90 years of Asha Bhosle, 80 years of musical excellence

City Times looks back at the glorious career of the legendary Indian singer and lists out her iconic songs over the decades

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By Sadiq Saleem

Published: Fri 8 Sep 2023, 7:00 AM

What Naya Daur, Hum Dono and Teesri Manzil of the olden days have in common with Umrao Jaan, Rangeela, Taal and Lagaan of a later era is the contribution of Asha Bhosle that spans eight decades. Blessed with powerful vocals, tonal control and a flair for live performance, it is no surprise that she is as popular today as she was 50 years ago. Whether it is an intricate classical number like Dil Cheez Kya Hai or a peppermint pronouncement like Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka, Asha has always rendered her songs with commendable felicity.

Known for pushing the boundaries and experimenting with different genres of music, Asha has enjoyed a multi-decade career that is thriving to date. With a special concert in Dubai slated for tonight on the milestone occasion of her 90th birthday, City Times looks back on her illustrious career and makes a playlist of her 11 greatest songs that would serve for a perfect retro night.

Aaiye Meherbaan

Film: Howrah Bridge (1958)

Composer: OP Nayyar

If there is one song that has to be credited for being the first to pack oodles of oomph in Asha’s signature style, it has to be Aaiye Meherbaan. Picturised on Madhubala, this song brings the sensuality factor to the fore like no other.

Abhi Na Jao Chodkar

Film: Hum Dono (1961)

Composer: Jaidev

When a song is composed by Jaidev, written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle, it is bound to tug at the heartstrings. Picturised on Dev Anand and Sadhana, the song is one of the most innocent embodiments of courtship. The reigning monarch of romance, Shah Rukh Khan, once cited this as the most romantic song in Hindi cinema.

Jaiye Aap Kahan Jayenge

Film: Mere Sanam (1965)

Composer: O.P. Nayyar

This song is from a 1965 Hindi film Mere Sanam starring Biswajeet, Asha Parekh and Mumtaz. Besides Jaiye Aap Kahan, the film features another iconic song picturised on Mumtaz — Yeh Hai Reshami Zulfon Ka. Both songs are considered milestones in Hindi film music and are solid testaments to Asha’s versatility.

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja

Film: Caravan (1971)

Composer: R.D. Burman

This song from Caravan continues to be iconic for being a collaboration between some of the greatest talents including R.D. Burman, Asha Bhosle and Helen. Asha also won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer for this song. The seductive lyrics and catchy tune have earned this one a permanent spot on the list of evergreen retro songs.

Dum Maaro Dum

Film: Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)

Composer: R. D. Burman

The early 70s marked a new beginning for Asha. She reached the pinnacle of success with films like Caravan, Andaz and Anamika, and then came the revolutionary Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Zeenat Aman on record has said that Asha Bhosle’s voice played a prominent role in her success, especially in the two songs Dum Maro Dum and Chura Liya that catapulted Zeenat to unprecedented heights. Asha imparted the feeling of youth and freedom to this song with total conviction and it rightfully won her the Filmfare Award for the best singer.

Chura Liya Hai Tumne

Film: Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973)

Composer: R.D. Burman

This song is remembered for the collaboration between some of the biggest musical maestros including R.D. Burman, Asha Bhosle, and Mohammed Rafi. Zeenat walks into the frame with guitar in her hand, but Asha walks straight into our hearts when she utters the words Chura Liya. The song continues to top the list of the most romantic songs of all time. Its timelessness is testified by the fact that 20 years after the song was released, UK based musician Bally Sagoo reworked the song resulting in record-breaking sales in Britain.

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke

Film: Umrao Jaan (1981)

Composer: Khayyam

The delicately tuned ghazals in the film Umrao Jaan catapulted Asha Bhosle’s fame to immortality. This song was performed by Rekha as part of Umrao's debut as a courtesan. The other iconic ghazals from the album include Dil Cheez Kya Hai, Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston and Justuju Jiski Thi. The songstress also won the National Award for the best singer for this film.

Raat Baaki

Film: Namak Halaal (1982)

Composer: Bappi Lahiri

Although the song brims with star power featuring actors like Parveen Babi, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor, it is Asha Bhosle’s rendition that takes the cake. She has blended the right notes in the right places that makes this song a favourite even in 2023 and it compels a visit every few weeks.

Mera Kuch Samaan

Film: Ijaazat (1987)

Composer: RD Burman

This song from the film Ijaazat remains one of Asha Bhosle's most melancholic songs and her personal favourite, as well. In 2005, in an interview with The Fader magazine, describing this song as autobiographical, she said, "Mera Kuch Samaan..This song is my life in a nutshell." In a 2010 tweet, she also shared, "Pancham jokingly referred to the song Mera Kuch Samaan as 'luggage song'. My band members still call it that when we are on concert tour". This Gulzar-Pancham-Asha collaboration number is for keeps.

Kahin Aag Lage

Film: Taal (1999)

Composer: A.R. Rahman

The perfect blend of instruments, Shiamak Davar’s dance crew not missing a beat and Asha’s playback traversing the trajectories of high and low notes have earned this song a special place in the Indian music history. A game changer in many ways, the song comes at a moment when Mansi (played by Aishwarya Rai) gets discovered by Anil Kapoor who gives her a break with a miraculous makeover. Could there be a more suitable voice than Asha’s to declare a newcomer’s arrival on the world stage?

Radha Kaise Na Jale

Film: Lagaan (2001)

Composer: A. R. Rahman

This is another magical collaboration between Asha Bhosle and A. R. Rahman. Udit Narayan’s voice depicts the harmless teasing beautifully, but it is Asha’s soulful voice that conveys the pangs of jealousy with perfection. It is undoubtedly one of the finest songs sung by Asha in the new millennium. The use of dhol, dandiyas, and the flute along with her alaaps and expressions recreates the magic of Maha Raas, originally enacted by Krishna and Radha on full moon nights.

If one wonders why I have not included songs like Yeh Waada Raha, Pyar Karne Wale, Yeh Mera Dil, O Mere Sona and several others, the simple answer is that no matter how many songs are included, one can never get enough of Asha.

Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai-based writer and can be contacted on his Instagram @sadiqidas.


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