether to call it a miracle or the good fortune of the audience that the freshness of that sweetness, natural gaiety and youth is still the same even today.
Sharda ji was born on 25th October 1938 in a traditional Vaishnav Iyengar Brahmin family from Kumbakonam. Situated in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district, Kumbakonam is also called the City of Temples. Just like her city, the environment of Sharda ji’s house revolved around religious worship and rituals. Sharda ji told us, “Among six sisters and one brother, I was the eldest. My father was in a government job and my grandfather was a professor of Sanskrit. I spent my childhood staying with my paternal grandparents. Vedic literature, Sanskrit and study of religious epics was an important part of my education.”
 
Chorni. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Sharda ji was fond of the songs of Hindi films from her childhood. Her particular favourites were film Rattan’s Ankhiyaan Mila Ke Jiya Bharma Ke Chale Nahin Jaana and film Jugnu’s Yahaan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siwa Kya Hai.
Sharda ji was fond of the songs of Hindi films from her childhood. Her particular favourites were film Rattan’s Ankhiyaan Mila Ke Jiya Bharma Ke Chale Nahin Jaana and film Jugnu’s Yahaan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siwa Kya Hai. She used to sing Hindi songs as an amateur during college and family functions which impressed many with her voice and singing. She told us, “Seeing my interest, my parents encouraged me to learn Carnatic music. However, seeing the differences between Hindustani and Carnatic music, I realized that I would not be able to sing Hindi songs at all and so I stopped learning it.” 

During the 1950s, she shifted along with her family to Tehran where her father had got transferred. Due to her singing she soon gained wide popularity among the expat Indian settled there. During a function, she also got an opportunity to sing before the Shah of Iran which made her even more popular. In those days, Raj Kapoor who was visiting Tehran in some context was impressed by her singing and invited her to come to Mumbai. On his invitation, Sharda ji came to Mumbai in 1959. 
 
Sharda with Raj Kapoor. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
In those days, Raj Kapoor who was visiting Tehran in some context was impressed by her singing and invited her to come to Mumbai. On his invitation, Sharda ji came to Mumbai in 1959. 
Sharda ji remembers, “I went to R K Studios to meet Raj Sahab. At that time, RK’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai was due for release and Raj Sahab was preparing for his first colour film Sangam. My microphone test was done at RK after which Raj Sahab sent me to meet composer duo Shankar-Jaikishan. I had met Shankar ji many years before in Hyderabad also. He sent me to learn Hindustani music from Pt Jaggannath Prasad ji. I also learnt nuances of Sugam Sangeet from Pt Lakshman Prasad ji and later from Nirmala Devi too.” 

Sharda ji had spent a lot of time learning music and playback but had not got any singing opportunity from RK. She got her break outside RK! She recalls, “The first song I recorded was not for any film but was a test or trial song, Jaldi Se Aa, Chupke Se Aa. Its lyrics were by Shailendra ji and composed by Shankar ji. Producer-director Pachhi wanted to use it for his movie Around the World (1967) but Shankar ji declined to give it for the movie. As a result, this song could not be released though it is still available with me on some spool”. 
 
Gumnaam. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Sharda ji started her career by singing two songs, one was Gumnaam (1965)’s Aayega Kaun Yahaan and film Suraj (1966)’s Titli Udi. However, Sharda ji does not recall which of the two was recorded first. She says, “Later Raj Kapoor had also got three songs recorded by me for his film, Mera Naam Joker (1960). Among these, one was a duet with Mukesh ji, Gaao Gaao Jhoom Ke Gaao and two solos Mere Alibaba and Dil Ka Diya Jisko Jalana Aayega. Later for some unknown reason, all the three songs were deleted from the film. The song, Kisi Ke Dil Ko Sanam Leke Yun Nahin Jaate recorded for the film Kal Aaj Aur Kal met the same fate.”
 
