Usha Uthup
Usha at Toshali National Crafts Mela, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, 2012
Usha at Toshali National Crafts Mela, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, 2012
Background information
Birth nameUsha Uthup
Also known asDidi
Born (1947-11-08) 8 November 1947 (age 76)
Bombay, Bombay State, Dominion of India
(present day Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
GenresIndian pop, Film, Jazz, R&B,[1] Indian classical music, Western
  • Playback singer
  • Actress
Years active1966 – present
AwardsPadma Shri (2011) Padma Bhushan (2024)

Usha Uthup Iyer is an Indian pop, filmi, jazz, and playback singer who sang songs in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.[2]

She also sang the title song for the show Sarabhai vs Sarabhai in its first season. In 2024, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian Award presented by Government of India. [3]

Personal life

Usha was born on 8 November 1947[4][5] into a Brahmin Iyer family[6] in Mumbai.[7] Her father was Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami Iyer.[8]

She studied at St. Agnes High School, Byculla. When she was in school she was thrown out of music class because she didn't fit in with a voice like hers. But her music teacher recognised that she had some music in her and would give her clappers or triangles to play. Even though she was not formally trained in music, she grew up in an atmosphere of music. Her parents used to listen to a wide range from Western classical to Hindustani and Carnatic including Kishori Amonkar and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan on radio and she used to join them.[9] She used to enjoy listening to Radio Ceylon.

Her next door neighbour was S.M.A. Pathan, who was then the deputy commissioner of police. His daughter, Jamila, influenced Usha to learn Hindi and take up Indian classical music. This fusion approach helped her to pioneer her unique brand of Indian pop in the 1970s. She is married to Jani Chacko Uthup who is from Manarcaud Painumkal family of Kottayam, and was formerly married to the late Ramu. They have a daughter Anjali and a son Sunny, named after the song, "Sunny".[10] She is presently a resident of Kolkata, West Bengal.


Usha Uthup was a judge in Star Vijay's Airtel Super Singer Junior Season 1 and Airtel Super Singer 5. Her first public singing occurred when she was nine. Her sisters, who were already exploring a career in music, introduced her to Ameen Sayani, then the most popular radio announcer in India. Ameen Sayani gave her an opportunity to sing in the Ovaltine Music Hour of Radio Ceylon. She sang a number called "Mockingbird Hill". After that, several appearances followed through her teenage years.

Singing career

Usha Uthup started her music career in Chennai in 1969, singing in a small nightclub called Nine Gems in the basement of the erstwhile Safire Theatre complex on Mount Road,[11][12] wearing a saree and leg callipers.[citation needed] Her performance was so well received that the owner of the nightclub asked her to stay on for a week.[13] After her first night club gig, she began singing in Calcutta at night clubs such as "Trincas". She met her future husband Uthup in Trincas. At about the same time, she also sang at "Talk of the Town", now known as "Not Just Jazz by the Bay" in Bombay (now Mumbai).[10] After Trincas, her next engagement took her to Delhi where she sang at the Oberoi hotels. By happenstance, a film crew belonging to Navketan unit and Dev Anand visited the nightclub and they offered her a chance to sing movie playback. As a result, she started her Bollywood career with Ivory-Merchant's Bombay Talkies (1970) in which she sang an English number under Shanker-Jaikishan and then Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Originally, she was supposed to sing Dum Maro Dum along with Asha Bhosle for Hare Rama Hare Krishna. However, as a result of internal politicking on the part of other singers, she lost that chance but ended up singing an English verse.[citation needed]

In 1968, she recorded covers of two pop songs in English, "Jambalaya" and The Kingston Trio's "Greenback Dollar", on an EP, Love Story, and "Scotch and Soda", another Kingston Trio song, which sold very well in the Indian market. She also spent some time in London during this early period. She was a frequent visitor to Vernon Corea's BBC office at the Langham in London and was interviewed on London Sounds Eastern on BBC Radio London. Usha visited Nairobi as part of an Indian festival. She was so popular that she was invited to stay on. Singing and quite often nationalistic songs in Swahili made her extremely popular and the then President Jomo Kenyatta made her an Honorary Citizen of Kenya. She sang the famous song "Malaika" ('Angel') with Fadhili Williams who was the original singer. She produced a record "Live in Nairobi" with a local band Fellini Five.

