Asha Bhosle the ageless singer

Asha Bhosle the ageless singer
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Asha Bhosle The Ageless Singer. Legendary singer Asha Bhosle turns 81 on Monday. A look back at the outstanding career of this evergreen diva who continues to spread her musical magic...

Legendary singer Asha Bhosle turns 81 on Monday. A look back at the outstanding career of this evergreen diva who continues to spread her musical magic...

Asha Bhosle started singing in 1943 and has over six decades recorded for over a thousand Bollywood movies. Renowned for her voice range and celebrated for her versatility, Bhosle’s work includes film music, pop, ghazals, bhajans, traditional Indian classical music, folk songs, qawwalis, and Rabindra Sangeets. Apart from Hindi, she has sung in over 20 Indian and foreign languages. In addition, she has recorded innumerable private albums, staged innumerable concerts in India and abroad.

The World Records Academy certified her as the “Most Recorded Artist” in the world and Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged her as the most recorded artist in music history, she is a Padma Vibhushan, a Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee. She is a singer who has dabbled as a jury on a reality shows and has acted in a Marathi film called Mai.

Last week she released an album with her granddaughter, ‘Zanai Bappa Mor Yare’. Come September 8 Asha Bhosle will turn 81.

Looking back at her glorious career...

Asha Bhosle was born in the small hamlet of Goar in Sangli, Bombay Presidency (now in Maharashtra), into the musical family of Master Deenanath Mangeshkar, who belongs to Gomantak Maratha Samaj. Her father was a theatre actor and classical singer. When she was nine years old, her father died. The family moved from Pune to Kolhapur and then to Mumbai. She and her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar began singing and acting in films to support their family. She sang her first film song “Chala Chala Nav Bala…” for the Marathi film ‘Majha Bal’ (1943). The music for the film was composed by Datta Davjekar. She made her Hindi film debut when she sang the song “Saawan Aaya…” for Hansraj Behl’s ‘Chunariya’ (1948). Her first solo Hindi film song was for the movie ‘Raat Ki Raani’ (1949).

There are many stories about her marriage with Ganpatrao Bhosle and her unhappy life with him but she has never talked about it. In 1960 she returned to her maiden home as mother of three children and restarted life by singing in films to earn money. At that time, prominent playback singers like Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar dominated the singing for the female lead and the big films. Asha used to get the assignments they refused: singing for the bad girls and vamps, or songs in the second-grade movies. In the 1950s, she sang more songs than most playback singers in Bollywood (not counting Lata). Most of these were in low budget B or C-grade films. Her earliest songs were composed by A R Qureshi, Sajjad Hussain and Ghulam Mohammed, and most of these songs failed to do well. It was only after ‘Sangdil’ (1952) with music by Sajjad Hussain that Asha Bhosle received recognition. Consequently, film director Bimal Roy gave her a chance to sing in ‘Parineeta’ (1953) followed by Raj Kapoor signing her to sing “Nanhe Munne Bachche…” with Mohammed Rafi in ‘Boot Polish’ (1954), which gained popularity.

Music director OP Nayyar gave Asha her first mainstream break in ‘C.I.D’ (1956) followed by BR Chopra’s highly acclaimed ‘Naya Daur’ (1957) with music by Nayyar. Her duets with Rafi like “Maang Ke Saath Tumhara…”, “Saathi Haath Badhana…” and “Uden Jab Jab Zulfein Teri…” penned by Sahir Ludhianvi gradually brought her into limelight and only because she was doing playback for all the leading ladies. Soon Asha Bhosle became a regular with BR Chopra Films be it ‘Gumrah’ (1963), ‘Waqt’ (1965), ‘Hamraaz’ (1965), ‘Aadmi Aur Insaan’ (1966) and ‘Dhund’ (1973). She was a talented singer and it was a matter of time when other music composers like Sachin Dev Burman and Ravi began signing her. Her best songs however continued to be with OP Nayyar. There would have been many more immortal compositions but for the duo parting ways, both professional and personal, in the 1970s.

Sometime in the year 1966, Asha Bhosle delivered her most sensational number with music director RD Burman for ‘Teesri Manzil’. There is a story that when she first heard the dance number “Aaja Aaja…” she told RD that she would not be able to sing this westernised tune. RD offered to change the music, but she refused, said she will try her best and only if she fails he could change the composition. She rehearsed for 10 days singing it again and again all the time at home and even in the car. Her driver not knowing about her new song thought she was breathless and asked if she needed to be taken to the hospital? “Aaja Aaja…”, “O Haseena Zulfonwali…” and “O Mere Sona Re…” (duets with Rafi), became hugely successful and Rafi –Asha became a team.

Critics raved about Asha Bhosle and music directors clamoured to sign her. Shammi Kapoor who used only Rafi for his playback said that if ever he had to choose an option for Rafi it would be no one but Asha Bhosle. Bhosle’s collaboration with Burman resulted in numerous hits and a marriage. During the 1960-70s, she was the voice of Bollywood’s actress and dancer, Helen. It is difficult to imagine Helen dancing without Asha Bhosle’s voice. There are stories about how Helen would attend Asha Bhosle’s recording sessions so that she could plan her dance steps accordingly. Asha Tai has said that Helen carried foreign chocolates for her and encouraged her. Over the years Asha Bhosle lent her voice for Aruna Irani’s many item numbers like “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja…” (Caravan) and for many other new heroines.

In 1981, she attempted a different genre of music by singing several ghazals for the Rekha-starrer ‘Umrao Jaan’, including “Dil Cheez Kya Hai…”, “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke…”, “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston…” and “Justaju Jiski Thi…” Music director Khayyam is said to have lowered her pitch by half a note and Rekha has gone on record to say that her performance would never have been the same without Asha Bhosle’s playback. The ghazals won Asha Tai the first National Film Award of her career. A few years later, she won another National Award for the song “Mera Kuchh Saamaan…” from Gulzar’s ‘Ijaazat’ (1987).

The 90s is identified with Urmila Matondkar’s ‘Rangeela’. Asha Bhosle and AR Rehman came together to produce “Tanha Tanha…” and “Rangeela Re…” While most singers from her time had packed up, Asha Bhosle was going from strength to strength. During the 2000 decade she sang “Radha Kaise Na Jale…” from ‘Lagaan’ (2001), “Kambakht Ishq…” from ‘Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya’ (2001), “Yeh Lamha…” from ‘Filhaal’ (2002), “Lucky Lips…” from ‘Lucky’(2005). In October 2004, ‘The Very Best of Asha Bhosle’, ‘The Queen of Bollywood’, a compilation album of songs recorded by Bhosle for albums and Bollywood films released between 1966 and 2003, was released making her the first singer to release an album spanning six decades.

Perhaps what has worked in Asha Bhosle’s career is that she has re-invented herself in every decade. In 2012, she judged music reality show ‘Sur Kshetra’. In 2013, Bhosle who had worked in silent films debuted as an actor in ‘Mai’. Bhosle accepted the film because she liked the story and the title. She addressed her mother as Mai and wanted to play the role. Critics appreciated her in the role of an Alzeimers patient. She has just released what she describes as a dancing not a singing Ganesh album and shall leave for a concert tour across India soon.

She is the true Diva who is ageless, timeless and is unstoppable.

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