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October 19, 2001

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A phenomenon called Asha

Subhash K Jha

There is a sense of jubilation in the air. For the Dadasaheb Phalke award for lifetime achievement in Indian cinema has been bestowed on singer Asha Bhosle.Asha Bhosle

From Waheeda Rehman and Asha Parekh to Urmila Matondkar and Aishwarya Rai, Bhosle has sung for them all.

Raveena Tandon, who is on location in Bangalore, is overjoyed. "I'm thrilled for Ashaji. Whenever she sings for me I feel enthused. At 60-plus her voice is so sexy!"

The 68-year-old singer cultivated this 'sexy' voice to differentiaite her style from that of her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar.

Born on September 8, 1933 in Satara, Maharashtra, Ashatai, who sang her first song at 16 for the film, Chunaria, had to work her way around her sister's status in Hindi cinema.

Asha Bhosle

Her early songs like Eeena Meena Deeka under C Ramachandra's baton were landmarks.

Under O P Nayyar and R D Burman, her talent bloomed to unprecedented heights of self-expression.

While doing trendy Westernised songs for Nayyar and Burman, the diva continued to expand her horizons. Her National Award winning songs in Umrao Jaan and Ijaazat proved that Asha Bhosle was uncannily versatile.

Actor Kamal Haasan, who claims to be "Ashatai's greatest fan, after my wife" is over the moon.

"When I woke up this morning and saw the announcement, my eyebrows danced to her song Jaane jaan from my Sanam Teri Kasam. What a singer! What a range! She can cover the entire music scale without feeling the pressure. I adore her.

"I've know her from when I was 3. As a child, I was a great Hindi film buff. Personally, I know her through my guru and mentor Shivaji Ganesansaab. Her family was very close to him. When I ventured into Hindi cinema later, I had the pleasure of knowing Ashatai and her husband R D Burman saab.

"When she sang in my Hey! Ram she took me into RD saab's music room and let me play his harmonium. No one is allowed to do that. It was a great moment for me. She has visited our home a number of times. My wife Sarika is not simply a fan, she's a fanatic."

Life has never been easy for the singing phenomenon. Her marriage briefly isolated her from the rest of her family. With three children, sons Hemant and Anand and daughter rediff.com columnist Varsha Bhosle to look after, Ashatai made a remarkable career for herself.

Some years ago, during the course of an interview with this writer, she briefly touched upon her life.

"When lyricist S H Bihari wrote 'Chayan se humko kabhi aapne jeene na diya' (You never let me live in peace), he told me it was the story of my life. Perhaps he was right. If ever a film is made on my life I'd like Shabana Azmi to play my role." Uncannily, Sai Paranjpye did make a rather mediocre film Saaz based on Asha Bhosle's life with Azmi in the lead.

R D Burman and Asha Today she says she would like to devote some of her time to classical singing. Hugely family-oriented and a fantastic cook, she loves to have friends and relatives over to cook them a meal.

She is also a terrific mimic who keeps friends in splits with her impeccable imitations. Recently she turned composer for a non-film album. The album wasn't well received. But Asha Bhosle remains undaunted by setbacks. She has just recorded a breathtaking song for composer Viju Shah for Chhal.

Says director Hansal Mehta, "Every time I hear the song I break into goose bumps. I can't believe she can sound so sensuous at her age."

Didi Lata Mangeshkar is besides herself with joy. "She deserves the award. She is remarkably versatile. There are many numbers only she could sing. I am very proud of her."

Indo-Asian News Service

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