Uthup sang several songs in the 1970s and 1980s for music directors R. D. Burman and Bappi Lahiri. She also reprised some of R. D. Burman songs that were sung by others such as "Mehbooba Mehbooba" and "Dum Maro Dum" and popularised them to a distinct end.[14]

Uthup also sang for a two-volume collection of children's rhymes "Karadi Rhymes", which are "Indian Rhymes for Indian Kids", brought out by Karadi Tales ( The rhymes reflect the Indian ethos through the Sa-re-ga-ma, mangoes, Indian rivers, the train experiences, Indian festivals, indigenous trees, Cricket, Indian foods like bhelpuri and sambhar, Indian attire like the dhoti, sari, bindi and bangles and even some folk tales. With each rhyme set to an Indian raga, and sung in her characteristic voice with a feisty tempo, Usha creates the atmosphere for children and, surprisingly, even adults to sing along and dance to the toe-tapping beats.

She appeared as a judge on a singing reality show Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star – Season 2 (2012), aired on DD National channel, along with Ismail Darbar. She is the judge in the Season 3 of the show as well. She also appeared as a chief guest for Marathi singing reality show. She entertained the audience with Marathi songs.

She is a stage performer and gave performances all over the world and is known for her lively stage presence. She has been felicitated with several awards over the years, some of which include Rajiv Gandhi Purashkar for National Integration for quality music, Mahila Shiromani Purashkar for international peace, and Channel [V] award for outstanding achievement. She appeared on the Kapil Sharma Show on 26 May 2019

She recorded her first album with Luis Banks for which she was paid Rs. 3500. Since then, she has recorded numerous albums. Usha's Hindi version of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough", titled "Chhupke Kaon Aya", can be found on the album Tom Middleton – The Trip (2004). A cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" is on another Tom Middleton album, Cosmosonica – Tom Middleton Presents Crazy Covers Vol. 1 (2005). She recorded a song called "Rhythm and Blues" with the Indian rock band Parikrama which appeared on Channel V on 23 April 2007. Uthup received a lot of recognition for having a unique voice that ranges between contralto and alto.([1])

Acting career

Uthup is also an actress. In 2006, she acted in the Malayalam movie Pothan Vava as Kurisuveettil Mariamma.

She made a cameo appearance in the movie Bombay To Goa. In 2007, she appeared in Bow Barracks Forever directed by Anjun Dutt as herself. Again in 2007, she appeared in Hattrick music video as herself.

She appeared in disguise on Indian Idol 1 and 2. She was one of the co-judges of the 2007 and 2008 and Idea Star Singer Season V (2010).

She has a minor role in the 2010 Tamil movie Manmadan Ambu.

She also acted in Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf as a maid. She has also sung a song in the film which released on 18 February 2011. In 2012, she has starred in a Kannada film Parie.

In 2019, she appeared in the documentary If Not for You[citation needed] for which, she recorded a cover of "Blowin' in the Wind" by legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.[citation needed]


