[MUSIC] India/Bollywood Legend - Asha Bhosle
- Asha Bhosle
Versatility could well be Asha Bhosle's second name. No type of song
has been beyond her vocal range be it a club dance, sad song,
bhajan, ghazal, pop etc.
Like her older sister Lata Mangeshkar, Asha also initially did a
small stint as a child artist. But being trained in classical music
by her father Dinanath Mangeshkar it was more natural she too turn
to playback singing like Lata did.
Asha made her playback debut in 1948 with the film Chunariya. But it
took a long, long time for Asha to make it to the top. It's not as
if singing opportunities didn't come her way. In fact in the 1950s
Asha sang more songs than any other playback singer but the bulk of
these were in small films with no distinction. And if she did get a
chance to sing in an A film it was probably just the song of the
heroine's friend or a female duet with bigger singers like Lata,
Shamshad Begum or Geeta Dutt. But Asha had no choice. Having made an
ill-advised marriage which alienated her from her family, she had to
take up all the assignments she got to fend for her children.
1957 was her breakthrough year when O.P. Nayyar used her to sing the
heroine's songs in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur. The same year
S.D. Burman had his rift with Lata. And though Geeta Dutt could have
been his next choice after Lata since she was already a mature
singer while Asha was still raw, Geeta's troubled marriage did not
make her easily available for rehearsals. Consequently S.D. Burman
chose to groom Asha along with O.P. Nayyar rather than wait for
The following year Asha made it right to the top with hit songs in
films like Howrah Bridge (1958), Chalti ka Naam Ghadi (1958) and
Lajwanti (1958). Asha got involved with O.P. Nayyar and thereafter
she remained his premier singer till their break-up in the 1970s.
Initially Asha's voice did sound influenced by Geeta Dutt's style of
singing but post 1957 she came into her own and how! By the end of
the decade she was second only to Lata on the playback scene and the
two sisters have ruled the playback scene well into the 90s.
The 1960s saw Asha at her best as she belted out her best songs
particularly under O.P. Nayyar's baton - Aankhon se Jo Utri hai Dil
Mein from Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1964), Jayiye Aap Kahaan Jayenge
from Mere Sanam (1965) and Woh Haseen Dard De Do from Humsaaya
(1968) to name but a few. However In spite of her incredible emotive
ability she was getting typecast in songs that were more on the
O.P. Nayyar and Asha split in the 1970s but not before he composed
the prophetic gem Chain se Humko Kabhi which won her the Filmfare
The 1970s also brought her close with R.D. Burman who gave her a new
hip and happening sound altogether. Piya Tu Ab To Aajaa (Caravan
(1971)), Dum Maro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)), offered fresh
and stimulating challenges to her voice. Jaane Jaa from Jawaani
Diwaani (1972) had her switching from the higher scales to the
absolute lower ones within the song with ease!
But as she had been typecast in mainly sensual songs earlier so also
with R.D. Burman and other composers she now got typecast in mainly
Western type of songs.
It was Umrao Jaan (1981) which showed further new possibilities in
Asha's voice. Khayyam got her to sing the ghazals in the film two
notes lower and the result was magical! Dil Cheez Kya Hai, In
Aankhon ki Masti, Yeh Kaisi Jagah hai Doston, Justaju Jiski Ki
represent some of the finest singing Asha has ever done.
Ijaazat (1987) saw her in top form winning a National Award for Mera
Kuch Samaan, a most difficult song to sing as the lyrics were more
in prose form rather than standard rhythmic verse.
In the 1990s Asha has even further widened her horizon by
succesfully coming out with albums in Indipop and beating the Indian
pop artists on their own turf. Though she has cut down on her
singing now she still makes an Urmila Matonder or Aishwarya Rai
sizzle in Rangeela (1994) or Taal (1999).
The latest feather in Asha's already crowded cap is the Dada Saheb
Phalke Award for her contribution to Indian Cinema.
Asha Bhosle has been a name to contend with in the Hindi film
industry since the last four decades, considering that she had to
grow up in the shadow of her sister, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha has
indeed done very well for herself.Initially she had to face the
inevitable unfair comparisons with her more popular sister. But
she did not let that affect her. Perseverance paid off, as she
overtook tough contenders, including Geeta Dutt.
