The radio is playing some amazing old Hindi movie songs, you know the black and white ones – all my eternal favourites. I drive and sing in a loud voice knowing that no one is hearing me!!! What a blessed feeling it is to drown into music and if it is your favourite, it is even better.
As they dedicate the whole week to Asha Bhosle – the Indian singing sensation – on radio and play songs by her from 1950s, I sing along… Then they play one from 1970s… I sing along… and finally they play from the 2000s… I sing along and I also notice the change in her voice… from the naughty young girl as Madhubala in ‘Achha jee main haari chalo maan jao na’ to the sultry seductress Helen in ‘Piya tu ab toh aaja’ and to Gracy’s ‘Radha kaise na jale’ to Rekha in ‘Man kyun behka re behka’. Asha has managed to suit all these leading actresses of their times.
As I hear her singing I realise she has come a long way and must have struggled a lot to reach this goal in life. She speaks to the jockey and laughs as she tells him the stories behind many a songs of hers.
A lifetime of success as I recollect…
As I see the date today … I go back to 1933, the 8th of September. The day a singing sensation was born. They named her Asha. What did she know how much she would have to struggle. She is one who has been strong enough to overshadow her sister – the legendary Lata Mangeshkar. And it surely was not easy. Asha came into the singing world in the times when queens like Lata Mangeshkar… Geeta Dutt… and Shamshaad Begum were reigning Bollywood.
Born in 1933 Asha started singing in 1943 and finally got recognised in 1954 for the song ‘Nanhe munne bachhe’ from Boot Polish. Earlier she was given songs which were refused by others and she sang for many a low grade movies. In between she ran away and got married and we called her Asha Bhosle.
I always used to wonder how did she fight the tough battle of coming out of the shadow of a highly established singer as Lata Mangeshkar was in those days and she was also preferred by all music directors. They claim that Lata had a very sweet melodious voice needed for the lead singers. So Asha was taken for the vamps and other character artists. For a long time she struggled to make a place for herself.
Then she got her due in 1956 when the great O.P. Nayyar picked her up for C.I.D. First time as she sang for the leading actress she zoomed into Bollywood. Then followed Khayaam who also gave her an identity. Movies like Naya Daur, C.I.D., Gumraah, Waqt and Dhundh got her accolades and people started giving her work. And so she became a playback singer in Hindi cinema. ‘Achha jee main haari’ from Kala Paani (1958) and many more songs like this which had a naughty tinge rose like forest fire and Asha Bhosle and O.P.Nayyar made it real big.
Then in 1966 she paired up with R.D.Burman. She changed her style of singing and so she revolutionised the industry by her new raunchy numbers. R.D. took her in Teesri Manzil and she sang ‘Aaja aaja main hun pyar tera’ aaaaaaannnnnddddd they made a chartbuster which in 2012 is also a chartbuster… and so history was made and Asha became the singing sensation. She ruled with with movies like Caravan, Don and many more in the 1970s till 1980s. Together they gave hits over hits and ended up in marriage too. They westernized Bollywood with ‘Piya tu ab toh aaja’… ‘Dum maro dum’.. ‘Duniya mein logon ko’… ‘Chura liya’… ‘O haseena zulfon waali’… and created history.
One song which is an eternal favourite of mine is ‘Man kyun behka’ from Utsav (1984) which is one of the songs in which both the sisters Lata and Asha sing together in harmony.
The songs she has sung are embedded in history as gems … She sings and sings on even now as she turns 79 … and remains as one of the most recorded artists in the world, as recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records. And apart from Hindi, she has sung in over 20 Indian and foreign languages as well.
Top national cinema award ‘Dada Saheb Phalke’ was also bestowed on her (2000) as well as another top civilian award ‘Padm Vibhushan’ (2008). She is a rockstar.