Coming from a family that didn't appreciate women pursuing a career in performing arts, Anuradha Paudwal says her singing career of over 12,000 film and devotional songs seems like a "beautiful coincidence".
Paudwal was launched in films as a playback singer by legendary composer SD Burman in 1973 classic "Abhimaan" with an iteration of shlok 'Omkaram Bindu Samyuktam'. She followed it up with a series of other studio recordings in Famous Studio, Film Centre and Bombay Land.
But a chance to sing with Mohammed Rafi; 250 live shows with Kishore Kumar, including one at New York's Royal Albert Hall; and a memorable album in "Aashiqui", was not something she "anticipated".
"I come from a family where my father would say, ‘Ache ghar ki ladikyan film industry mein gaati nahi hai’ (Women of respected families don't sing in the film industry)...That was a different time.
"I was extremely lucky to have been launched by SD Burman ji with ‘Abhimaan’... Nothing was planned... All of it was just a beautiful coincidence. I had never anticipated anything like this, but due to the blessings of God things kept happening," Paudwal told PTI in an interview here ahead of an event organised by her Suryodaya Foundation.
Through the foundation, the veteran singer said she is committed to help and support socially and economically challenged segments of the society in fields of education, healthcare and water conservation with focus on rural development and women empowerment.
At the NGO's event here on Tuesday, the singer, along with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, distributed hearing aids to under-privileged kids.
“In the course of my social work, I came across a huge number of people, mostly children, who were two-and-half-years old and they have hearing defects and they don’t know about it either. Hence, creating awareness is important. I have dedicated myself to help people, children in need...These are baby steps and I am happy with the response that I am getting from people," she added.
Paudwal never received any formal training in music and would practice listening to legendary Lata Mangeshkar.
"I would consider Lata ji as my guru, I learnt singing by listening and singing her songs," she recalled.
The playback artist said she is proud to have carved her own path in the music industry. She said her husband Arun Paudwal, who was an assistant to Burman, had high standards when it came to professional singing and would never refer her to producers.
“My husband used to regularly play with Asha ji (Bhosle), Lata ji. He never ever told his producers that 'my wife sings, so let her sing’. When the producers would hear my songs somewhere, they would ask ‘How come you didn’t tell us that she sings'," she added.
The major turning point for her came in the early 1980s when she joined Gulshan Kumar's music label T-Series. Paudwal was the in-house voice for the company and sang for films such as "Aashiqui", "Beta", "Dil" and "Sadak" among others, before foraying into devotional music.
"It was a revolution in devotional music... And my natural inclination has always been towards spirituality, so I enjoyed doing that and still do it," she said.
It was her inclination towards spirituality that made her explore the devotional music scene, rather than following the cliche Bollywood path.
"In my life, I have always followed my conviction. I feel you get that encouragement and that little signal from the universe, that what you are doing is right... God has been so kind that the craze for ‘Aashiqui’ is still there. Having said that, devotional music gives me peace of mind. That will always stay," she added.