The first composer to recognise her talent was O P Nayyar, for whom
Asha sang memorable tunes such as Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein in
Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon to Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera in Mere
Sanam.It was Nayyar who helped Asha bring out such excellent
sensuality in Aaiye meherban from the movie Howrah Bridge.The other
composer who influenced her was S D Burman, who taught her to bring
forth her deepest emotions while singing. But the composition that
won her the National Award for Best Singer was by R D Burman, whom
she later married.She won the award in the mid 1980s, while she was
at the peak of her career, for the song Mera kuch saman tumhare paas
pada hai from Ijaazat.
Not one to be left behind, Asha has now started experimenting with
Indipop and remixes. And she has done a pretty good job at that if
the success of albums such as Rahul And I and Asha Once More is any
indication.Even her first Indipop album, Jaanam Samjha Karo, was a
big hit and made Asha a rage among the younger generation.
Asha is probably one of the few singers today who can handle a
sensuous song like Piya tu ab to aaja and ghazals such as Dil cheez
kya hai with equal ease and grace.
Asha Bhosle sings in court
It was a great feeling to hear Asha Bhosle and Suresh Wadkar sing in
The legal battle over a famous Konkani song of late 60s -- Chanyache
rati (In a moonlit night) -- finally saw the judge actually getting
the two to sing the song in the courtroom. Ulhas Buyao, Goa's famous
singer who is a litigant here, still pulls crowds when he sings
Chanyache rati . The same song is sung once again by Asha and Wadkar
in the album Daryachya Deger ( On the seashore) released by Shrushti
Vision of Goa.
Claiming a copyright on the song, Buyao filed a case in June 1996
demanding an injunction on the sale and distribution of the cassette
that includes the song. Rajendra Talak of Shrushti Vision, on the
other hand, claims that Buyao had sold its copyrights to Gramophone
India. While Buyao claims that he had composed its music, Adv Uday
Bhembre, the lyricist of the song and also a journalist, has
submitted before the court that it was his music composition which
Buyao sung during the Opinion Poll, which ultimately restrained the
Centre from merging Goa into Maharashtra.
After listening to the arguments at various sittings for the last
three years, V P Shetye, the district and sessions judge, finally
agreed to listen to both the songs in the courtroom. It would be a
memorable day for the courtroom, which was full of members of the
public and the lawyers. Buyao sang the version the 60s and Asha and
Wadkar of the 90s. Perhaps it was the first time that real music has
been heard here.
Talak played the cassette on a modern cassette player. but Buyao had
to arrange for a gramophone, which is difficult to find, to play the
LP record of the 60s. He apparently found one gathering dust in
somebody's showcase. After listening to Asha and Wadkar, who are
also being made respondents in the case, as well as Buyao, the court
is now expected to deliver its judgement by December 21.
Sandesh Prabhudesai in Panaji
Asha Bhosle & Lata Mangeshkar - Sisters Stick Together!
Asha Bhosle has uncovered the truth about her relationship with the
equally talented and famous sister, Lata Mangeshkar. Many sources
have suggested that the two singing sisters have never really got on
and have shared many negative vibes with each other. Nobody has
actually verified this statement, as both sisters have not discussed
this matter with the press.
Asha broke all speculation as she spoke about it in an interview
with an Anglo-Asian newspaper. She asserted that she never disliked
Lata, as they are sisters and they do have disagreements. She blamed
the media for exaggerating the story and stated that they are far
from the truth. Asha stated that "Lata is a more conservative singer
and I enjoy being experimental and working with all types of music".
To reveal that there are no negative vibes between the two sisters,
they are considering a worldwide tour together next year. This would
definitely be a blockbuster tour, as both sisters have a huge
following all over the world. This would a dream come true tour for
The Eternal Voice
The other day, I happened to hear a track from Ram Gopal Varma's
under-production film, being directed by Rajat Mukherjee. The song,
composed by Sandeep Chowta, goes Kambakht ishq. And Asha Bhonsle
sings it as though every yesterday is encompassed in all her todays
and tomorrows. It made me think of all the kambakht composers who
are missing out on her magical vocals. Sandeep, whose career is now
on the verge of a new explosion, can't stop raving about his new
muse. I tell you, she makes all the other singers on the scene sound
like kids. Ashaji's vocals are addictive. Once a composer has worked
with her he wants to get only her for his tunes.
