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Interview with Usha by Jeevi

: 9th June 2002 Venue: Rd. No.2, Banjara Hills
If the fresh and mesmerizing voice that sang 'Oohala Pallaki lo' in Chitram, took us on a mellifluous ride in the palanquin of dreams, it also made us sit up and notice who this talented new singer was. Having secured a special place in the hearts of Telugu song lovers she has henceforth been amusing us with beautiful dulcets like 'Priyathama', 'Naa Gudilo', 'Toonega', 'Ela Ela', 'Ne Toli Saariga' and many others. She is currently the most popular singer in the Telugu film industry yet she is unassuming and down to earth. caught up with Usha on 9th June at her residence in Banjara Hills. Accompanied by her father and brother, the cheerful and bubbly Usha spoke with without any inhibitions for about 45 minutes. Here are the excerpts from the interview -


Tell us about your journey of becoming a successful playback singer

I was born in Nagarjuna Sagar. My father's hometown is Tanuku and my mother is from Amalapuram. We shifted to Hyderabad when I was a kid. Singing has been a passion since my childhood. I used to look out for local singing competition advertisements in the newspapers to participate in them. At that time, I used to do it as a hobby and I had no inkling that I would come into the movie field as a playback singer.

I participated in a Gemini TV program called Navaragam. I came first in that program and I immediately got a chance to participate in E TV's Paadutha Teeyaga, which is conducted by Balu garu. I emerged successful in that as well. Then Balu garu blessed me that I am capable of playback singing and suggested me to enter films.

I got an offer from Vandemataram garu from Chennai to sing a song. During that trip, KS Rama Rao garu made me sing a song for Hello I Love You under the music direction of Shashi Preetam garu. By that time, I had just finished my intermediate. Later on, I did not get any offers from music directors and I did not try hard for playback singing, as I had to concentrate on my studies too. For 3 years I did not sing for any film. People used to make indirect fun of me by asking what happened to my singing career.

I then participated in Endaro Mahanubhavulu, a show by Balu garu for Gemini TV, where they telecast songs sung live by the singers. Though it's a music related program, new singers like me got a lot of exposure to various facets. Since the audience had seen me coming first in Navaragam and Paadutha Teeyaga, people started recognizing me as Usha. I also participated in a contest by EL TV, an associate channel of Zee TV.

One day, NB Sastry garu called me and informed me that Usha Kiron Movies is producing a film titled Chitram. He called up Atluri Rama Rao garu (executive producer of Usha Kiron Movies) and referred me for an audition. Teja, Kula Sekhar and RP garu were there at the time of audition. I was very tensed. Teja garu is really a cool person. He made me feel comfortable and encouraged me to sing freely. When I sang the pallavi of 'Oohala Pallakilo' song, they all liked it. I was then asked to sing the entire song. That was a good song, which is rich in both music and lyrics. That song gave me confidence that I could dream of becoming a playback singer.

Since Chitram was made by Ramoji Rao garu, there used to be a series of promotional trailers aired on E TV. They often showed 'Oohala Pallakilo' song in those trailers. I was so thrilled listening to those promos. That song gave me a big break. People complain that film industry is a vicious place. But, it's a nice place to be in, if you have a positive outlook. Lot of people, whom I did not know, traced my phone number and called me to encourage me. Later on, I sang for a few films like Subha Vela, Budget Padmanabham, Ramma Chilakamma etc. But those songs did not become popular.

My second break came with the film Nuvvu Nenu. Initially, they made me sing one song. They then called me for a second one. Gradually, they made me sing all the songs of that album. Teja garu is very straightforward when it comes to extracting work from us. If he is not satisfied with the song, he says it on the face and gives us another chance to make amendments. It's a very good approach.

When I saw Nuvvu Nenu in a theatre, I observed that people were throwing pieces of paper and whistling when the Nuvvu Nenu title appeared with the background title song . We generally observe the masses doing the same to only popular heroes when they appear on the screen for the first time. During the interval, a few girls recognized me and took autographs from me. I was very happy that time. Another notable aspect of Nuvvu Nenu songs was the simple lyrics with a lot of depth in them. The lyrics clicked well, as they are easy to memorize and simple to hum.

After Nuvvu Nenu, I sang for films like Manasanta Nuvve, Premaku Swagatam, Nuvvu Leka Nenu Lenu, Takkari Donga, Santosham and Hai. I also have a couple of songs in the forthcoming films like Jayam, Andam, Premante, Chance, Ninne Cherukunta etc.

Some people pass comments that I sing only for RP garu, which is not true. I sang for almost all the music directors and I do not have any reservations. People might have got that opinion because all the albums of RP garu are becoming hits.

Are there any incidents where you have sung a song and it was redone by a different singer?

Yes. It happened only once. I sang 'Kita kita Talupula' song of Manasanta Nuvve first. But later on, they redid it with Chitra garu. The finalization of the song depends on music director, director and producer. If either of them is not happy, then the singer will be changed.

Some people are speculating that you are slowly becoming a replacement for Chitra. What do you have to say about that?

Absolutely not! Her talent and range are pretty high. Nobody else is as talented as she is. Nobody replaces anybody here. Everybody has his/her own domain and style. I am pretty confident that nobody can replace Chitra garu. Everybody has his/her own voice, which is drastically different.

