The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 29 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary

80 years young!

Baap re baap, notun machine!” she smiled when she saw t2’s Dictaphone. It is this childlike curiosity and spontaneity at 80 that endears you to Asha Bhosle within minutes. A t2 chat the morning after the superhit Netaji Indoor stadium concert, at the Oberoi Grand poolside...

You got paid Rs 100 for your first song. What was your ‘asha’ when you started out as a singer?

My only asha was that I should keep getting do-chaar songs aur aise sau-sau rupaye milte rahe. (Laughs) The value of Rs 100 used to be a lot back then. It used to be people’s salary. There wasn’t much money in singing, but then paise badhtey gaye... Rs 200, Rs 300.... I needed money. Sirf gaana gaake bhagwan... it wasn’t like that. I needed money. I had to bring up my kids... take care of their education, get them married off... ye sab barey kaam mere akele ke upar thi. I was the husband and I was the wife! I completed all my responsibilities. My abhimaan is that being an akeli aurat, I did them all. I got them married with a lot of fanfare, celebrated their birthdays with a lot of thaant (pomp), sent them abroad whenever they wanted to go, every year took them to Kashmir for a month... I mean whatever a single mother could do, I did.

So, singing was a profession for you?

It was work before. Then it became my life... from the ’50s. It started from the ’40s. I knew music was my life. I always loved music. My father started training me when I was four. But later woh gaana mera itna jeevan ban jayega... aur koi kaam hi nahin... gaana hi gaana. So many different kinds of music directors, a variety of songs... every style of song... woh sab mere galey mein padta tha. I was never called to just sing love songs. Back then people did not appreciate it too much... oh, she is singing cabaret numbers, dancer ka gaana.... Lekin dekha jaye toh uss zamaney ke hotel ke gaane aaj ke bhajan lagtey hain! (Laughs) Now, more than ever, music is my life. Ab main badi ho gayi. My children grew up and they have their own kids.... I am not left with anymore work. Music is my life now. I get up in the morning and sit with music. Music fills my afternoons and evenings too. I sit with my tanpura whenever I feel like.

So, what is “youngster at 80” Asha’s ‘asha’ now?

I think the way I am doing my riyaaz and paying attention to my singing, I want to come up with achhe, naye records. I know that the record era is gone, nobody buys them. But I will sing good songs and leave it at that.... If not now, later people will realise what good music is all about. Sirf chillaney se music hai kya? Songs should soothe your soul. You should hum it to bed. Abhi aap Sheila ki jawani gaakey soyenge kya? No. But you might... (sings) Naam gum jaayega.

Who do you love listening to these days?

Sukhwinder Singh. I don’t get the time to listen to a lot of songs. Would you believe that I don’t tune into the radio? Mujhe radio lagana nahin aata. I listen to it on the tape recorder... the old-fashioned way...

I have both cassettes and CDs. Ghulam Aliji, Bade Ghulam Aliji, Kishori Amonkar, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar... I like listening to their songs. Aaj kal ke singers mein aap kahenge toh, zyada main sunti nahin hoon... but I always listen to Sukhwinder’s songs. His voice and his songs are very different. I also like Shaan a lot.

Reading your tweets is like flipping through the chapters of your life. Have you considered writing an autobiography?

I am in fact more than half-way through it. I will write about my journey... kaise gareebee se aayee... Whatever has happened in my life will be there in the book. You will get to read what’s true. If I ever feel that an episode might hurt somebody, I will not write about it. I don’t want to sadden anybody. All I want is to tell the story of my life.

What will you call it?

I have not yet thought about it. You tell me!

When you are in Calcutta, do memories come flooding back?

Bahut! I am speechless after seeing this hotel (The Oberoi Grand). I came here first in 1958. Hemant (son) was small. I came with Bhoslesaab (Ganpatrao Bhosle, her then husband). Anil Biswas had got us on a chartered flight. We had put up here along with Dev Anand and Sheila Ramani. The pool wasn’t there then. There used to be a bar and a lawn here (the poolside). For some reason, Devsaab preferred travelling in an open car and on one occasion ek aadmi aake unka tie kaatke chala gaya! (Laughs)

Then my days with Pancham... his school (Ballygunge Government High School and Tirthapati Institution)... his swimming gear... the Dhakuria Lakes... shops. We used to go to (Adi) Dhakeswari (Bastralaya). I have travelled to Tarakeswar. I remember it was crowded, but I said, “Marathiyon ka zor dekho”, tucked my pallu in and pushed my way through! We have done a lot of shows in the suburbs... Basirhat, Kanchrapara...

Do you miss your “Pancham” a little more when you are here?

I do. I miss two-three people when I am in Calcutta... there is Pancham, his friend Badal (Bhattacharya).... Badal’s wife is my friend, Mili (seated next to her). We both used to roam around New Market before. Mazedaar tha. I have taken a lot of Lladro (showpieces) from here. Once I took a momo-maker from here. Mala Sinha had taught me how to make momos and the momo-maker used to be available only in Calcutta. My kids used to love it. You won’t get Mala Sinha’s momos at any Chinese restaurant. They are so good!

What do you think Pancham would have been like today?

He would have been very famous. Bahut kaam karta. Bahut chirchira ho jata! (Laughs) Mere ko bahut tang karta!

When are you coming back to Calcutta?

I will come back for sure! Now I know that Bengalis remember me.

You tweeted that the secret to your inimitable energy is a “great concert crowd”...

When you have a good show, you cannot sleep at night because you are so happy. I woke up at 5 today in the morning. Everybody was sleeping. I was ready since then. Achha lag raha tha ke iss umar mein maine achha kaam kiya!

