Asha Bhosle has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most single studio recordings. In a tribute to the versatile songstress, our guest contributor Rajiv Lele list 10 of her lesser-known gems. Each one an exquisite rendition by an artist of unmatched vocal prowess.
1) Naina hain pyase mere | Aavishkar (1973) | Kanu Roy | Kapil Kumar
An absolute stunner. The way Asha glides effortlessly through the intricacies of this song—coiling, twisting and uncoiling like smoke rings from a scented stick—has to be experienced. It just cannot be expressed in words.
2) Phir wohi sham | Tere Bagair (2009) | Madan Mohan (from his unused compositions) | Rajinder Krishnan
This one song is enough to prove Asha's versatility. Her vocals accomplish the perfect marriage between hollow effervescence and the melancholy of a night club dancer. (The movie for which this song was originally composed never got completed / released. But it can be inferred so from the lyrics).
If only Madan Mohan had exploited this trait of hers more, instead of lavishing all his exquisite compositions on his favourite Lata Mangeshkar, it would have been great. But alas..!
3) Raat bhar deeda-e-namnaak | Kahkashaan (TV Serial) (1991) | Jagjit Singh | Makhdoom Mohiuddin
A beautiful celebration of poignancy, Asha’s voice has done wonders to this song where a lover is awaiting her beloved through a lonely night. She brings out a thousand shades of despair in O sabah tu bhi jo aayi to akeli aayi. Truly extraordinary.
4) Meri berukhi tum ne dekhi hai | Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) | O P Nayyar | Majrooh Sultanpuri
The music of Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon was a big hit when it was first released in 1963. Banda parwar, Lakhon hain nigah mein, Aanchal mein saja lena kaliyan, Aji qibla—all solos by Mohammed Rafi and Hamdam mere and Zulf ki chhaon mein—duets by Rafi and Asha, Dekho bijli dole bin badal ki—duet by Asha and Usha Mangeshkar, and finally, Asha's solo, Ankhon se jo utri hai dil mein; all became immensely popular, with the exception of this one song. Strangely, while the mass appeal of most of these songs hasn't diminished over the past 50 years, this song is still largely unknown. Songs too must have their own destiny. How else can this be explained?
5) Raat Christmas ki thi | Dil Padosi Hai (1987) | R D Burman | Gulzar
A three-way harmony of lyrics, music and vocals. The year was 1987. The magic of Rangeela re and Tanha tanha was still eight years into the future. The trio of Gulzar, R D Burman and Asha Bhosle collaborated for a private album called Dil Padosi Hai. Gulzar had written lyrics with a mischievous tinge, inviting camaraderie with teenagers. As usual, R D Burman came up with a brisk and cheerful tune and a throbbing rhythm. In front of the microphone, the diva was having a blast—Tum to kamsin na the, main bhi unees ki thi. She was sensual, playful, enticing, breezy and passionate—all at once. Listen to the antaras of the song, where she hits the high notes with aplomb at the ripe young age of 54. Also listen to her panting in the antaras, articulating the breathless excitement of a young girl—a signature Pancham-Asha touch.
6) Tum bhi meri jaan | Salaam Memsaab (1979) | R D Burman | Majrooh Sultanpuri
Maar dalega dard-e-jigar | Pati Patni (1966) | R D Burman | Anand Bakshi
Much has been talked and written about R D Burman’s musical experiments on Asha's vocal chords. Teesri Manzil, Jawani Diwani, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Caravan, Kati Patang, Yaadon Ki Baaraat and Ijaazat are of course pinnacles of their combined creativity.
But one must listen to these two relatively unknown tracks to experience the amazing chemistry between them. The pitch and variation in her voice is unmatched—it goes very high and then suddenly drops. No other singer could have done justice to such unusual compositions.
7) Mere dil mein teri tasveer | Ek Hans Ka Joda (1975) | Jaidev | Indeevar
A profoundly innocent and mellifluously sweet rendition. Asha created the perfect romantic ambience with her honey-soaked voice.
8) Saara din jaage to bejaan si | Sitam (1982) | Jagjit Singh | Gulzar
Asha’s melodious voice creates its magical charm. So soothing, so simple, yet so captivating and so astonishingly compelling!
9) Man anand anand chhayo | Vijeta (1982) | Ajit Varman | Vasant Dev
For this nine minute-long classical treat, composer Ajit Varman pitted the songstress against Satyasheel Deshpande, a renouned vocalist of Hindustani classical music and foremost disciple of Pt Kumar Gandharva. As usual, Asha stood up to the challenge in her innimitable fashion. She sounds so limpid, so hauntingly sweet. Unfortunately, neither the movie nor the music saw big success.
10) Jab bhi milti hai | Umrao Jaan (1982) | Khaiyyam | Shahryar
Apart from Dil cheez kya hai and In ankhon ki masti ke, which were light-hearted varieties, Asha has sung three plaintive ghazals in Umrao Jaan. Of these, Justuju jiski thi and Yeh kya jagah hai doston are hugely popular. The third one, Jab bhi milti hai mujhe ajnabi lagti kyun hai is relatively lesser-known.
An ordinary composer or singer would have infused these three ghazals with maudlin sentiments, but the Khaiyyam-Asha combo has lifted them to heights of pathos, subtlety and almost bitter irony. Here I would like to make a particular mention of the third ghazal. It has neither audible music nor orchestration. Asha’s pathos-laden voice pierces straight into listener's heart and soul. In the film, its four couplets have been used in distinct fragments. Mysteriously, in the audio release, only two of the couplets have been included.
During the rendition of emotionally overwhelming ghazals, legendary singer Begum Akhtar's voice used to crack when she touched high notes. However, for connoisseurs, it was the highlight of her recital (as it would intensify the pathos). The audience used to wait eagerly for that pleasing crack in her voice. Asha has managed to crack (on purpose, in all probability, because in the same film, she has scaled a gamut of notes with consummate ease) on 'hai' in Zindagi dekhiye kya rang dikhati hai humein, thereby pushing the intensity of dejection to a higher level. (She has recited this line twice and has achieved the same effect both the times.)
Great poetry, great composition, great rendition!