Asha Bhosle has been the most versatile and conversant singer since six decades in the Indian film industry. Her experimental efforts with variant forms of music amazes the musical fraternity time and over again. At the age of 80, she still startles her avid listeners with her unique style of singing.
Asha Bhosle might be the only singer in India who has lend her voice to every genre of music. Be it pop, classical, folk, ghazal, qawali or religious song, her radiant voice acquired the centre stage in every kind of music.
Asha Bhosle was born on 8th of September 1933 in a small suburb area known as Goar in Maharashtra. Her father had been Deenanath Mangeshkar, who was a renowned classical singer and theatre actor during those days. At the age of 9, she lost her father and her family shifted from Pune to Kolhapur and later to Mumbai. She is the younger sister of the ‘Nightingale of India’, Lata Mangeshkar.
She got her first break in the 1943 Marathi film ‘Majha Bal’. ‘Chala Chala Nava Bala’ was her first playback song from the movie. In 1948, Asha Bhosle made her entry into the Hindi film industry with the song, ‘Sawan Aaya’ from the movie ‘Chunariya’. Her first Hindi song as a solo singer was from the film ‘Raat Ki Rani’ in 1949.
She absconded with Ganpatrao Bhosle at the age of 16 defying her family. Ganpatrao was 31 at that time and also was the personal secretary of Lata Mangeshkar. The marriage was short lived and soon she came back to her maternal place along with her three children.
To earn her livelihood, she decided to continue singing. However, by that time, Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum were already ruling the industry as top female singers. Asha Bhosle found it difficult to create her own separate space.
Most of her songs failed to create any recognition during this period until in 1952, Sajjad Hussain gave her a chance to sing for ‘Sangdil’. She also sang for Bimal Roy’s ‘Parineeta’ in 1953 and Raj Kapoor’s ‘Boot polish’ in 1954.
However, Asha Bhosle’s first big ticket success lies with B.R Chopra’s ‘Naya Daur’. The songs of the movie were composed by O.P.Nayyar with some unforgettable tracks like ‘Uden Jab Jab Zulfein Teri’, ‘Saathi Haath Badhana’, and ‘Maangke Saath Tumhaara’.
‘Naya Daur’ was the first film in which Asha Bhosle sang for a leading actress. Vyajayantimala was the lead heroine in the movie. Later, she sang for many films under B.R Chopra productions. The list includes, ‘Gumrah’ (1963), ‘Waqt (1965), ‘Humraaz’ (1965), ‘Aadmi Aur Insaan’ (1966), ‘Dhund’ (1973).
Asha Bhosle Becoming a Main-Stream Singer:
The first big break to Asha Bhosle was given to her by music director O. P. Nayyar. Her first recording with him was for the movie C. I. D in 1956. Some of the chart busters songs of the Nayyar-Bhosle duo are, ‘Aaiye Meherbaan’, ‘Yeh Hai Reshmi Zulfon Ka Andhera’, ‘Aao Huzoor Tumko’, ‘Jaiye Aap Kahaan Jaayenge’, ‘Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri’, ‘Isharon Isharon Mein’. They also worked together for other super hit movies like ‘Tumsa Nahi Dekha’, ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, ‘Ek Musafir Ek Hasina’.
However in 1972, the duo split up. The reasons for their split were never clear to the media.
Asha Bhosle also sang for outstanding numbers like, ‘Dil Cheeze Kya Hai’, ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti’ from Muzaffar Ali’s ‘Umraao Jaan’. Music director Khayyam composed the songs for the movie.
‘C.A.T cat. Cat Maane Billi’, was one of her popular tracks with Kishore Kumar. The song was composed by music director Ravi. His famous compositions for Asha included, ‘Chandamama Door Ke’ and ‘Tora Maan Darpan’.
From the year of 1957 to 1962, Asha Bhosle sang a lot of songs for music director Sachin Dev Burman. ‘Ab Ke Baras’ from the movie ‘Bandini’ and ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ from ‘Jewel Thief’ are popular even today.
Asha Bhosle also sang hit songs like, ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’, ‘Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhaana’, ‘Kaate Na Kate Raina’ for music director Shankar-Jaikishan.
She was also very close to Jaidev, Sachin Dev Burman’s assistant, who later became an independent composer. ‘Hum Dono’, ‘Do Boond Paani’, ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ are some of the movies which credits Jaidev as a composer. They also have a ghazal album, ‘An Unforgettable Treat’ to their credit and was released in 1971.
R.D Burman and Asha Bhosle – The Magical Duo
The musical maestro, R.D. Burman recorded innumerable songs with Asha Bhosle. The duo had a long time partnership and together they provided the music industry with ground breaking compositions. R.D. Burman’s versatile compositions had some western touch in them. While his compositions were given the voice of Asha Bhosle, the result would become really vibrant.
They recorded for every genre of music. Romantic, pop, cabarets, classical were all in the petty kit of the duo. Some of the evergreen compositions by R.D. Burman for Asha Bhosle are, ‘O Mere Sona Re’, ‘O Haseena Zulfon Waali’, ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hun Pyar Tera’ from the movie ‘Teesri Manzil’. In 1972, she sang ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja’ from the movie Caravan. The song was picturised on Helen and it gained Asha Bhosle, the Filmfare Award for the Best Female Playback Singer in 1972.