Year Song Film Composer Language
1970 "Jogan Pritam Ki" Devi Laxmikant Pyarelal Hindi
1971 "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" Hare Rama Hare Krishna R D Burman Hindi
1974 "I am in love" Kanyakumari M B Sreenivasan Malayalam
1974 "Love Is Just Around The Corner" Chattakkari G. Devarajan Malayalam
1975 "Love is beautiful" Melnaattu Marumagal Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan Tamil
1976 "It's Easy To Fool You" Oorukku Uzhaippavan M. S. Viswanathan Tamil
1977 "Peethambara" Siva Thandavum M B Sreenivasan Malayalam
"How Can I Tell You" Sangharsha Vijaya Bhaskar Kannada
"We Have Got"
1978 "One Two Cha Cha Cha" Shalimar R D Burman Hindi
1978 "Where there is" Randu Penkuttikal M S Vishwanathan Malayalam
1980 "Hari Om Hari" Pyaara Dushman Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1980 "Doston Se Pyar Kiya" Shaan R D Burman Hindi
1980 "Shaan Se..." Shaan R D Burman Hindi
1981 "Ramba" Armaan Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1981 "Tu Mujhe Jaan Se Bhi Pyara Hai" Wardat Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1982 "Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache" Disco Dancer Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1984 "Oh my darling" Oru Sumangaliyude Kadha Herself Malayalam
1988 "Sidhartha" Sidhartha Shyam Malayalam
"Akka Alla Tangi Alla" Vijaya Khadga Hamsalekha Kannada
1984 " Hey Diwana" Kaveri Odia
1990 "Naaka Bandi" Naaka Bandi Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1991 "Uri Uri Baba" Dushman Devta Bappi Lahiri Hindi
1991 "Vegam Vegam Pogum Pogum" Anjali Ilaiyaraaja Tamil
1991 "Keechurallu" Keechurallu Ilaiyaraaja Telugu
1993 "Chalo Chalk" Janam S P Venkatesh Malayalam
1994 "Njanee Rathriye" Daivathinte Vikrithikal L Vaidyanathan Malayalam
1994 "Nanthyar Vilakkum" Daivathinte Vikrithikal Mohan Sithara Malayalam
1994 "Mafia" Mafia Anand–Milind Malayalam
1995 "Jinka Ninja" Kalamasseriyil Kalyaanayogam Tomin Thankachari Malayalam
1996 "Ladies college campusil" Mazhayethum Munpe R Anand Malayalam
1997 "Daud" Daud A. R. Rahman Hindi
1999 "Raja Ki Kahani" Godmother Vishal Bhardwaj Hindi
2000 "Melam Lotto" Rapid Action Force sailesh Malayalam
2000 "Manasilore" Rapid Action Force sailesh Malayalam
2001 "Vande Mataram" Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham Jatin–Lalit, Sandesh Shandilya, Aadesh Shrivastav Hindi
2003 "Kabhi Pa Liya Tho Kabhi Kho Diya" Jogger's Park Tabun Hindi
2003 "Din Hai Na Ye Raat" Bhoot Salim–Sulaiman Hindi
2005 "Rambhe Ninge" Swamy Gurukiran Kannada
2006 "Vaave Makane" Pothan Vava Alex Paul Malayalam
"Meter Iddone" Ambi V. Nagendra Prasad Kannada
"Yarivanu" Shubham Gurikiran Kannada
2007 "Wicket Bacha" (with Earl) Hattrick Pritam Hindi
"Teri Meri Merry Christmas" Bow barracks Forever Anjun Dutt Hindi
"Kshana Kshana" Kshana Kshana R. P. Patnaik Kannada
2008 "Yavva Yavva Naa Hege" Nee Tata Naa Birla Gurukiran Kannada
2009 "Gudsu Gudsu" Kannadada Kiran Bedi Hamsalekha Kannada
2011 "Hai Ye Maya" Don 2 Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy Hindi
2011 "Viriyunnu" Bombay March 12 Afzal Yusuf Malayalam
2011 "Darling", "Doosri Darling" (with Rekha Bhardwaj) 7 Khoon Maaf Vishal Bhardwaj Hindi
2012 "Ramba main Samba" Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi Jeet Ganguly Hindi
"Aami Shotti Bolchi" Kahaani Vishal–Shekhar Hindi
"Yeh Raat Mona Lisa" Kaafiron Ki Namaaz Advait Nemlekar Hindi
"Jhoom Jhoom Zara" Parie Veer Samarth Kannada
2014 "Race gurram" Race Gurram S. Thaman Telugu
2016 "Hoi Kiw/Chalo Chalo" Rock On 2 Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy Hindi
2016 "Dirty Picture" Thikka S. Thaman Telugu
2019 "Empuraane" Lucifer Deepak Dev Malayalam
2022 "Phire Takao" Kolkatar Harry Jeet Ganguly Bengali
"Chumbok Mon" Kacher Manush Nilayan Chatterjee
''Drishyam 2 Title Track" Drishyam 2 Devi Sri Prasad Hindi