How do you take care of your voice? Do you take any precautions?

I don't take any diet restrictions. I love ice creams and I love Pepsi. If I have any stage program in a couple of days, then I avoid taking anything cold as I may fall sick. I avoid taking citrus food all the time. I avoid taking lemon juice, as it shows immediate affect on my voice. I am also a big time chatterbox. So I need to shut my mouth to maintain my voice (giggles).

Dubbing is the next logical step for singers. Have you done any dubbing? Are you interested in it?

I never dubbed for any artist. I am not interested in it. I think dubbing my voice for any heroine is not my cup of tea. Heroines of the films are supposed to have heavenly quality. Even the smile of the heroine should be heavenly. I have some base in my voice, which would not suit the heavenliness of heroine's voice. Even lip-syncing is a big problem. I don't think anybody would approve of my voice for dubbing. It's good for singing. That is it!

Tell us about your academics?

I did my CEC in intermediate. I got national merit scholarship in it. I did my B Com in St. Francis Degree College, Secunderabad. Later on, I joined MCS, which I finished a week back.

What is your future plan?

I would love to continue as a playback singer as long as I can. Otherwise, I shall pick up a job using my educational qualifications. But, I will try my level best to stay in this field as a playback singer.

Do you sing songs that have double entendres in it?

I think the quality of Telugu film lyrics has improved a lot because of the high number of love films being made these days. I never came across any situation where the lyrics were gross. But I am a professional singer and I should sing songs however bad the lyrics are. We are supposed to sing the songs and we will sing them. If the lyrics are too gross, then I would definitely refrain from singing those songs. But most of the lyrics that are written now reflect the tender feelings between two lovers' hearts.

Tell us about your favorite singers?

Among the Telugu female singers, I like Susheela garu, Janaki garu, Chitra garu, Sujatha garu, Swarna Latha garu. Among the Hindi singers I admire, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Kavitha Krishna Murthy and Alka Yagnik.

Among the male singers, I like Balu garu, Ghantasala garu, Jesudas garu, Kishore Kumar and Mohd. Rafi. Among the contemporary singers I like Hari Haran garu, KK, Shaan and Shankar Mahadevan.

Tell us about your favorite music directors?

I like all music directors.

You are being too diplomatic.

I might hurt somebody by telling out a name, which I don't want to do. For anybody, Ilayaraja is like a God and next comes AR Rehman.

Basically I like RP gari music a lot. His music is soft and melodious. The best part about his music is that his music never dominates the lyrics. I went to a relative's place, where a small girl asked me to sing 'Ela Ela' song [from Nuvvu Leka Nenu Lenu]. I asked her to try singing it. She sung the entire song with correct lyrical pronunciation. She is able to hear, memorize and reproduce the lyrics. That is the one of the plus points of RP gari music.

Tell us about your favorite songs sung by you?

My favorites are Oohala Pallakilo (Chitram), title song (Nuvvu Nenu), Toonega (Manasanta Nuvve), Ela Ela (Nuvvu Leka Nenu Lenu), Hai (Hai), Ne Toli Saariga (Santosham), Enduko, Sabbasi, Nestama and Raanu Raanu (Jayam).

All the songs sung by you so far have been love and melodious songs. But for the first time, you sang a complete folk song 'Raanu Raanu' in Jayam. Did you try anything different in it?

I sing all types of songs, including western and Hindi. But I did not get opportunity to sing different kind of songs as a playback singer. I love singing different songs as a professional singer. I love to have more challenging songs and I am pretty sure that I can sing them with élan.

What kind of encouragement you get from your family members?

I get complete support from them. I don't think any other person could get this kind of support from their family members. Whenever I am tired or down, my family pampers me. My mother, father, sister and brothers give me moral support whenever I am in need of it.

What are your hobbies other than singing?

Dancing, watching TV, horoscopes and chatting with friends are some of my hobbies.

What's your date of birth?

29th May. I am a Gemini.

Do you have any marriage plans in near future?

I am not thinking about marriage at this point of time. I want to concentrate on my singing career now. People have already started complaining as to why Usha is singing all the songs in an album. People have been listening to two or three singers singing in all the albums for years. Give me some tough songs and I will prove myself. Recently I sang a song on Hyderabad city. After listening to the song, nobody feels that I sang it as it has a contrasting style to it.

How frequently do you visit

I visit everyday.

What do you like and what do you not like in

I do like everything about What I like the most are the interviews, discussions and jukebox. I go across all the articles that are put up under 'latest updates' column. I would like to tell you about an incident. There was a news item that RP garu would be scoring music for Manmadhudu. And I came to know about this news through, though RP garu and I met regularly for the songs of Jayam. The pace at which updates its articles is very fast. The site is very fast to download too.

Do you have any suggestions for wannabe singers?

You should have the will power to do anything. If you think you can do, then you can definitely do that. Where there is a will, there is a way. This suggestion is not just for singers, but for everyone whichever field they are in. Hard work makes a lot of difference.

Do you have any thing to say to the visitors of

Hmm, keep visiting Please encourage newcomers. None of us are perfect human beings. Nobody can prove themselves in the first attempts. Please give second chances to them.

You can mail Usha at [email protected]

Interviewed by Jeevi
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