American singer Diana Ross clearly has a profound influence on ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas, who has titled his new album Endless Love - Kitni Yaad Aati Hai after her 1981 hit Endless Love.
"The song Endless Love by Diana Ross is one of my childhood favourites. I still continue to listen to it on my iPod. My album, like her song, is for lovers and you could say that this is my tribute to her," Pankaj told IANS in an interview.
He has given an English title to his album for the first time.
"This album was earlier being titled Ehsaas but it was a collective decision of the entire team to incorporate some newness in our offering, hence the English title - Endless Love. It was the most special name I could give to the album," he said.
Newspapers carrying messages on love inspired Pankaj. "I read four to five newspapers every day and I come across posts by various young people, who use amateur poetry in an attempt to express their love and emotions. I tried to target and capture the attention of such people using romantic literary verses which had a deeper meaning to them," he said.
Is there really a market for ghazals amid the cacophony of loud, rock and pop music?
Pankaj certainly thinks so.
"Ghazals have their own charm and will never go out of fashion. Besides, in this album, the sound is very contemporary - we have used several traditional instruments, various ragas and have still tried keep the spirit youthful," he explained.
A Padma Shri winner, Pankaj achieved stupendous success in 1986 with Chitthi aayee hai in Mahesh Bhatt's Naam and continued thereafter to sing for movies.
But ghazals have been and always will be his first preference. "I have not paid attention to cinema for a long time now and I plan to focus on ghazals only," he said.
Regarding his upcoming projects, Pankaj said: "I have recently sung a ghazal for Sanjay Chhel's Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam which is due for release around April this year. Besides that, I plan to complete an album, which I left midway because of the demise of fusion maestro Anand Shankar with whom it was being made."