Her name comes in the league of few female music directors in the film industry. With Jaddanbai and Saraswati Devi, Usha Khanna is the name that tops the chart as the distinguished and established female music directors. She was active for around 3 decades. She had no formal training in music. Her father, Manohar Khanna, was also a lyricist and singer. Introduced by Sashadhar Mukherjee in Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Usha Khanna, went on to give music to many more songs, specially with Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi. She shared a great rapport with the two. She also gave chance to new and upcoming singers – Anupama Deshpande, Pankaj Udhas, Hemlata, Mohammed Aziz, Roop Kumar Rathod, Shabbir Kumar and Sonu Nigam. Many of these went on to become notable singers.
Along with music direction, which was her passion, Usha Khanna has also given her voice in many songs as a playback singers. Though maximum number of songs she has sung come from the films for which she herself has given the music, she has also rendered some really good numbers for the other music directors too. A glance at some of her songs which she did as a playback singer for the other music directors.
1. Aji Bas Shukriya (1958) – Starring Geeta Bali and Suresh, the film is known for its music by Roshan. This particular song picturised on dancers Cuckoo and Heera Sawant, is rendered by Usha Khanna along with Asha Bhonsle. The lyrics also have been written by Usha Khanna.
2. Daaku Mangal Singh (1966) – A very peppy number teamed with the entertaining Bhagwan Dada steps, this song is set to tune on a folk genre by Laxmikant Pyarelal. One of the best song picturised on the lovely Mumtaz and the macho Dara Singh, it is sung by Rafi and Usha Khanna.
3. Ladka Ladki (1966) – A comedy song, picturised on Mumtaz and set to tune by Madan Mohan. It is rendered by Usha Khanna in a very Asha style.
4. Nartaki (1963) – An entertaining song in the form of question and answer, it is rendered by Rafi, Kamal Barot and Usha Khanna under the music direction of Ravi.
5. Yeh Dil Kisko Doon (1963) – Picturised on beautiful Ragini and handsome Shashi Kapoor, the song is sung by Rafi and Usha Khanna. Music is by Iqbal Qureshi.
6. Chhoti Bahu (1971) – Another duet by Asha Bhonsle and Usha Khanna, from the film Chhoti Bahu. Music directed by Kalyanji – Anandji.
7. Dil Duniya Daulat (1972) – Under the music direction of Shankar Jaikishen, Usha Khanna gave her voice along with Asha Bhonsle and Rekha Jaikar. The dance number is picturised on Sadhana, Helen and Bela Bose.