The Ghazal Queen of India

Mohinder Verma
“Mere junoon ka nateeja zaroor niklega,
Isi siyaah samandar se noor niklega”

“If you have confidence in yourself and talent to strike a perfect balance between family and professional life than you can recreate everything again in your life”. This phrase may sound philosophical to many but this has been proved by Dr Radhika Chopra of Jammu, who has created a niche for herself in Ghazal singing at the national and international level despite the fact that this particular sphere is considered as male bastion.
While fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming versatile Ghazal Singer, this daughter of soil never shirked from playing the role of a daughter, wife, daughter-in-law and mother and tried her level best to meet expectations of these relations. In order to ensure proper upbringing of her children and to fulfill the responsibilities of being a wife and daughter-in-law, she had to even keep at the bay her passion for realizing the dream of becoming “Ghazal Queen” of India for almost 10 years.
However, after a gap of one decade she staged come back but with full vigor and more refined singer and this led to her bagging one after another award in the field which is generally dominated by the male singers. She is considered as a rare gem for the Crown of India and has earned name and fame even in several foreign countries.
Dr Radhika Chopra’s excellence and finesse, her intonation, pronunciation, crisp and clear voice coupled with her impeccable diction of both Hindi and Urdu languages have won her accolades of the discerning listener across the globe. A highly accomplished artist, she renders the most intricate and sophisticated Ghazal, Dadra and Thumri compositions with the utmost ease and brilliance. Holding a Doctorate in Indian Classical Music, Dr Radhika’s versatility reflects in her varied repertoire of Bhajans, film and Punjabi folk songs and Sufiana Kalams.
Since childhood she knew what she wanted to achieve in her life. Her father D N Sharma, who was extremely passionate about music and Urdu poetry and mother Kamla Sharma, who is a dramatist, artist and writer and penned several poems and books, were God gifted singers but they could not fulfill their dream because of one or the other reason. However, they made all out efforts to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams through Dr Radhika and what she is today is because of their as well as other family members’ support.
She graduated from Government College for Women, Jammu after which she joined the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, Delhi University for post-graduation in Hindustani classical music. Thereafter, she learned Thumri, Dadra and Ghazal from the most eminent Guru Padamshree Shanti Hiranand, a renowned disciple of Begum Akhtar. Before shifting to Delhi in the absence of avenues for higher education in the field in Jammu, she learnt a lot from Pandit J R Sharma in the City of Temples.
After her marriage, though there was no major restriction from the in-laws for singing yet she preferred to meet their expectations. But at the same time she never distracted from her goals and kept on learning one way or the other during the spare times. She struck proper balance between family and professional life and this helped her a lot in achieving the present stature.
In the year 2003, she staged come back with renewed vigor, after taking “Urdu Taleem” and most importantly after doing lots of practice that too while taking care of her children. Since 2003, she has performed in 14 countries apart from different parts of India.
She is a top-grade artist of All India Radio, an empanelled artist of Indian Council for Cultural Relations and has performed in foreign countries to promote traditional Ghazal Gayaki. The Indian Ministry of Culture has commissioned her to commemorate legendary figures of the Indian subcontinent including Ghalib, Kundan Lal Saigal and Begum Akhtar.
Dr Radhika Chopra had performed at the Parliament House in 2009 and 2015 on the invitation of the then Lok Sabha Speakers Somnath Chatterjee and Sumitra Mahajan respectively. During the Presidentship of Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Dr Chopra performed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In 2010, the Delhi Government and Urdu Academy invited her to perform during the Commonwealth Games. She is the voice of the ‘Mata Sakandmata Stuti,’ recorded by AIR, shared on Twitter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi every year on the 5th day of the Navratri Festival.
She has achieved immense popularity not only among the audiences of All India Radio but also among the connoisseurs of light as well as classical music in the subcontinent. She has shared the stage with iconic Indian artists such as Jagjit Singh, Anup Jalota, Pankaj Udhas, Chandan Das, Talat Aziz and Penaz Masani et al.
She is the recipient of the Ghazal Bahar “Begum Akhtar Award 2021”, which will be conferred to her in Mumbai on September 24, 2021. In 2018, Delhi Government and Delhi Urdu Academy gave annual award to Dr Radhika Chopra for her immense contribution in Ghazal singing. Moreover, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry recognized Dr Radhika Chopra for her “Outstanding contribution towards Promotion of Art & Culture” and in the same year, she was presented the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Rotary Club of Delhi.
Over the years, a plethora of cultural foundations and organizations have recognized Dr Radhika’s contributions to the field of music. She is the recipient of the “Harmony India Award 2020” presented by the Harmony Cultural Foundation, “Pride of Nation Excellence Award 2019” presented by Respect India Foundation and the Art Karat “Award for Excellence 2018”. She has performed at all the major music festivals of India namely “Jahan-E-Khusrau”, “Jashn-e-Rekhta”, “Jashn-e-Adab”, “Jashn-e-Urdu”, “Ghazal Bahaar” and MTV India Music Summit’ “Durgiana” etc.
Rekhta Foundation, instituted in 2012 as the leading public charitable trust to promote Urdu language, literature and culture, describes Dr Radhika Chopra as “the leading exponent of Ghazal singing in India”. She has a deep understanding of the words and inner meanings of the poetry of great Urdu poets like Ghalib, Meer, Faiz, Faraz and others and possesses a vast repertoire of self-composed Ghazals and Nazms.
Besides the Indian subcontinent, she is well known and respected in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, South America, and East Africa. Dr Radhika has to her credit 11 self-composed Ghazal albums, commercial and non-commercial, including works of over 25 contemporary poets of India and abroad. One of her latest works has been for the Bagri Foundation, UK, which commissioned her to record a lockdown series in 2020, titled “Ghazal Ki Kahaani, Meri Zubani”.
Unfortunately, her relentless efforts to carry forward the legacy of Ghazal singing with traditional instruments has never been recognized by her own State (presently Union Territory) in any way. Despite this, she wants youngsters of Jammu to learn Ghazal singing instead of focusing only on that kind of singing which is merely commercially viable. She is of the opinion that in the world of music, Ghazals have a distinct place and with their fine Urdu verses, subtle nuances and music that connects the soul with the divine, they open floodgates to the most hidden and deepest of feelings in us.
As music is like an ocean, she wants to keep the traditional singing alive and generate awareness about the same. Though J&K has not recognized her in any way, her heart lies in Jammu and if invited she will be more than ready to perform in the City of Temples.