Suraj. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Sharda ji tells us, “Film Suraj’s Titli Udi proved to be a superhit and as a result I became famous overnight. In those days, there used to be a single Filmfare award for playback singing. Since, Rafi Sahab’s Baharon Phool Barsao and my Titli Udi got equal votes, from that year onwards the practice of giving separate Best Playback Singer for Male and Female singers started.” 
Sharda ji still feels that not a single song of hers could feature in an RK film though she had come to Mumbai on Raj Kapoor’s invitation. The Raj Kapoor starrer film Around the World did have her singing in all the female songs but that film was not of the RK banner. Sharda ji tells us, “Film Suraj’s Titli Udi proved to be a superhit and as a result I became famous overnight. In those days, there used to be a single Filmfare award for playback singing. Since, Rafi Sahab’s Baharon Phool Barsao and my Titli Udi got equal votes, from that year onwards the practice of giving separate Best Playback Singer for Male and Female singers started.” 
 
Sharda with Shankar and Mohammed Rafi. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
From 1968 to 1971, Sharda ji got nominated every year for the Filmfare Award. She succeeded in getting it for Jahaan Pyaar Mile (1969)’s song Baat Zara Hai Aapas Ki too.
From 1968 to 1971, Sharda ji got nominated every year for the Filmfare Award. She succeeded in getting it for Jahaan Pyaar Mile (1969)’s song Baat Zara Hai Aapas Ki too. Sharda ji says, “My career maintained its heights for hardly 3 years. During this period, almost all my songs were becoming hits. During this period, I sang nearly 100-125 songs for composers like Shankar Jaikishan, Ravi, Iqbal Qureshi, Usha Khanna and N Datta. I neither had a filmy background nor was aware of the ways and politics of the film world. My songs being removed from films and records, ridiculous things being published in newspapers/magazines and different type of rumors regarding me became a daily affair. Like every new talent, attempts were being made to scuttle my career too. Jaikishan ji had made some new songs for me too. Unfortunately, before he could record them, He suddenly passed away. As it is, I was under deep shock from the removal of my songs from Mera Naam Joker. At the same time my family members were against my working in films. In this scenario, I stopped playback singing.” 
 
Caption

After being away from the studios for nearly 1.5-2 years, Sharda ji recovered and started her second innings as a composer. During the period, she composed for movies including Maa Bahen aur Biwi (1973), Gharibi Hatao (1973), Maila Aanchal (1981), Kshitiji, Sone Ka Pinjra (1986), Gunaah Ki Kimat and Zahreelee (1977). “On Shankar ji’s insistence, after 14 years, I gave playback for him in the movies Paapi Pet Ka Sawaal Hai (1984), Kaanch Ki Deewaar and Krishna Krishna (both 1986).” 
 
Gharibi Hatao. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
After being away from the studios for nearly 1.5-2 years, Sharda ji recovered and started her second innings as a composer.
Sharda ji says, “I used to often sit with Shankar ji during sittings. He used to make tunes and I used to write words for them just for fun. Among these, Shankar ji liked some songs so much that he used them for his films. Among these, film Garam Khoon (1980)’s songs Pardesiya Tere Des Mein Dil Is Tarah Milta Hai Kya and Ek Chehra Dil Ke Kareeb Aata Hai and Chorni (1980)’s Dekha Hai Tumhen Kahin Na Kahin were quite popular in those days. All these songs were penned by me under the pen name Singhar.” 
Though Sharda ji has bid adieu to films, her attachment towards music has remained as strong as ever. During this period, she wrote and composed songs for children. She also prepared a Ghazal album. Her riyaaz continues till these days and she still continues to give stage shows in India and abroad especially in USA. She says, “Raj Sahab, Shankar ji, Mukesh ji and Rafi sahib are no longer among us but I shall never be able to forget them. I remember Raj Sahab because though none of my songs remained in his movies but I reached here thanks to his co-operation and inspiration. I remember Shankar ji because he sculpted my voice, taught me the intricacies of playback singing and really helped my career develop. And I remember Mukesh sahib and Rafi sahib because they gave me support, strength and guided me at every step of my career”.

Translation by: Shri Ganjendra Khanna

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series. 
 

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