The most recorded voice Asha Bhosle with most recorded composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal

India’s and the world’s most-recorded voice turns 90 on September 8. Photo: Publicity Photo

Asha Bhosle turns 90 today. The ever-young Diva has been reigning in Hindi films for more than six decades now, having sung her first song as a kid in the Marathi film Mazhe Bal in 1943 under the legendary Datta Davjekar, who also introduced her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar as adult singer in Hindi cinema in Aap Ki Seva Mein in 1947, after the latter’s debut in Marathi in 1942.

Asha has thus completed eight decades of singing today and her best work has been for O.P. Nayyar, S.D. Burman, Ravi and R.D. Burman, the last of whom she also married. But this does not mean that she has not sung great songs for others.

Asha has easily been India’s and the world’s most recorded singer with a tally of around 11,000 songs in multiple genres and languages in 80 years. A rarely thought-of combination is her work with Laxmikant-Pyarelal, who have been her counterparts in music composing in Hindi cinema, with a tally of 510 films in Hindi and regional cinema in 36 years.

L-P were identified with Lata Mangeshkar as much as Nayyar with Asha, but just as Kishore Kumar, best associated with R.D. Burman, was phenomenal under L-P and Lata and Mohammed Rafi excelled under R.D. Burman, here is examining the best of Asha for the duo—the union of the most prolific singer and composers!

L-P’s beginning with Asha was not distinguished—it was the song Yeh jawaani phir nahin aani with younger sister Usha Mangeshkar, in L-P’s second film, Harishchandra Taramati, in 1963. Her first solos came in the 1965 Boxer, the cutely catchy Japanese-styled Jaanu na jaanu na and the piquant Toone jo samjha hai mujhko.

Their first two songs of merit came with the zingy Asha Parekh chartbuster, Khat likh de saawariya ke naam in the blockbuster Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, quickly followed by the placid masterpiece of a composition—Mere soone jeevan ka aasra hai tu, a lullaby par excellence, filmed on Nirupa Roy, in Aasra (both 1966).

Asha never came close to Lata Mangeshkar in L-P’s world, and yet, the duo knew exactly when to cast her in a song, much like R.D. Burman did with Mohammed Rafi. In Doom taara ik doom taara (Milan Ki Raat), for example, a frothy song filmed on Sharmila Tagore cavorting with girls in a lake, it could have been only Asha’s sizzling vocals.

Asha Bhosle with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. First song in 1963 and last in 1993. Photo: Publicity Photo

In Patthar Ke Sanam (1968), Asha came in for the exotic Ae dushman-e-jaan filmed on Mumtaz. A seduction song in terms of the lyrics (Majrooh) and visuals, it saw L-P make Asha reproduce the guttural vocal style of Fairouz, a famous Middle-Eastern singer, whom they had met on a trip to Lebanon. That was how Asha enunciated Aa-haa after Allah at the end of the mukhda!

L-P never typecast any singer, and with Asha, it was no different. Not only did they make her sing Indian, folk and Western numbers besides the 180-degree opposite—the aforementioned lullaby, but they also used her with sterling effect in two devotionals—Nandlal Gopal daya karke (Sadhu Aur Shaitan / with Usha again) and Nandakishore Nandgopal (Madhavi / with Lata). There was also a super-seductive haunting vein in the outstanding Meherbaan mehboob dilbar jaaneman in Aansoo Ban Gaye Phool. The jazzy dance number, Maine dekha ussne dekha from Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke too was swiftly ‘countered’ by the oh-so-sonorous semi-classical gem for Asha Parekh again, Bansuri tihari Nandlal from Sajan and the coquettish Aruna Irani song, Chhedo na dekho na from Jigri Dost.

