Saturday, April 12, 2008

Asha Bhosale – A Musical Journey

- From Bollywood Melodies by Ganesh Anantharaman and youtube

Asha stands for questioning imposed identities, for challenging and redefining boundaries. Personally and professionally she made choices that went against the grain time and again

Her music is an expression of all that she is.

There has always been something more, something which is intrinsic to her personality; a zest for living……….which gives her singing a joie de vivre that lasts till date, when she’s in her mid-seventies

She’s worked with four generations of composers, singers and lyricists

She was only fourteen when she eloped and married

Forced to seek work by an errant husband at a time when Lata Mangeshkar (her sister) was getting to be a sensation

How Asha survived the first 8 years of her life (1948-56) is anybody’s guess.

Her luck turned in 1957…..O.P.Nayyar…decided to make her his lead singer in Naya Daur……Sachin Dev Burman had a tiff with Lata……..he settled for Asha

In Nau Do Gyarah, S.D.Burman had composed ‘Dhalki jaaye chundariyaa’ with Lata in mind, but Asha took it over and sang it in style, giving it an identity of her own.

Raagini (1958), ‘Chota sa baalma’, tested her classical prowess…..impressing the skeptics with her ability to emote serious songs

Asha’s best songs in the year 1958 to 1963 were either for Nayyar or for Burman

Exuding a raw sensuousness in ‘Aayiye meherbaan’ (Howrah Bridge) and ‘Piya piya na laage mora jiya’ (Phagun)

Bekasi had se jab guzar jaaye’, Nayyar’s Des ghazal required a very different classical grip and restraint that Asha adroitly managed

Poocho na hamein hum unke liye’ (Mitti Mein Sona, 1960) and ‘Aankhon se utari hain dil mein’ (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963) are the best examples of the strides Asha had taken in Nayyar’s custody as a serious singer

Asha had walked out on her husband, and was in need of an emotional anchor that Nayyar willingly provided. As their love blossomed, so did their music

Jaayiye aap kahaan jaayenge’ (Mere Sanam, 1964), ’Yehi Woh jagah hain’ (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1965), ‘Woh hanske mile humse’ (Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, 1966), ‘Zara haule haule chalo more saajna’ (Saawan Ki Ghata, 1966) and ‘Woh haseen dard dedo’ (Humsaaya, 1968) were all the outcome of the Nayyar-Asha emotional and musical tuning

By the turn of the decade…….the relationship had turned sour……Nayyar would not let Asha part without giving her a song that would sum up where their relationship had reached ‘Chain se humko kabhi aapne jeene na diya’ (Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye, 1973), for which Asha won the Filmfare award that she refused to collect

S.D.Burman……Asha had put her heart and soul into his songs for all of 6 years

Nazar laagi raja tore bangle par’ (Kaala Paani, 1958)

Kaali ghata chaaye mora jiya tarsaaye’ (Sujata, 1959)

- ‘Gaa mere man gaa’(Lajwanti, 1959)

’Ab ke baras bhejo’ (Bandini, 1963)

composer Ravi…..gave her some real gems

Tora man darpan kehlaye’ (Kaajal, 1965)

’Aage bhi jaane na tu’ (Waqt, 1965)

’Jab chali thandi hawa’ (Do Badan, 1966)

When she sang for R.D.Burman in Teesri Manzil (1966), Asha was already seeking an identity beyond Nayyar

What freshness RD brought to Asha’s voice in the duets with Rafi ‘O mere sona re’ and ‘O haseena zulfo wali jaan-e-jahan’

The real sizzler was ‘Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera’……uninhibited singing

Mera naam hai Shabnam’ (Kati Patang).......used the oomph in Asha’s voice to full effect

Hare Rama Hare Krishna, where he got Asha to articulate the hedonistic world-view of the hippie culture in ‘Dum maro dum’

If the 1960s belonged to Nayyar, the 1970s were ruled by RD, resting on his two pillars: Asha and Kishore.