Year Title Role Language
1973 Bombay to Goa Hindi
1975 Melnaattu Marumagal Tamil
2006 Pothan Vava Kurisuveettil Mariamma Malayalam
2007 Bow Barracks Forever Herself English
Hattrick Hindi
2010 Manmadan Ambu Indira Tamil
2011 7 Khoon Maaf Maggie Aunty Hindi
2012 Parie Kannada
Ideal Couple Sophy Malayalam
Keymon & Nani in Space Adventure[15] Nani (voice role) Hindi
2015 X: Past Is Present Mrs. Baker Hindi
2016 Rock On 2 Herself (cameo) Hindi
2019 If Not for You[citation needed] Herself English
2022 Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu Charukesi Tamil


Year Title Role Language
2004-2005 Indian Idol Guest Hindi
2005-2006 Hindi
2007 Star Singer Judge Malayalam
2008 Malayalam
2011 Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champion Kannada
2012 Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star – Season 2 Hindi
Gaurav Maharashtracha Marathi
Kuyil patu Tamil
2016 Phir asar gaan Judge Bengali
Onnum Onnum Moonu Guest Malayalam
2018 Kullfi Kumarr Bajewala Herself Hindi

Awards and nominations

Civilian awards

Film awards

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately from the article and its talk page, especially if potentially libelous.Find sources: "Usha Uthup" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (April 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Year Award Category Nominated Song Film Result Ref.
2012 IIFA Awards Best Female Playback Singer "Darling" 7 Khoon Maaf Nominated
2012 Screen Awards Best Female Playback Singer Nominated
2012 Mirchi Music Awards Female Vocalist of The Year Nominated [17]
2017 Lifetime Achievement Award N/A N/A Won
2006 Asianet Film Awards Best Character actress N/A Pothan Vava Nominated
1999 Kalakar Awards Best Audio Album (Bangla) "Darling" N/A Won
2002 Chai Silpir Samman N/A Won
2004 Best Playback Singer for the film "Kabhi Pa Liya To Kabhi Kho Diya" Joggers Park Won
2013 "Ramba Mein Samba" Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi Won


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  2. ^ "I'm thrilled beyond comprehension: Usha Uthup". The Times of India. 26 January 2011. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011.
  3. ^ "2024 Padma awards". The Hindu. 25 January 2024.
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  5. ^ Bureau, Odishatv. "Did you know these interesting facts about the 'Queen of Pop' Usha Uthup, who turns 75 today". Did you know these interesting facts about the ‘Queen of Pop’ Usha Uthup, who turns 75 today. Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  6. ^ "It's Great To Be Me: Usha Uthup". India Today. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Profile: My bad girl voice". Tehelka. Vol. 8, no. 8. 26 February 2011. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  8. ^ "Midnight's Children". Hindustan Times. 14 August 2012. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012.
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  11. ^ Rajendra, Ranjani (30 May 2019). "There's magic about Madras: Usha Uthup". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  12. ^ Suganth, M. (2 February 2011). "Padma Shri is icing on cake for Usha Uthup". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 17 September 2011.
  13. ^ Frank, Naveen (18 February 2006). "'I am completely a people's person...' – Usha Uthup". Daijiworld. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  14. ^ Nadadhur, Srivathsan (14 September 2015). "Usha Uthup wears dignity in her tone". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Nick's Keymon Ache to make its theatrical debut on 9 November". 6 November 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Usha Uthup, Girish Kasaravalli to get Padma Shri". 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 9 November 2021. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Nominations - Mirchi Music Award Hindi 2011". Radio Mirchi. 30 January 2013. Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2018.