L-P’s favorite singer duo was Lata-Rafi, but they made it a point to ensure great Asha-Rafi duets too when warranted, especially in this trio of standout duets: Chudiyaan bazaar se (Suhana Safar), Maan jaiye maan jaiye (Himmat) and Koi pyar se dekhe tohe saawariya (Nirdosh). With Kishore too, there were a bevy of beauties, like Yaar dildaar tujhe kaisa chahiye (Chhaila Babu), culminating with the two duets from BandishMere hosh le lo and Rang bhare mausam se rang churake, though there were over a dozen more.

In the 1970s, Asha Parekh gamboled breezily on screen to Asha’s Palat meri jaan (Aan Milo Sajna). The singer next dominated the super-hit Loafer album with three diverse solos—the Punjabi-flavored Shehri babu, the exotic Kahaan hai woh deewana and the voluptuously-sung Motiyon ki ladi hoon main.

1973 was, in any case, a landmark year for Asha-L-P, with the cult signature tune for Laxmikant’s sister-in-law and iconic vamp Bindu that was Hungama ho gaya (Anhonee), This song was picked up three decades later for Queen with great effect as a re-creation. In the following year, the classic Dekho idhar bhi jaan-e-tamanna (Imtihan / 1974) with Usha Mangeshkar again, stood out also because Asha’s portion was sober and calming, filmed on leading lady Tanuja, as different from Usha’s come-hither tones for Bindu.

The L-P repertoire of Asha in the 1970s cannot be complete without two terrific solos, one almost anonymous. That sterling stunner was from a flop film called Kaala Aadmi—the incandescent tantalizer, Bujha do diye, whose superlative lyrics went Do pyar karnewalon mein jalne walon ka kya hai kaam (Extinguish the lamps,  sweetheart. There is no room among lovers for those who burn with jealousy)! The effervescent Mera dil leke leke from Kartavya was yet another worthy song that luckily proved quite popular.

Next to Shankar-Jaikishan, it was L-P who brought Lata and Asha together in the maximum number of songs. Beginning, again, way back in 1966 with that superlative song, Ae kaash kisi diwane ko from Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (before which the sisters collaborated in a live recording with Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey in the Pyar Kiye Jaa fun song, Sun le pyar ki dushmun duniya), they peaked with the Utsav stunner, Man kyoon behka. But arguably the most magnificent joint contribution of Lata and Asha to the L-P oeuvre was Chhap tilak sab chhini, L-P’s unforgettable version of Ameer Khusrau’s wonderfully erotic poem, in the 1978 Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki. And the wonder here was that Asha outclassed sister Lata on the latter’s L-P home ground!

The 1980s Asha-L-P association was a bit of a letdown, though, ironically, she sang the maximum songs for them in this decade. Ek hasina thi (with Kishore) in Karz, the two songs earlier mentioned from Bandish, Phoolwati ka gajra na pehna ho from Krodhi, and Aap ne kya keh diya, a very different romantic number from Khuda Kasam (with Rafi) were notable saving-graces.

But for me, the Asha-L-P association in that decade is hallmarked by the superb solo, Marne ka gham nahin hai, sung with so much wistful passion for Rekha as the title-track of the box-office fiasco but top-class musical, Deedaar-E-Yaar.

After this, the singer who had said, in a Jaimala special radio program on Vividh Bharat in 1970—“Yeh log umra mein bahut chhote hain par bahut bada kaam karte hain (These two are very young, but do very big work)!” drifted away from the L-P orbit, as apart from Lata, they went a long way towards their own protégés—Alka Yagnik, Anuradha Paudwal and Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam.

Asha’s last recordings for them were forgettable—for Sridevi in Gumrah and Shilpa Shirodkar in Lakshman Rekha, alongside the release of their delayed films—Aurat Aurat Aurat and Aatank—in the 1990s. But we cannot forget that even if the quantity was missing all through, the quality spoke of diversity and excellence in so many melodies.

Like the nathani in their tangy collaboration—Meri nathani hi goom gayi neem tale (My nose-ring was lost below the neem tree) from the 1973 Anokhi Ada, which has had over 150,000 views today on YouTube, their contribution to our film music has been lost under the shadow of L-P’s towering association with Lata Mangeshkar.






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