Last year, it was Asha Bhonsle making magic with A.R. Rahman in Rang
de for Thakshak. This year, it's going to be Asha Bhosle and Sandeep
Chowta making waves with Kambakht ishq. What's it about Asha Bhonsle
that makes her such a fighter? In an industry that was, and to a
large extent still is, totally taken up by Didi Lata Mangeshkar's
wondrous wizardry, Asha Bhonsle invented her own idiom of `sylph'
Impish and authoritative, she made do with whatever came her way,
never stopping to question the merit of her song. In a score like
Woh Kaun Thi, where the `Nightingale' made her presence felt like a
presiding deity, Ashaji held her own with the lone Shokh nazar ki
Only recently, at a gathering in the memory of Madan Mohan, Asha
Bhonsle spoke about her own small, but substantial contribution to
Madan Mohan's music, when she pointed out that the biggest hit of
the composer's career Jhumka gira re was sung by her. Whether it was
the odd song in any composer's repertoire, or a whole block of
melodies that Sachin Dev Burman made her sing in the last years of
the 1950s, Asha always grabbed every opportunity with famished
Even at the peak of her popularity, when Rahul Dev Burman made the
best possible use of her vocals, she once expressed regret about
missing out on the really Indian songs in Burman's repertoire. He
didn't give me Raina beeti jaaye, did he? she asked rhetorically in
an interview. No, R.D. Burman didn't give her Raina beeti jaye or
Beeti na beetayi raina. Not because she couldn't do justice to them,
but because there was another singer who could do optimum justice to
such intricate numbers. Raina beeti jaye was seldom Asha's
Like Gulzar once said, Asha was like Neil Armstrong's companion in
the space rocket that touched the moon. After Lataji touched down on
the moon, Ashaji could only be the second oneto get there. That's
why she created the fighter's persona, the outspoken diva who took
on the music industry on `HER' terms.
Once Asha Bhonsle accepted that her Didi was ahead of her, she
settled down to creating her own niche where no one, not even the
mighty `Nightingale' could touch her. To my mind, Asha Bhonsle's
greatest achievement is to have held her own for so many decades in
a country and industry where there was Lata Mangeshkar. And then
there were the rest of the singers. Asha Bhonsle rose above the rest
to prove herself one of the best.
Today her vocals are in better, more supple, sensuous and inviting
shape then ever before. If we listen to her singing R.D. Burman's
Teri meri yaari badi purani, right before going on to Sandeep
Chowta's Kambakht ishq, we notice no perceptible difference in the
rendition of the two tracks, even though they are separated by 30
Today, Asha Bhonsle sounds better than ever. So why isn't she
singing more? Why is her precious talent being allowed to languish,
while mediocre female singers, with not even an atom of her
explosive talents, are painting the tune red (blue, green and every
possible garish colour)?
Vishal Bhardawaj, who lately recorded some songs with Asha Bhonsle
for Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, Jackpot and his first directorial venture
Barf, can't stop raving about the fabulous condition of Ashaji's
vocals. Her grasping power, her voice throw, and her ability to give
seductive shapes to words still remain unbeatable. I was in seventh
heaven when Ashaji agreed to sing some of my songs.
Why aren't the hyper-busy Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik coming
forward to record in the voice that can make all the difference to
their upbeat, peppy, sensuous compositions? Has Anu forgotten what
wonders Ashaji worked with Daler Mehndi in Ladti hai to ladne de in
Khauff? Why hasn't he recorded any more songs with her after Khauff?
Why are our composers making do with left-overs, when the original
meal ticket is ready and available?
Subhash K Jha
Reinventing a Diva : Asha
The Princess of popular music has done an image make-over, cutting
pop albums with aplomb and outperforming singers half her age. At
64, it's still spring.
University Road, Mumbai, 5 a.m. The video crew is waiting for
daybreak. They want the perfect morning light to wrap up the video
of the album Jaanam Samjha Karo, and go home. They look drained
after shooting through the night. Except the lady in a green chiffon
sari sitting on a chair in one corner. A touch of kohl in her
mischievous eyes, gloss on her cheeks, her lips a fashionable matte
brown. Suddenly she breaks into song. The crew stirs. Soon, the air
is filled with the sound of stomping feet. Radhika Roy, 28, director
of the song, is smitten: "This is the songstress as enchantress."
