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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Asha Bhosle:The Singer with an Unmatched Verve and Versatility (Part - II)

Come the 1970s, with the arrival of RD Burman, the music wizard,  on the scene, Asha enjoyed full scope to explore her versatility by singing different genres as diverse as cabaret, rock, disco, ghazals and even classical. It is RD Burman who made her singing sound more youthful with his creative tunes— foot tapping, heart-pounding, and even endearing melodies such as, O haseena zulfon wali and Sona re sona (Teesri Manzil).  Indeed, these two together delivered many frothy, fun-filled, and rhythm-oriented songs. 
As it’s hard to imagine a Helen dance number without the delightful and sensuous voice of Asha, who can forget to pick that catchy and evocative song Piya tu ab to aaja from Carvan (1971) sung by Asha that so well sailed with the steamy Helen cabaret dance. This youthful song also fetched her Filmfare award for 'best playback singer'. The following year came that hippie anthem-like song, Dum maro dum, a magnetic rendition, overflowing with lots of energy from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1972).  This cult number fetched her Filmfare award for 'best playback singer'.
Then came the all-time romantic song, Chura liyaa hai tumne (Yaadon ki Baaraat, 1973). It is still fresh in the minds of listeners for its youthfulness and the way the lyrics were whispered by Asha as though to highlight the underlying longing duly accompanied by the melodious sequence of single notes played one after another on guitar. Interestingly, the prelude of the song starts with clinking-of-a-glass-with-spoon groove followed by guitar with a slow upstroke on a single chord reproducing the romantic atmosphere of a club and as it is advancing, violin joins in slow phrases and as it tapers off, Asha whispers longingly— Chura liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko, najar nahee churanaa sanam / Badalke meree tum jindagaanee, kahee badal naa jaana sanam and as she comes to the next line — Oh le liya dil oh hai meraa dil, hai dil lekar mujhako naa behlaana— she drawls the words le liya dil  and meraa dil so tantalizingly that it pleases the ear pretty romantically…and the interlude of trumpet followed by violin phrases and strumming of guitar  adds beauty to the song… and finally as Rafi joins with his silky and smooth voice the composition takes us to the peak of pleasure… It’s often commented that this song resembles a western tune of Bojoura, “If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium”—but Asha and RD have indeed transformed the original into an awesome Hindi song!
Come 1982, when Khayyam invited Asha for working in the film, Umrao Jaan, she was already 35 years old in singing for Hindi films. And obviously, Khayyam’s ambition to ensure that Asha would be Lata’s ghazal-singing equal, had become a mere straight job—a job of leveraging on her well-established strengths: one, “very strong and smooth low register”, two, “very long breath” and three, “her bass voice”. And that’s what he did: he composed all the ghazals supposed to be sung by Asha at a lower octave than her usual. And the rest is history: Asha herself was surprised that she could sing so differently.
She sang all those ghazals so well that for a layman it is difficult to rank them. But connoisseurs consider the song, Aa aa aa aa, aa aa aa / Dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaan lijiye / Bas ek bar mera kaha / bas ek bar mera kaha maan lijiyee … (what is the heart worth? take my life / just one time, what I say / just one time , heed what I say…), as her best. For, notice how imploringly she renders the words, bas ek bar mera kaha maan lijiyee—simply mindblowing. It is the spirited poetry of Shahryar which aptly portrayed the romantic faith of the girl: kahiye to aasmaan zameen par utarlaayen (If you say so, I will bring the sky down to the ground) …. Mushkil nahin hai kuch bhi agar thaan lijiye (Nothing is difficult if you firmly pursue it), and the emotions that these words evoke were so well translated into the rendition of the song, that too, in a very melodious voice by Asha. And, of course, Rekha’s presence on the screen only made this mujra more beautiful. It is not for nothing that Asha was presented a National Award for the best female playback singer for singing the ghazal.
Equally stunning was the other mujra in which Asha’s ravishing voice croons, In aankhon ki masti, mastaane hazaaaron hai (the power and nasha of these enchanting eyes, many are its admirers), which is just sumptuous. The character of Umrao Jaan is full of pain and loneliness and it is well portrayed by Asha in the rendition of yet another song, Yeh kya Jagah hai doston, yeh kaunsa dayaar hai (What place is this, friends? What kind of world is this?)… Na bas khushii pe hai jahaan, na gham pe ikhtiyaar hai … (in this place neither I have control over my happiness, nor is there any choice in my sorrow). Its very prelude on Sarangi throbs the heart so heavily that one could well foresee what anguish is in the offing. The tune and its rendition are so very haunting, for the words are so wrung by Asha to let the listener perceive the sense of loss and confusion being suffered by the heroine, which indeed made many consider this song as the gem of the movie. To sum up, Asha’s singing of these ghazals that have soulful quality had simply put her on a high pedestal.

As a natural sequence to this, then came Gulzar in the late 1980s with unique lyrics to that magical composer RD Burman to compose a tune around them for his movie Ijajat. However, those beautiful, but non-rhyming lines didn’t excite RD. But an impromptu rendition of those lines by Asha was said to have ignited RD’s creativity and the result is there for everyone to enjoy. It is perhaps one of the most haunting renditions: Asha renders the lines— Mera kuchh saman tumhare pas pada hai (some of my things are still lying with you) / O o o … savan ke kuchh bhige bhige din rakhe hain (some drenched monsoon days) / aur meri ik khat mai lipatee rat padee hai (and a night wrapped in one of my letters) / who rat bhujha do, mera who saman lauta do (extinguish that night, and send those things back to me) / … / ek ijajat de do bas, jab inko dafanaungee (Just grant me this wish, that when I bury these things) / mai bhee vahee so jaungee (I will also go to sleep…. there)so slowly and softly but in an intensely moving voice that seeks to evocate the underlying urge of those words to recall the past into the present and the present that they long to bury once for all so intensely, for the music director least interfered with the vocals by choosing soft interludes of santoor that so delicately slides from one note to the other, that the listeners are sure to get carried away to a distant world. And, Asha pocketed her second National Award for best female playback singer for this song.
As time moved forward, this 62-year-old veteran playback singer, Asha Bhosle, returned to sing two super hit songs in the 90s —Yai re yai re jor lagake naache re (Hey! Make an effort and dance) / yai re yai re milke dhoom machaaye re (together we’ll create ruckus) and Tanha, tanha… —for the movie Rangeela proving that “age cannot wither her”, nor times can stale her infinite versatility.



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