Thank you for the music and memories, Asha ji!

Yesterday was the 81st birthday of my favourite singer – the legendary and versatile Asha Bhosle. And there were many websites and blogs that featured something or the other about her.. (Yes even the ones who belong to the “the other camp” usually have a post on Asha on her birthday)

No this is not a factual article on the great songstress – wouldn’t even dare to. A living legend, after all, her career has spanned over 6 decades and she holds the record of having sung the maximum number of songs (over 10,000 in number). Most of the details of her illustrious life are so known anyway.  This is just a random list of songs – listening to which have given me great joy.

  • Humming in Kashmir Ki Kali (1964): Okay this isn’t technically a song; I was 12 when I watched Kashmir ki Kali – mostly due to nothing better to do and I was smitten at the end of the movie. While of course I had heard songs being aired those days on radio and on Chitrahaar and Rangoli (yes the pre-cable TV days), this was different. I was in love with Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore and ooh the music. I went through the title credits again to find out the names of the singers and the music composer. While all the songs have been absolute favourites, this humming did not feature in the cassette. In the context of the movie, a very pretty and young Sharmila Tagore is dancing in the gardens. Shammi Kapoor who had met her the previous night overhears this singing (sigh!) and is surprised to see that the beautiful voice is of the same young pretty girl who had been kind to him in the previous night. I found it recently on youtube and since this brilliant humming had stayed in my mind for long, it is here.
  • O Panchchi Pyare (Bandini – 1963):  Asha bhosle sung two songs in this Bimal Roy Classic. This was one and the other was Ab ke Baras Bhej Bhaiyya ko Babul. Both the songs are situational and capture life in prison evocatively; On a first listening, O Panchchi Pyare sounds less plaintive than the pathos filled Ab ke Baras. The melody sounds lighter, livelier. the inmate on whom the song is picturised is singing it with a smile on her face. But is this a happy song? It stayed on in my memory from the time I first watched Bandini because of the sheer irony. The prisoner is looking at a bird perched on the tree-top in front of her window as she goes about her chores. She does have a smile on her face. But the words – they convey the futility of her existence. It is an ode to a bird – a free one. As She sings, she is imprisoned in her cage, her wings are useless. There are seven seas between the bird on the treetop and her. She knows not how to cross over to the other side. Seasons have changed as the flowers blooming on the plants in front of her window tell her. It is spring season, yes, birds may be chirping and there is an air of gaiety all around – only not for these doomed women. Peppy though it may sound, it is extremely melancholic. What surprised me (pleasantly of course – I prefer Asha over Lata), that despite Lata Mangeshkar’s return to the Burman fold in this movie, it was Asha Bhosle who got two of the meatier songs in the album. I don’t mean to imply that the Lata solos weren’t good: Both Jogi Jabse Aaya and Mora Gora Ang Lai le are wonderful tracks, but the two situational Asha numbers in this film have more impact.
  • Hamein Raaston Ki Zaroorat Nahin Hai (Naram Garam – 1981) This is rather an obscure gem – hidden away in a not so well known Amol Palekar- Utpal Dutt movie from the early 1980s. Surely one of the movies to cash in on the success of Golmaal. The same tune was reused by Pancham da in Saagar for its title track. I prefer this song to the more famous Kishore-Lata duet. I don’t remember the situation in which Swaroop Sampat sings this song in the movie. But Gulzarji’s convey a sense of fulfillment and contentment and Asha’s voice sounds very mellifluous.
  • Baag Mein Kali Khili (Chand Aur Suraj – 1965)Tanuja is at her endearing vivacious and perky best in this number. It is a typical playful number that Asha tai specializes in. The way she sings Kyun Na Aaya, Kyun Na aaya varies each time. It is hopeful one moment, exasperated the other; angst filled one time and even pesky in another. One special mention needs to be made of Salilda’s orchestration and the interludes in between the interludes.
  • Dekhne Mein Bhola hai (Bambai Ka Babu, 1960): Another number in the same mood – playful, teasing and fun. I was a die-hard fan of the pre-1965 Dev Anand in my younger days and he was charming as ever here. Tragic movie this – because the oh-so-beautiful Suchitra Sen and Dev Anand do not get together in the end! No happily ever after! And for a starry eyed teenager who watched it, it was heartbreaking. Coming to the song, it is very peppy and danceable. While we see the supporting cast dance, the camera is focused on Ms Sen’s lovely face and expressions and yes the very debonair Dev Saab. This is a song in the chhed-chhaad wala tradition of Hindi songs with a difference: the hero is being teased by the heroine and her friends. Now of course, she thinks she is teasing her long-lost elder brother who has just returned home. However what she doesn’t – and will find out later – is that this man is not her brother but a friend who is impersonating him after his death! Ashaji sings it in her trademark lively style – getting the emotions spot on and the variations which she pulls off while singing the “chinanna”- Mashallah!

It is impossible to limit oneself to a finite number when it concerns the wide repertoire of someone of Ashaji’s calibre; but this is it for now – as I am running out of time and real life beckons! But just as I write these lines, one of my old favourites is playing– mental note made – continue next post soon with more Asha songs!

So till then, once again, Belated Happy Birthday Ashaji! Thank you so much for the music and memories.

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