Cocktail! Yes, that would be an apt description of Asha Bhosle’s voice. A heady cocktail with a touch of Lata’s moving expressiveness, a dash of Geeta Dutt’s playful sensuality, a splash of Shamshad’s raw robustness and a tinge of Usha’s stinging nasality. Just add to this a pinch of Dinanath Mangeshkar’s bold aggression, Sudhir Phadke’s sweet softness, O.P. Nayyar’s pungent Punjabiyat, R.D. Burman’s zingy Westernism and the recipe is almost complete- you only have to add that extra special bubbly ingredient called Asha Bhosle!
I still remember our first meeting vividly. She was wearing a gorgeous white sari and a glittering diamond set. She just took my breath away-not only by her regal appearance but more by the way she sang those immortal songs O panchhi pyaare, Chain se hum ho kabhie and Piya tu ab to aaja. Oh, and I forgot to mention one trivial detail. That time I was sitting in my drawing room and she was away performing miles away on TV for her show ‘Yeh hai Asha’.
Over the years I have never got to meet her personally. Well, you can’t call those one line pleasantries in the midst of a hundred fans as ‘meetings’, can you? But I still kept meeting her and getting to know her through her songs, interviews, articles on TV, on radio, in magazines etc.
Born in Sangli, Maharashtra, on Sep. 8, 1933, this fourth-born child in the Mangeshkar family- the proverbial ‘First Family’ of Indian light music- grew up in an atmosphere steeped in music. She fondly recounts how she used to watch through the cozy comfort of her bed and blanket her illustrious singer-father Dinanath Mangeshkar teach her Lata didi through early hours of the day.
Unfortunately the premature demise of her father changed the scenario. Her didi had to bear the burden of holding the family together by working and singing in films from a young and tender age. The family had to endure really hard times. It was the constant coaxing and cajoling of her mother Maai which really paved the way for all the Mangeshkar sibs- Lata, Asha, Usha, Meena and Hridaynath- in those trying circumstances. Constantly Maai would remind the kids of the great musical legacy left for them by their father whose musical genius was only appreciated after his death.
Asha’s life plunged into further crisis when at the age of just 14 she eloped and married a rationing inspector in the neighbourhood. Family ties were severed for years. Even the marriage didn’t work out well. The only craft she knew was singing. The only job she could do to win bread and shelter for herself and her kids was singing. So she gave it her all. She sang and she sang and she sang!