Wishing Asha Bhosle a very Happy Birthday on her 83rd birth anniversary (b. 8 September 1933)
When I wrote on my favourite ‘special’ songs of Asha Bhosle about five years ago, I was somewhat dismissive of her songs by OP Nayyar. At that time I viewed SoY as a स्वान्तः सुखाय self-indulgence. Five years down the line, I cannot claim that SoY is my blog. The readers have become important stake-holders in the way the blog has developed. Now I have become more aware of different tastes. While I may not have been purged of my biases, I can accept that there could be a large number of persons who are as moved by an Asha Bhosle song as by a Lata Mangeshkar’s. My favourite Asha Bhosle’s songs are predominantly composed by SD Burman, but it is commonly accepted that the most important influence in her career has been OP Nayyar. I have written on OP Nayyar’s songs for Rafi, Mahendra Kapoor and Shamshad Begum. This list cannot be complete unless I write on his songs for Asha Bhosle as my tribute to her on her 83rd birth anniversary. I hope her great fans like Arvinder Sharmaji, Hans, and my friend Arvind who appears to have been off-SoY for a while, would take it as some reparation on my part. I have to also thank our OPN-expert Ravindra Kelkar whose comments have added a great deal of information. I must add here that in that post on Asha Bhosle I did include an OPN composition – Bekasi had se jab guzar jaye from Kalpana (1960).
While Asha Bholse sang 324 songs for him, the second highest, Geeta Dutt, accounts for about 62 songs, i.e. less than 20% of the former. She was more integral to OPN than Lata Mangeshkar to C Ramchandra. Another factor that accentuated her centrality was the complete black-out of Lata Mangehskar by OPN. This is a story which has a million versions, some not very flattering to the parties. Suffice it to say, that for a music director to dare to survive without the Empress of playback singing in the 1950s and 60s was an audacious act. His weapon was her younger sister who was trying to find her moorings. From singing in Lata-style in her early songs to following Geeta Dutt, she came out as a complete package of her own under OPN’s baton from mid-50s, striking gold in 1957 with Naya Daur and Tumsa Nahi Dekha. Then followed a long list of superb songs in
12 O’ Clock, Howrah Bridge, Phagun, Ragini, Sone Ki Chidiya (1958); Kalpana (1960); Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962); Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hun (1963); Kashmir Ki Kali (1964); Mere Sanam (1965); Baharein Phir Bhi Ayengi, Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, Sawan Ki Gata, Ye Raat Phir Na Ayegi (1966); CID 909 (1967); Dil Aur Mohabbat, Humsaya, Kahin Din Kahin Raat, Kismat (1968); Sambandh (1969) etc.
Along the way Asha Bhosle became more than a singer for OPN, and thus another parallel with C Ramchandra-Lata Mangeshkar relationship starts. Very few of such unconventional relationships have a happy ending. Asha Bhosle’s walking out from his life around 1972 was equally bitter and final as Lata Mangeshkar’s from C Ramchandra. She also blacked out OPN from her consciousness. This was sad and ironical, because she won the Filmfare Award for the Best Female Playback Singer for Chain se humko kabhi from Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1973), on which they had worked together before the break-up. But she couldn’t overcome the bitterness and refused to receive the award. The song had already become popular before the film was released, but it had been removed from the film, apparently at her behest. OPN’s music collapsed with the departure of his muse as C Ramchandra’s did with the exit of Lata Mangeshkar. Break up of any relationship is best left buried under wraps, but celebrities cannot often resist the temptation to tell all. The narrators add their own spice. The stories available in public domain do not make a pleasant reading
I have often said in the context of Lata Mangeshkar that whether she has been generous or miserly in giving credit to a music director in her career, music lovers are not swayed by that. Asha Bhosle might black out OP Nayyar from herself, but she cannot black him out from millions of music lovers who regard him as the single most important music director in making her a major lead singer in the face of her mighty elder sister.
Let us not be judgmental about the personal life of an artiste. Here is my tribute to OP Nayyar who lived life on his own terms, and birthday greetings to Asha Bhosle on her 83rd birth anniversary with her songs by him.
1. Raat rangili chamke taare from Baap Re Baap (1955), lyrics Jan Nisar Akhtar
OP Nayyar debuts in Aasman (1952) which had Geeta Dutt as the lead singer. But the same year he takes Asha Bhosle as the lead singer in Chham Chhama Chham giving her ten songs, including duets. She uses her in Mangu (1954), too. This confirms Ravindra Kelkar’s observation that OPN had used her from the very beginning. But the first time when her songs acquire popularity is in Baap Re Baap (1955), which had the extremely popular duet with Kishore Kumar – Piya piya mora jiya pukare. Raat rangili is a very nice dance song picturised on Chand Usmani, who bears an uncanny likeness to Meena Kumari in this song. This fits perfectly in the ‘star’ theme of DP Rangan.
2. Dil to razamand hai phir bhi zaban band hai from Maai Baap (1956), lyrics Anjan+Kapoor
In several films of 1955-56, OPN uses Asha Bhosle as the lead singer, but the singing honours went to Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum starting from Aar Paar (1954) to Mr & Mrs 55 (1955) and CID (1956). However, in the midst of the superhit songs from these films, we come across a superb dance song picturised on Shyama.
3. Ek deewana aate jate humse chhed kare from Naya Daur (1957), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanavi
Now comes the big turning point for Asha Bhosle when OPN gets to compose music for BR Chopra’s Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala starrer Naya Daur (1957) making Asha Bhosle the voice of the heroine. OPN was now clearly moving away from Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum – Asha Bhosle was to him what Lata Mangeshkar was to other music directors. The film with socialistic message of harmony between the man and machine had outstanding music. Most of her memorable songs happen to be duets. But here is a less-known solo which I have forgotten if it was there in the film, but bears OPN’s signature Punjabi beat.
4. Aiye meharbaan baithiye jaan-e-jaan from Howrah Bridge (1958), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi
But the first song that gives Asha Bhosle a distinct image is this iconic night club dance song. Ashok Kumar’s investigations into his brother’s murder takes him to this shady joint, run by KN Singh, where Madhubala dances every night. The sensuous Madhubala’s dance, Ashok Kumar who had come with some purpose getting drawn towards her, and the picturisation make it an everlasting song.
5. Piya piya na laage mora jiya from Phagun (1958), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi
This movie about the love between a landlord’s son and a gypsy girl had 11 songs, all having the voice of Asha Bholse, including some as duets. The songs of this film so much impressed Ustad Amir Khan that, it is said, he asked OPN it was amazing that he had composed all the songs of this film in Raga Piloo, to which OPN told the great classical singer that he hardly knew what a Raga was, as he was not trained in classical music. Bharat Bhushan cannot resist the inviting call of Madhubala, and he comes playing his flute, providing a beautiful combination of melody and rhythm. This flute tune would be recurring throughout the film.
6. Jaiye aap kahan jayenge ye nazar laut ke phir ayegi from Mere Sanam (1965), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
Between 1958 and 1965, OPN had a large number of films, of which Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hun (1963) and Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) were roaring successes. These had naturally a large number of her songs, some as duets. I remember these films primarily for the quintessential Rafi-OPN songs. Let me fast forward to Mere Sanam, a typical Bollywood masala film of the 60s, which had a hero, a heroine, romance between them, a villain who uses a vamp to malign the hero, and some rough tactics, but everything gets sorted out in the end. The main attraction was the outstanding score of OP Nayyar. Here Asha Bhosle is singing a romantic song lip-synched by Asha Parekh in scenic surroundings with Biswajit.
7. Ye hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera na ghabraiye from Mere Sanam (1965), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
While Lata Mangeshkar had qualms about singing for vamps, Asha Bhosle has no problems singing a song of seduction, lip-synched by the villain’s mole, Mumtaz. She changes her style slightly to make it meaner.
8. Koi kah de kah de kah de kah de zamaane sa ja ke from Bahaarein Phir Bhi Ayengi (1966), lyrics Aziz Kashmiri
In this movie about two sisters falling for the same man, Dharmendra, the younger sister Tanuja is more open in declaring her love to the whole world. The elder sister who also does not want to break the kid sister’s heart, suffers in silence – the agony becoming too acute for her to handle. OPN’s orchestration is too good.
9. Raaton ko chori chori bole mora kangana from Mohabat Zindagi Hai (1966), lyrics SH Bihari
From night club dance to romantic to seductive songs for the vamp, Asha Bhosle has sung all types. Here is a soft, slow and soothing melody.
10. Zara haule haule chalo more saajna from Saawan Ki Ghata (1966), lyrics SH Bihari
Swana Ki Ghata had a beautiful twin song Meri jaan tumpe sadke in Mahendra Kapoor and her voice. This has been mentioned in Twin songs. I may be challenged, but I find the male version better. Zara haule haule chalo more sajna is a perfect hoof-beat song for which OPN became famous, though many music directors from very early times, such as Pankaj Mullick and Naushad, have used this beat in their music.
11. Mohabbat cheez kya hai from Ye Raat Phir Na Ayegi (1966), lyrics Aziz Kashmiri
Mumtaz is again at seducing a reluctant Biswajit, the khanak in Asha Bhosle’s voice accompanied by OPN’s rhythm makes it a highly enjoyable song.
12. Yahi wo jagah yahi wo fiza hai from Ye Raat Phir Na Ayegi (1966), lyrics SH Bihari
And from seductive, OPN gets Asha Bhosle to sing a haunting song which has the hero perplexed.
13. Aao huzoor tumko sitaro mein le chalun from Kismat (1968), lyrics Noor Dewasi
Drunken songs are generally on males. Babita acts stone-drunk, with Asha Bhosle giving a perfect rendering with hiccups. I have seen this song being used prominently in a Beijing acrobatic show.