Film: Howrah Bridge
Singer: Asha Bhosle
There are musical moments that are historic in true sense. Creation of Aaiye Meherbaan is one such moment. It is the coming of age song for an artist who has defied age since ages.
One has to pinch himself to believe that Asha Bhosle has gone past seventy. Otherwise her eternally youthful voice is still continuing to enchant us with sizzling sensuous numbers that are nowadays picturised on actresses fit to be her grand-daughters. Oodles of oomph that Asha brought into singing has floored generations of listeners, but if one song is to be credited for being the first to show that knockout punch effect of Asha’s seductive style, it has to be Aaiye Meherbaan.
A 1958- film Howrah Bridge- a B-grade crime thriller, in spite of featuring two A-grade artists – Ashok Kumar and Madhubala, is all but forgotten today. The only memories it has left are thanks to composer Omkar Prasad Nayyar’s scintillating music. Geeta Dutt’s Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu, filmed on Helen in the same film might have hogged more popularity but in context of history, Asha’s Aaiye Meherbaan takes the cake.
In spite of making her debut in Hindi film music as early as 1947, Asha had not tasted real success for almost a decade. She remained a wannabe, a fringe singer deemed fit for the minor songs. She was still to produce that something special to convince the composers and critics that she was as good as the best. Mostly following Geeta Dutt’s style of rendition, Asha had not really come up with a style that could be called as her own.
O.P.Nayyar detected that special something in her voice and groomed that brilliantly to make her the premier singer in his music – music that relied heavily on rhythm and robust sensuality. His earlier soundtracks Naya Daur and Tumsa Nahi Dekha had brought Asha into limelight but both these soundtracks did not have a distinctive Asha solo.
So when an exotic Madhubala gyrated dreamily, crooning erotically Aaiye Meherbaan in Asha’s voice on that arresting Chinese blocks- beat, the audiences sat up and noticed. They noticed not only that dream- girl who danced in that shadowy club trying to entice her man but also the singer who had given a stunning playback, a singer who had come into her own.
That superb humming in the beginning, those subtle seductive musical touches, that extremely comfortably delivered raunchiness – Asha’s execution of that exquisitely crafted tune by O.P.Nayyar was perfect, showing an amazing degree of sophistication seldom seen in her renditions before. Asha’s singing image transformation into the sizzling saucy seductress was complete. An image that would stay with her forever!