‘Dum Maaro Dum’ (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), ‘Duniya Mein’ (Apna Desh), ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko ‘ (Yaadon Ki Baraat), ‘Jaane Jaan’ (Jawani Deewani), were the most popping numbers by the duo that are remembered and hummed even today.
Gulzar’s ‘Ijaazat’ in 1987 had some soul-stirring compositions by R.D.Burman which were sung by Asha Bhosle. The songs are ever unbeatable and it is impossible that one will not get moved by the tunes of , ‘Khaali Haath Shaam Aayi Hai’, ‘Mera Kuch Saamaan Tumhaare Paas Pada Hai’, ‘Katra Katra Jeene Do’, ‘Choti Si Kahaani Se’.
R.D Burman also composed an album with her named as, ‘Dil Padosi Hai’ in 1987. The lyrics for the album were written by Gulzar.
They got married in 1980 and their bond was intact until Burman’s death in 1994.
Asha Bhosle with Modern Composers
Among the modern music directors, A.R Rahman deserves special mention. Asha Bhosle was given some of the trendiest feats by Rahman during the 90s. The duo have, ‘Tanha Tanha’, ‘Rangeela Re’, ‘Mujhe Rang De’, ‘Kahiin Aag Lage Lag Jaave’, ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ to their credit. ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ from ‘Lagaan’ was a huge hit and had a classical touch to it.
She also worked with Anu Malik. ‘Kitabein Bahut Si’ from ‘Baazigar’, ‘Jab Dil Mile’ from ‘Yaadein’, are the most noted tracks by them.
Asha Bhosle also sang for Jatin-Lalit, Rajesh Roshan, Bappi Lahiri and others. ‘Zaraa Sa Jhoom Lu Main’ from ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge’ was composed by Jatin Lalit and was a duet of Asha Bhosle and Abhijeet. She also sang solo tracks for Rajesh Roshan which includes ‘Jane Man Janeman’ from super hit movie ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’.
Asha Bhosle – Non-Filmy Ventures
In 2002, Asha Bhosle turned into a composer. She released an album ‘Aap Ki Aasha’ and it was launched by Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai.
She also experimented with R. D. Burman’s old melodies. She released a remixed version of his songs in an album for which she was criticised heavily. However, her album, ‘Rahul and I’ was one of the most popular albums. She also did a pop album with Leslie Lewis named as, ‘Jaanam Samjha Karo’.
She also recorded another album named as, ‘Asha and Friends’. She sang duet songs in the album with Sanjay Dutt, Urmila Matondkar and Brett Lee. Shamir Tandon composed the music of this album.
She also recorded an album, ‘Legacy’, with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. They got Grammy Award nomination for the album.
Milestones outside India
Asha Bhosle attended innumerable concerts and live shows throughout the globe. US, UK, Canada, Sweden and even Dubai experienced her extravagant live concerts.
At the riping age of 64, she sang a romantic song with a young band of boys known as, ‘Code Red’. Micheal Stipe also recorded a song, ‘The Way You Dream’ with Asha Bhosle and the song was used in the movie ‘Bulletproof Monk’.
Cornershop, a band from Britain, paid tribute to Asha Bhosle through their album, ‘Brimful of Asha’. The album was a big hit internationally.
David Harrington’s ‘Krono’s Quartet’, recorded songs like ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’, ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja’, ‘Mera Kuch Saaman’ and requested Asha Bhosle to sing them. She agreed very cordially and recorded multiple number of songs in one day for them.
In 2005, ‘You have stolen my heart- Songs from R. D. Burman’s Bollywood’ was released in the United States and the album went on to gain nomination under the category of ‘Best Contemporary World Music Album’ for the Grammy Awards 2006.
Asha Bhosle also recorded a Pakistani song, ‘Dil Ke Taar Bajey’ for a Pakistani movie, ‘Main Ek Din Lautke Aaunga’ in 2006. It was a duet song with Pakistani singer Jawed Ahmed. The song was an instant hit among the masses.
She also recorded a song, ‘Dedunna Sedi’ in Sri Lanka’s Sinhala language in 2011. The song was well received by the Sri Lankan music lovers and it rocked the chart busters. Asha Bhosle attended musical concerts too in Sri Lanka owing to her popularity and success in Lanka.
Competition with Lata Mangeshkar
Media always speculated about internal competitive war between Asha Bhosle and her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar. Though, both of them have denied these rumours repeatedly. A complete non-communication took place between them after Asha’s marriage with Ganpatrao Bhosle. However, with time the ice melted and the sisters were back on talking terms. It is said, that Lata and Asha during their childhood, were the closest.
In an interview Lata Mangeshkar once happily accepted that she might not have performed at par with her sister if she was given songs like ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hun Pyar Tera’, ‘Yeh Hai Reshmi Zulfon Ka Andhera’, ‘Dil Cheeze Kya Hai’ , or ‘Aaiye Meherbaan. These tracks are Lata Mangeshkar’s favourites among several ones that Asha Bhosle sang till date.
Awards and Recognitions
Asha Bhosle has also been awarded with honorary doctorates from the University of Amravati and University of Jalgaon. She also received the honour of Doctor in Literature (D.Litt) from Jodhpur National University. She has received 17 Maharashtra State Awards and also the Freddie Mercury Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts. The Awards that are been conferred on her can be listed as follows: