My greetings on her birthday September 8
Knowing that Asha Bhosle has a huge fan following and there are people more passionate about her than Lata Mangeshkar, I have to carefully choose my words to describe my relationship with her. If I am asked to choose only 20 singers from the 1930s to 60s for company on a remote island, Asha Bhosle probably won’t figure in my list. There are zillion themes swirling in my head for my blog, but doing OP Nayyar-Asha Bhosle is not one of them, much less RD Burman-Asha Bhosle. Yet there is a very special Asha Bhosle, very unique, incredibly sweet and out of this world. Here are my favourite ten ‘special’ Asha Bhosle songs as my greetings to her on her 78th birthday. (Warning: If you are looking for the ‘best’ songs of Asha Bhosle, you need not proceed further – you will not find Aaiye meherbaan or Jaaiye aap kahaan jayenge here).
1. Gore gore haathon mein mendi rachaa ke from Parineeta (1953), lyrics Bharat Vyas, music Arun Kumar Mukherji
I saw Parineeta several decades back, not in a cinema hall, but in a hostel function on a 16mm projector. Such viewings were always a special experience. These movies had multiple intervals as changing the reels was quite a chore. When you came back after one of the intervals, 10 minutes into the film you would be perplexed that the film was not making any sense as it had no connection with what had happened so far. A collective murmur from the audience would wake up the operator that he had put on part 3 instead of part 2. These films had an additional background score – the constant whirring of the machine, which would at times grow to a gurgling sound as if gasping for breath and the reel would snap making the machine come to a sudden death. The operator would delicately cajole it, then give it a good shake, and finally out of exasperation give it a good smack at different places with a variety of tools from his tool kit he always carried like the medicine box of a doctor. But above all this the impact of Sarat Chandra, Bimal Roy, Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari was more overpowering. I always found it odd that this movie was not reckoned among Bimal Roy’s other great works, I never got to see this again whereas Doordarshan showed his other movies quite frequently. Another memory deeply etched inside me was this wedding song, and this song too met the same fate – I do not remember to have heard it again on radio or TV whereas another song from this movie, Manna Dey’s Chali Radhe rani ankhiyon mein paani, apne Mohan se mukhda mod ke came quite often. I have been able to reconnect with this song only recently through Youtube, and you can imagine the impact it had on me. Besides being a top wedding song, it evokes deep nostalgia in me, and it comes naturally at the top of my ‘special’ Asha Bhosle songs.
2. Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul from Bandini (1963), lyrics Shailendra, music SD Burman
Dharmendra made a joke of budhiya jail mein chakki peaceing and peaceing, but when you see the utter despair and hopelessness on the face of this woman prisoner grinding the stone-wheel, it is not funny at all. While the heroine Nutan would get her redemption, this lady, who might have been equally wronged, seems to have no hope. SD Burman gave Lata Mangeshkar, who was making a comeback to his fold after a hiatus of over 5 years, two beautiful solos Mora gora ang lai le and Jogi hab se tu aya mere dware, but you marvel at his judgment and realize Ab ke baras was meant for only Asha Bhosle.
3. Tujhe mili roshni mujhko andhera from Apna Haath Jagannath (1960), lyrics Kaifi Azmi, music SD Burman
This film starring Kishore Kumar and Sayeda Khan must be a perfect B-grade movie. But what a gem SD Burman creates for Asha Bhosle.
4. Koi aya dhadkan kahti hai from Lajwanti (1958), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music SD Burman
Nargis and Balraj Sahni in a romantic pairing, and the lady on the grand piano which is normally manned by the hero. SDB creates another magic with Asha Bhosle, this one is a little faster and peppy tune.
5. Dhalti jaye chunariya hamari ho Ram from Nau Do Gyarah (1961), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music SD Burman
This absolutely amazing song is my discovery in the internet era. When I shared it with some of my knowledgeable friends they all exclaimed how come they had not heard it before. You can feel Kalpana Kartik enjoying pure bliss in the company of Dev Anand. If anyone created magic with Asha Bhosle, it was undoubtedly SD Burman.