Cut to New York, the fabled Radio City Hall, the MTV Viewers' Choice
Awards night. The hall is packed with young Americans, dressed to
stun. Who should walk into this psychedelic chaos but an Indian lady
sedately draped in a sari, pleasantly plump, and certainly not
young. She is the winner of the Indian Viewers' Choice award.
This is Asha Bhosle in her new avatar. The high priestess of
Bollywood music has gone for an image make-over. At 64. And granny's
looking glamorous. The middle-class Maharashtrian housewife next
door is the new pop icon, taking over from the no-holds-barred young
breed. The awards are coming in so quick, they may become a habit. A
sample: her remix O mere sona re sona got her this year's mtv video
music award in the Indian Viewers' Choice category in September;
Jaanam has topped charts on all music channels; she became the first
Indian artiste to be showcased as mtv's Artist of the Month in
October. Mind you, it's the teeny-boppers who vote. "I have lost
count of the awards (last score: eight Filmfare Awards, two National
Awards)," says the lady, "but the mtv recognition is different as it
is normally given to youngsters, mainly pop singers. It also made me
feel special that even thethird generation across the world loves my
voice. It has rejuvenated my singing spirit."
This year, the spirit has surely soared. The MTV success apart,
Legacy, her album with sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, was
nominated for a Grammy. Jaanam has been nominated in three
categories for the Channel V Music Awards. Jules Fuller, general
manager, Channel V, India, gushes: "The youthfulness of her voice is
incomparable. She is the funkiest star singer we've ever got."
The cash registers are singing too. Rahul and I (1996), a remix of
songs she had done with her late husband R.D. Burman, sold over 1.5
million in three months. Jaanam did over three lakh in 45 days. Says
Vinay Sapru, chief programmer, Polygram: "She has maintained that
raunchy, teasing, sexy style which has defined market appeal."
Granny knows,she's known that for years, the style as well as the
medium. With the tv invasion of India, Runa Laila hit the screens
with her high-voltage Damadam mast kalandar. Bhosle improvised. The
outcome: Yeh hai Asha on Doordarshan in 1976. Twenty years later,
history would repeat itself. Except now it was Bally Sagoo, who had
redone her song for the MTV generation -- Chura liya ... with a bit
Bhosle decided to outdo Sagoo. After a brainstorming session with
her children -- Hemant, Anand, Varsha -- she approached Leslie
Lewis. Says Lewis, who composed the album Rahul and I: "She is quite
ahead of her time. She took a calculate risk and plunged into New
Age music, with her experience to her advantage." It wasn't as easy
creating a new image for a singer who, with elder sister Lata
Mangeshkar, had dominated the Indian music scene for half a century.
Says Ken Ghosh, director of the music video O mere sona re: "It was
a big challenge to retain the old traditional look and make her look
hip." He was helped by the fact that the lady knew exactly what she
wanted, and how to go about it. Adds composer A.R. Rahman: "She has
got a voice with a face. She is still sixteen at her heart." It's
what makes the grandmother lend her voice to teeny-boppers in
"Nowadays younger music directors look for younger singers but I'm
happy that I have a place among them," says Bhosle. "I love to
experiment." With all kinds. She has done an album of ghazals with
Khayyam, pop with Biddu, and a Bengali collection with Amit Kumar.
Among the first Indian singers to record in English in the West --
she teamed up with Stephen Luscombe (Ave Maria) in the mid '80s, and
Boy George (Bow Down Mister) in 1989 -- she now intends to cut rock
albums with Bryan Adams and Phil Collins. And she has just finished
recording with the British band Code Red.
Playful love songs or lusty cabaret numbers, soulful ghazals or
funky pop, Bhosle's trod everywhere, with aplomb. From the early
rock 'n' roll Ina mina dika, to the seductive Burman number Piya tu
ab to aaja in Caravan, to the unforgettable ghazals of Umrao Jaan.
And now, at 60-plus, a voice to match oomph for oomph Urmila
Matondkar's gyrations in the sexy Hoja rangeela re in Rangeela. By
any count, a hectic vocal pace. A different Asha for every decade,
every heroine and vamp -- now even stars on the ramp.