The actress Asha Bhosle debuts next week with Mai... (directed by Mahesh Kodiyal and produced by Subhash Dawar and Nithin R Shankar).

I am very scared of that! Dekh ke gaaliyan toh nahin denge log? (Laughs) Yeh kya kiya? Ki korechhey mairi?! My son Anand was among those who convinced me to do it.

Asha Bhosle mimics Kishore Kumar onstage

How was the rain dance in hot water?

It was good! (Laughs) Garam bola tha, but it turned cold.

Working with your granddaughter must be a very happy moment for you...

Very happy! She sings and dances well. I feel very proud of Zanai.

What is your ‘asha’ for her?

Yehi mushkil hai... today she is singing, tomorrow she might not. You never know with today’s youngsters. Isi liye main zyada asha nahin lagaati. I ask them to sing if they want to.

What message did Sachin Tendulkar have for you at the music release of Mai...?

He loves me a lot. Sachin said that in his bungalow there is a music room. So, I framed that piece of paper where I had written In aakhon ke masti ke when I sang it... it had drawings on it... I also gave him old photographs of his childhood and LP records which you don’t get these days. I had forgotten to sign it in a hurry. He said he wanted to get it signed with a good marker. I told him when I go visiting him, I would sign it.

Do you feel sad when you see people clamouring for his retirement?

No he won’t leave. Maine usko bola I am 80 and still singing. Bilkul nahin... dat ke raho! He says, “Yes!” Twenty20 uske laayak nahin hai. He will play like a tiger, for five days. Tab mazaa aayega.

So, you like watching Test cricket?

I have been following cricket since 1956. I have never missed a match. We sisters used to go with our mother to Bombay Gymkhana... dabbey lekar jaatey thhe. I remember (Basil) Butcher of West Indies had come in 1958. Then I saw Gary Sobers, Vivian Richards... Subhash Gupte, Dilip Sardesai... many, many....

You follow football too...

Pancham used to make me watch football. He used to like football a lot. I started liking it later. At the beginning, I never quite understood the game. Kya hai na ke hum British log hain na toh British ka khel kaun sa hai? (Laughs out loud) I am just joking! I am not British. I am an Indian! (Laughs)

When are you getting Asha’s (her chain of 10 restaurants spread across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and UK) to India?

I want to open in Calcutta and Bombay, but only if I get a good space. I don’t want to open it in a small space, especially in Bombay where it should be big.

Finally, which song sums up Asha Bhosle’s life?

Zindagi ke safar mein bichhad jaatey hain jo makaam woh phir nahin aatey. Kabhi nahin aatey!

The day after the concert, Asha Bhosle packed it all in...

1) The lunch had to be full-on Bengali, she insisted. The menu? Koi Maachh, Pabda Maachh, Begun Bhaja...

2) A quick trip to the river and Vidyasagar Setu.

3) Some sari shopping.

4) Dinner comprised Nizam’s Kathi Rolls!

her playlist:

Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera

Tumi koto je durey, clubbed with Chura liya

Poochho na yaar kya hua

Yeh ladka hai Allah

deewano dil sambhalo

Chokhe chokhe katha bolo

haseena zulfon wali (duet with Diljaan, a Sur Kshetra finalist)

Roz roz aankhon tale

mere sona re

Jete dao aamay deko na

Chhaiya re

Do lafzon ki

Tu tu hai wahi

Aao na gale lagao na

Mera kuchh samaan

Dum maaro dum

Piya tu ab toh aaja

Asha on her Pancham

He was a late-riser. Sometimes he used to get up early. He would have tea two-three times. If you would give him a hot cup of tea, he would pour water in it!... He would always be on the lookout for inspiration. Ab inspiration chahiye toh main kya kar sakti hoon?! Main toh aisi hi hoon, bhoot ki tarah! People who create need inspiration.... He would go sit in his music room... God knows what he would think of. He would wear a saffron robe, white pyjamas and chappals.

tales of some Asha-RD gems retold...

1Poochho na yaar kya hua: We were going to Pokhara Valley from Nepal. There were these Nepali girls singing, while Pancham was sipping tea... he had a habit of tapping the glass with his ring. He gave them Rs 100 and asked them to sing again. Then he told me, “Bab... he used to call me Bab from Babua... I have a song.” That’s how Poochho na yaar happened.

2Chokhe chokhe katha bolo: This was my first Bengali song with Pancham. It was so popular that HMV had to give us a gold disc!

3Roz roz aankhon tale: Burmansaab had a lot of cars.. Mitsubishi, Alfa Romeo, Merc. He used to spend all his money on cars. I have never seen anyone drive with his right leg folded on the seat! One night we had gone to Mahabaleshwar. It was a moonlit night. He parked the car near a talaab. When he used to compose, he used to put his own words. He did not know Hindi... so it was Bengali for him. He started singing Boshe aachhi akashtole which became Roz roz aankhon tale.

4Jete dao aamay deko na: It’s a song very close to my heart. Amar mone khub byatha.... Har dukh ko maine sirf galein se hi rok ke rakha hai.

Recipe for Chingdi Maacher Cutlet, one of RD Burman’s favourites, that has made its way to Asha’s...

Clean the prawns.

Marinate in onion and ginger broth.

Coat with chillies and masala, dip in whisked egg and roll in bread crumbs.

Put in the fridge for a while.

Take out and deep fry.

The Asha Bhosle touch: “I put coriander in it. Just improvising! (Laughs) I love cooking.”