6. Geet kitne ga chuki hun is dukhi jag ke liye, private song
There was a world of non-film songs co-existing with films in the Golden Era. They had two broad strands – one based on Sanskritised words was popularly described as geet and the other with more Urdu/Persian roots, ghazal. The two together were described by the generic term private song. Most playback singers straddled both the worlds, the private song gave them more room to explore; in many cases they also wrote and composed the songs. Geets were more literary than an ordinary film song. You have this beautiful geet by Asha Bhosle with incredibly beautiful words. Asha Bhosle can be a master of expressing pathos – you feel she was giving vent to her own deepest sadness when she sings I have sung many songs for this happy world/ Let me today cry for a moment for my own sake. And she ends – Tomorrow I will sing something sweet for you/ But today let me cry for a moment for my own sake.
गीत कितने गा चुकी हूं इस सुखी जग के लिये
आज रोने दो मुझे पल एक अपने भी लिये
गीत कितने ……
रो रही थी बीन सुर सुनकर सुखी संसार का
नाचती थीं उंगलियां और कांपता हर तार था
आज टूटा तार मेरी बीन का आघात से
आज कुम्हलाया कुसुम मेरा अधिक बरसात से
आज धोने दो नयन के अश्रु खोने दो
नयन के अश्रु खोने दो मुझे
कल सुनाऊंगी मधुर कुछ आज रोने दो मुझे
आज रोने दो मुझे पल एक अपने भी लिये
गीत कितने गा चुकी हूं …
7. Justjoo jiski thi usko to na paya humne from Umrao Jaan (1981), lyrics Shaharyar, music Khayyam
Every Asha Bhosle song of Umrao Jaan is a masterpiece. Khayyam is himself a master of soft, melodious music depicting deep emotions. My special favourite is Justajoo jiski thi. Rekha’s emoting, Asha Bhosle’s voice and Khayyam’s music bring out the deep pathos of Umrao Jaan captured so evocatively in Shaharyar’s poetry.
8. Dhani chunri pahan, from Hare Kanch Ki Chudiyan (1967), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
This song came in what I call the rain-shadow years of film music, when the Old was dying, and the New was yet to come. Great stalwarts like Naushad, OP Nayyar and SJ themselves were past their best. Yet SJ in their twilight years came up with this extremely melodious Asha Bhosle song which is one of the best of the period and I count it among Asha Bhosle’s best. Naina Sahu expressing her joy with the metaphor of clanking of bangles for Biswajit is incredibly beautiful.
9. Bekasi had se jab ghuzar jaye from Kalpana (1960), lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar, music OP Nayyar
I consider Asha Bhosle the undisputed Queen of mujra, and what varieties she gave! Ashok Kumar brings out a wad of currency notes, but Padmini obviously sees herself more than merely a courtesan to a rich patron. Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s (father of Javed Akhtar) poetry and Asha Bhosle’s voice bring out the anguish of the courtesan beautifully. OP Nayyar’s music brilliantly exploits the capacity of Raga Desh to express pathos.
10. Saqiya aaj mujhe need nahi ayegi from Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Hemant Kumar
You do not go to a mujra to hear sad songs – the outpourings of a courtesan’s broken heart, but to drown your own sorrows in her sensuous dance and racy songs. You get all this in this wonderful mujra from Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. In the midst of the impending doom, the decadent zamindars of Bengal could not do without their daily fix of kotha, leaving their pining wives behind. After all, a man cannot remain tied to the pallu of his wife. The wife can occupy herself with getting her jewellery made, unmade and remade. The elder patriarch is a picture of quiet dignity while watching the mujra, while one of his courtiers behind him allows himself a little flippancy breaking into a playful jig, but stops in his tracks when the elder brother glances at him. The simpleton Bhootnath (Guru Dutt), who has been sent on an errand by the chhoti bahu (Meena Kumari) to find out about her ever-absent alcoholic and uncaring husband, is himself drawn to the delightful sight, and gets down to slyly enjoying the mujra from behind the curtain, but is also bashful at being seen. The dance by Minoo Mumtaz (who was the sister of the comedian Mehmood) is a visual treat. Asha Bhosle’s singing breaking the general gloom permeating the movie is beyod compare, and is a perfect foil to Geeta Dutt’s classic poignant solos (Na jao saiyan and Piya aiso jiya mein samaye gayo re). Hemant Kumar proves he could compose a great mujra too. And topping all that, Guru Dutt’s famed command over light and sound and song picturisation, packing so much of the period and layers of meaning, makes this mujra an all-time classic.