Though born in a family with a rich tradition in music -- her father
was the legendary Dinanath Mangeshkar -- Bhosle never dreamt of
becoming a playback singer. All she wanted was a "sona cha saunsar
(a happy family life)". She says: "I was forced to sing. It was a
question of my family's survival. I had no choice as it was the only
thing I knew." Married at the age of 16 to a rationing inspector
called Ganpatrao, the little income did not suffice. The first break
came in 1946, for Chunariya. Then, she was the underdog.
In a world so much in awe of elder sister Lata Mangeshkar, she had
to work that much harder. A common career brought about the
inevitable sibling rivalry; the sisters were not on talking terms
for years. Says family friend and ace photographer Gautam
Rajadhyaksha: "It was not open hostility as their family bonding was
stronger than the personal sentiments." Mangeshkar now says with
pride: "Asha's rebellious nature and never-say-die attitude drives
her ever young and versatile voice to scale new heights even now.
She has earned all her achievements with a lot of hard work."
Bhosle was always made to feel second fiddle, described more often
as a plodder than a genius -- even, albeit unintentionally, by her
family. Says younger brother and composer Hridayanath
Mangeshkar: "She was not gifted like Lata tai, she had an ordinary
voice but she worked at it, and has carved her own niche after a
long struggle." There have been exceptions. Like music director
Naushad, who says: "The sum total of Asha's achievements could be
more than Lata's. Time has not touched her voice, she can please pop
lovers with rap and remix. At the same time, she has the ability to
match the tunes of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan." Yet, son Anand feels she
has still not been given official recognition in the form of, say, a
Padma Shree. Anand, who navigates his mother's career, says: "Unlike
mausi (aunt), she doesn't think with her mind, but with her heart.
She didn't get what she deserved, neither from the family nor from
the music world or officialdom."
Music directors often played on this sibling rivalry. Khayyam
recounts an interesting anecdote when he tried to persuade a
hesitant Bhosle to sing for Umrao Jaan. It was going to be different
from anything she had done before. The composer argued it was time
she did a masterpiece -- great music, great heroine. Mangeshkar had
done it earlier in Pakeezah, Khayyam told her; it was her chance to
outdo didi. The provocation worked.
The obvious comparison has haunted Bhosle all through. "I've felt
good and bad. It's an honour to be compared to didi. But then, at
the same time, we are different," she says, with a tinge of sadness.
Despite the fact that, with 12,000 songs, Bhosle is the most
recorded artiste in the world. In a way, it doesn't matter to her
anymore. She now enjoys music and life more than ever before. "I am
now free to do things of my own choice. I have a back-up in my well-
Freedom has always defined her, she's always been her own person:
playful, unorthodox, carelessly romantic. Even today she revels in
her femininity. It's in the way she wears her trademark Mangeshkar-
white saris, trendily-cut blouses, diamonds the size of pigeon's
eggs. Above all in the manner she speaks to men -- bordering on the
coquettish. Despite the fact that her various relationships have
rarely been smooth. An unhappy first marriage with Bhosle was
followed by a long relationship with music director O.P. Nayyar that
Her second marriage to a much younger Burman soured. "My priorities
were clear: first I was the mother, then a singer, then a wife or
lover," she says. "If something came between the first two, I cut
myself ruthlessly from it." Which also meant controversies, and
being labelled selfish, ruthless and manipulative.
One day she'll tell the world how she has felt: she spends nearly
two hours every day writing her autobiography in Marathi. Something
filmmaker Sai Paranjpye might wish she had waited for before making
the hugely contested Saaz.
This prima donna of popular music obviously has no plans to call it
a day. "Music is like my breathing. The day it stops, my breath will
stop too. There is so much to do and I'm afraid there is very little
time left. I hope I can continue singing in my next birth."
When she is not recording or shooting her videos, Bhosle would much
rather be cooking. She has collected recipes from across the
country. "I learnt Lucknavi cuisine from Majrooh Sultanpuri's begum,
which is a big hit with the family," she says. Randhir Kapoor once
advised her to stop singing and take up cooking as a profession. And
when she's not cooking, she's looking after her house and warbling
to her grandchildren, who call her by her first name. That's the way
she likes it. For this matriarch, there is no autumn, only spring.
By Sheela Raval (1997)