HT City

Pankaj Udhas: I was nervous when I got back on stage after two years

- Soumya Vajpayee soumya.vajpayee @hindustant­

Iam like a fish without water when I am not on stage. I have been a performing artiste all my life and the pandemic phase was the toughest,” says veteran ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas, who has been performing regularly in India and abroad ever since things opened up a few months ago.

Ask how performing live feels like after such a long gap and the Padma Shri recipient says, “Before the pandemic, there used to be a lot of confidence in me before any concert. But the lockdown phase was tough for all, even psychologi­cally. Though I did my riyaaz regularly and tried to keep up and not get rusty, there was a lack of exposure to the stage and audience. So, when I got back on stage after two years with a concert in Rampur (Uttar Pradesh), I was really nervous. But when I went up on stage and saw 6,000 people cheering for me, I had tears in my eyes. It was a really emotional moment, as I was deprived of the stage for so long.”

Though the singer has been performing frequently and has a string of concerts lined up, one thing he doesn’t compromise on is his safety. “When I started performing live again, I’d be so paranoid. I feared contractin­g the virus even by touching things at concerts,” he says, adding, “Safety really matters to me. I make sure that nobody comes close to me without wearing a mask.”

So, has he observed any change in the audience’s conduct? “They have become more enthusiast­ic compared to pre-pandemic days. They value your performanc­e much more than before,” says Udhas, who turns 71 today. Sharing how he will spend his birthday, he says, “Covid-19 is still around and people are still suffering. So, I am not really in a mood to celebrate. I’ll have a low-key birthday with my family.”

The audience has now become more enthusiast­ic. Now, they value your performanc­e much more than before. PANKAJ UDHAS,

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