Asha’s voice had now acquired a roundedness that made her sound sweeter. Under RD’s baton she sounded luscious, without being overly boisterous in songs such as

‘Aao naa gale lagao naa’ (Mere Jeevan Saathi, 1972),

‘Chura liya hai’ (Yaadon ki Baraat, 1973),

‘Jaan-e-jaan dhoondta phir raha’ (Jawani Diwani, 1973),

‘Neend churaake raaton mein’ (Shareef Badmaash, 1973),

‘Chori chori sola singar karoongi’ (Manoranjan, 1974), and

‘Sapna mera toot gaya’ (Khel Khel Mein, 1975)

The pop-jazz revolution RD unleashed……reached its pinnacle in Hum Kisise Kum nahin (1977) where Asha straddled with equal ease the westernized ABBA-inspired disco ‘Mil gaya humko saathi mil gaya’ and the desi qawwali ‘Hain agar dushman’

RD may have composed Asha’s most population tunes in the 1970s but her best was by no means restricted to him…….

…..pause to hear Shanker’s (of Shanker-Jaikishen fame) classical Yaman duet ‘Re mann sur mein gaa’ in Lal Patthar (1971)

Or listen to ‘Ambar ki ek paak suraahi’ that Asha emoted for Ustad Vilayat Khan in Kadambari (1974). Asha is superbly mellow here, doing full justice to the philosophical mood of the song

……get hold of Jaidev’s Bhairavi melody ‘Zehar detaa hain mujhe koi’ in the little-known Wohi Baat (1977)

hubby R.D.Burman who set out to prove in the late 1970s that Asha was a complete singer in her own right. In sharp contrast to his numbers for her in the first part of the decade, RD tuned wistful melodies for Asha in a slew of films at the turn of the decade….this was a time when Asha edged past Lata, her voice sounding better than ever before in these RD numbers

‘Aisa ho toh kaisa hoga’ (Ratnadeep, 1979)

‘Yeh saayen hain yeh duniya hain’ (Sitara, 1980)

‘Piya Bawari piya bawari’ (Khubsoorat, 1980)

‘Sajti hain yun hi mehfil’ (Kudrat, 1981)

’Roz roz daali daali ya likh jaaye’ (Angoor, 1982)

’Humen raaston ki zaroorat nahin hain’ (Naram Garam, 1982)


’Aur kya ahd-e-wafa hote hain’ (Sunny, 1984)

Pity that despite all these stunners that RD created, the credit for giving Asha ‘respectability’ is ascribed to Khayyam for his ghazals in Umrao Jaan……………lowering her pitch by half a note, he gave Asha’s voice a resonance not heard before or after. Asha grabbed the opportunity to sing for superstar Rekha….and gave her lifetime best to all songs of Umrao Jaan.

‘Dil cheez kya hain’

‘Yeh kya jageh hain doston’

‘Justuju jiski thi’

After Umrao Jaan, there was no unfavourable comparison with Lata. It took long………but Asha had finally established herself as an equal. Acceptance of this reality came in the form of the National Award for best singer to her that year.

RD……composed a totally fresh-sounding score for her in Ijaazat, with the support of trusted friend and colleague Gulzar’s lyrics. With songs as arresting as ’Katra katra milti hain’ and ‘Mera kuch samaan’, RD proved he was only down, certainly not out…….she won her second National Award as singer for the song……Strangely, Ijaazat saw the beginning of an enforced sabbatical for Asha………she sang an odd number for RD now and then, but he had ceased to matter in Bollywood by the early 1990s

Asha bounced back soon enough with the new sensation A.R.Rehman, who offered her songs in Rangeela…….Rehman could have settled for a younger voice, but something told him that Asha, then sixty-two, was still superior to all of them. And did Asha take us back to the era of RD’s ‘Ek main aur ek tu’ in ‘Tanha tanha’……..she also had the yuppie generation of the era swinging to ‘Ho jaa rangeela re’

Asha was suddenly in demand, now that the top composer of the time had cast his vote for her………..she is still youthful, still sexy at the turn of the century in ‘Mujhe rang de rang de’ (Thakshak, 1999) or the title song of Jaanam Samjha Karo (1999)

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