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Happy Birthday Asha Bhosle: 8 songs that showed off the singer’s talent

On her 85th birthday today (8 September), we revisit Asha Bhosle’s more difficult songs which she pulled off with her trademark ease but was not appreciated enough.

Photos: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

What hasn’t been said about singer Asha Bhosle? The versatile and talented singer, with a career spanning over six decades, has sung every kind of song and received every kind of accolade. But for her fans and listeners, Bhosle’s voice remains forever young.

The effortless manner in which she has rendered songs over the years means she hasn't gotten proper credit for taking on harder songs which any other singer would have had trouble with. For her 85th birthday, we list some of the more difficult songs, which Bhosle brought alive, with little difficulty.

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1. 'Tu Chhupi Hai Kahan' - Navrang (1959)

V Shantaram’s dance drama with Sandhya and Mahipal featured 12 songs by the combination of composer C Ramchandra and lyricist Bharat Vyas. Bhosle is present for a large part of the album with eight songs. Singer Mahendra Kapoor sung his first major song with ‘Adha Hai Chandrama’.

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But in the varied, and frankly difficult compositions for Navrang, Bhosle proved her mettle early on. For once, Ramchandra was not using Lata Mangeshkar, this was all Asha here. In the duet 'Tu Chhupi Hai Kahan'  with Manna Dey, there are several high notes in the melancholic number where she has to go beyond her pitch in the Raag Malkauns.

In Raju Bharatan’s biography on the singer, the author writes, “Any comprehending listener can vouch for Asha being made to go beyond her ken here.”

2. 'Aao Ni Sakhiyon' - Neel Kamal (1968)

In Ram Maheshwari’s silver jubilee hit Neel Kamal, starring Waheeda Rehman, Manoj Kumar and Raaj Kumar, Bhosle was the only female singer on the album. She had the soulful bhajan ‘Rom Rom Mein Basne Waale Ram’ which was surpassed by the unusual number ‘Aao Ni Sakhiyon’ filmed on Rehman.

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The song, composed by Ravi, switched tunes from Punjabi to Western and the actress switches from a female to male avatar. Bhosle, too, deftly alters her voice to match the female and male egos in the lively number written by Sahir Ludhianvi.

3. 'Mera Naam Hai Shabnam' - Kati Patang (1970)

Kati Patang was another silver jubilee hit and an RD Burman classic, but Asha Bhosle has only one song in the album. However, she makes an impact on the soundtrack that also features her elder sister Lata. In 'Mera Naam Hai Shabnam', written by Anand Bakshi, the singer easily toggles between singing and speaking in the cabaret number filmed on Bindu. Using her words with precise care, right amount of emphasis, Bhosle makes sure that Shabnam is not a name you forget!

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4. 'Piya Tu Ab To Aaja' - Caravan (1971)

The first of the 1970s belonged to Asha with her numbers like ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja’. She won her third Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the song. Not only did Asha have to worry about her singing for this song, she also had to control her breathing as an onscreen Helen pants and waits for her lover as Monica. The effect is sensual, not vulgar and that’s largely due to Bhosle’s handling of the song composed by Burman and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

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5. 'Duniya Mein Logon Ko' - Apna Desh (1972)

For the Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz starrer, Apna Desh, Bhosle matched RD Burman note for note in the high-energy song, 'Duniya Mein Logon Ko'. Burman once again worked with lyricist Anand Bakshi on the soundtrack.

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'The song is a fast-paced cabaret number wherein the male and female voices work together. The music is frenzied and the singers have to do everything from scatting to taking a falsetto. Bhosle was able to adapt herself to Burman’s compositions, and everything he threw at her, with ease.

6. 'Jaane Jaa Dhoondta Phir Raha' - Jawani Diwani (1972)

The duet 'Jaane Jaa Dhoondta Phir Raha' by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar is a timeless hit which went up to number 26 on the Binaca Geetmala song countdown. Bakshi-Burman combo once again worked their magic for the mesmerizing love song in which Asha and Kishore’s voice play hide and seek with one another, as do the lead pair of Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan (then Bhaduri) in the number. It must not have been easy for the duo to switch up their ranges in the songs, and Asha especially nails it.  

7. ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’ - Umrao Jaan (1981)

For Muzzafar Ali's Umrao Jaan, composer Khayyam's note to Bhosle was that the main character from Lucknow would not sing in a high octave like the singer's usual style. Therefore, she would have to sing it in a lower pitch. Bhosle rehearsed ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’, written by Shahryar, for eight days, but during recording, she felt uncomfortable.

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"I arranged the music in such a way that it would be one and a half scale lower than her original voice. She got cold feet and asked if she could sing in her own scale. She said she couldn't sing in that low pitch. So I came up with a solution that we would do it in one take in the lower pitch and then re-arrange the music and do another take with her original scale," the veteran composer told Rediff.com.

When he made her listen to what she had just sung, she marvelled, "Kya ye main gaa rahi thi? Maine apni awaaz aise kabhi sooni hi nahi! [Have I really sung this? I have never heard my voice like this!]" The result? A National Award for both Khayyam and Bhosle for their collaboration, an everlasting classic.

8. ‘Zaara Se Jhoom Loon Main’ - Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

When the 62-year-old Bhosle sang for the 21-year-old actress Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), no one expected the song to take off like it did. The Asha touch was present in the song, written by Anand Bakshi and composed by Jatin-Lalit. Her mature voice added the feeling of Simran’s surprising transformation when she got drunk in the film. The singer is requested to sing this popular number, like her other cabaret hits, even now.

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The film’s reclusive director said in the book, Aditya Chopra Relives... Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, that “Ashaji is such a mountain of talent. No one can compete with her ability to bring life to a song like ‘Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main’.”