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The controversial side of Asha Bhosle

Asha Bhosle who turned 80 recently, once  said she had passed through very difficult times and had emerged  victorious single-handedly. This is not true.  The name of her sister, the mighty Lata Mangeshkar, was always there to over-awe producers into booking her also lest the elder sibling should feel annoyed . Asha says that she never had any rivalry with her sister.    But  how  could she imagine being a challenge to Lata?  On one occasion she said that the song, ‘Ai mere watan ke logo’ was to be sung both by Lata and her but at the eleventh hour she was dropped. Whether this happened or not is difficult to say because none else has said such a thing.

However, what difference would it have made had she been there? Wasn’t the song so perfectly rendered by Lata as to leave no scope for improvement? She once made a malicious statement when she was asked about her open love affairs. Asha had then said she believed in transparency and was not like those who tie rakhi, call them Bhaiya and then  behave differently in private. Was she hitting out at Lata who  calls Madan Mohan  and Mukesh  ‘Madan Bhaiya’ and ‘Mukesh Bhaiya’? It is atrocious to even imagine that these ‘bhaiyas’ had anything but sisterly love for the Melody Queen.

Asha may not say it but initially she tried to copy Geeta Dutt’s style, the way she had sung songs in Baazi. Asha gave enough indication of  that in the song, ‘Jeene do charti jawani ke din hain’ (Taxi Driver)  She then ensured that  Geeta was kept out. This is what O.P.Nayyar stated on Vividh Bharti in the programme ‘Ujaale un ki yadon ke’. He said that Geeta Dutt once rang him up and asked why he was not giving her any more songs to sing even though she had rendered those hit numbers in ‘Aar Par’, ‘CID’, ‘Howrah Briodge’, ‘Mr and Mrs 1955’.   Nayyar revealed: ‘I told Geeta that I wanted to book her but Asha Bhosle had turned down the proposal and has threatened that if I take you, she will not sing for me’.

Another thing about Asha which many people do not like is her total blackout of O.P.Nayyar as her music director. Whenever she speaks about stalwarts she mentions many names, especially that of R.D.Burman.  That many believe is a very mean way to express gratitude to a maestro who took her to the very peak of popularity through those immortal and unforgettable tunes in films like ‘Kashmir ki ali’, ‘Raagini’, ‘Kalpana’, ‘Mangu’, and so on so forth. R.D.Burman’s biggest hits have been sung by Lata, not Asha. But Asha managed to grab best tunes of  Nayyar because Lata wouldn’t sing for him. And far better than the best of RD tunes for her were the numbers which Khayyam composed for her in ‘Umrao Jaan’. They are a landmark in her career. Khayyam also drew out magical notes from her and Mukesh  in the ‘Phir Subah Hogi’ duet : ‘Phir na keeje meri gustakh nigahi ka gila…’ There is no RD song to match this number

But this is not to devalue her magical, musical contributions to  music. All the songs she rendered  for Nayyar are my favourites.  In addition I cannot help recalling her sad numbers, the first one being the Sardar Mullick tuned song from film ‘Thokar’—‘Ai ghjame-e-dil kya karoon’. I cannot also forget her Ravi-tuned number from ‘Kajal’- ‘Tera man darpan kehlae’ or  S.D.Burman’s memorable song from ‘Bandini’—‘Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul, sawan mein lee jo bulaye..’ And would you believe it? I also cherish a sad song Madan Mohan tuned for her in ‘Ilzam’, ‘Dekhun kab tak teri main rah sajna’’ to say nothing of that jazzy number  tuned by him, ‘Jhumka gira re Bareilly ke bajaar mein’ (Mera Saya). And then there is the haunting number from ‘Armaan’ composed by Burman, ‘Chahe kitna mujhe tum bulao gi nahin bolun gi’. For Shankar Jaikishen Asha did sing some prestigious songs in ‘Mera naam joker’ but my more favourite is the number which SJ composed for her and Talat in film ‘Boot Polish’, ‘Chali kaun se desh gujaria tu saj dhaj ke’’ (In the film the male  lip-mover on screen is Shailendra). There are many more songs but one of my favourites is the non-film song she rendered in the 1950s.: ‘Geet kitne ga chuki hoon is dukhi jag ke liye, aj rone do mujhe pal ek apne bhi liye’.  Her fans and friends would wish her a long life, a long singing career but would also desire that she does not come out with those controversial statements which do not add to her stature.

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