From pop and cabaret songs to club mixes, romantic numbers, bhajans and ghazals – singing diva Asha has sung it all. The magic of her voice continues to enthral listeners across all ages and inspire budding singers even now.
Having sung for actresses of older films like Madhubala, Nutan, Asha Parekh, Helen and Rekha to giving playback to Urmila Matondkar, Kajol, Karisma Kapoor and Gracy Singh among the newer ones, Asha has contributed to the Indian film industry for more than six decades now.
TV actor Kinshuk Mahajan of Sapna Baabul Ka Bidaai will feature in the music video of the title song of Asha’s new album. “Ashaji is like a kid! She is so down to earth and simple. When she called me, she was so sweet to talk to,” Kinshuk told IANS.
“It was so nice to know that she was adamant about taking me for the music video. The song is very romantic. I wish her all the best though I don’t think I would be able to attend the birthday celebrations,” he added.
Asha began her singing career with her first film song Chala chala nav bala for the Marathi movie Majha Bal in 1943.
When she set out to make a mark in Bollywood with her first Hindi song Saawan aaya for Hansraj Bahl’s Chunariya in 1948, she faced tough competition from her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar and others like Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, and Suraiya, who dominated the world of playback singing.
Asha showed her charisma with the sensual songs Aiye meherban from Howrah Bridge in 1958, which was picturised on Madhubala, and In aankhon ki masti from Umrao Jaan in 1981. She also sang the evergreen number Chura liye hai tumne for Zeenat Aman in Yaadon Ki Baraat.
Her romantic numbers were also widely lauded with songs like Haal kaisa hai janab ka (Chalti Ka Naam Gadi 1958), Mur mur ke na dekh (Shri 420), Pal do pal ka saath hamara and many others.
“She is simply blessed and her voice is god’s gift. Not many have a voice like hers. More than a singer, she is a performer who has a feel for every song. One should see the expressions with which she performs on stage – she enjoys each and every bit of it,” new-age pop singer Shibani Kashyap said.
She added: “Her zeal and zest for life is very inspiring. She lives life to the fullest and this is evident from her singing.”
Born into the musical family of Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar, Asha took her initial training in music from her father. Her father died when she was just nine and her training came to an end.
After his death in 1942, the family moved from Pune to Kolhapur and then to Mumbai. Asha and her elder sister, Lata Mangeshkar, started singing in films to support their family.
The year 1957 was the breakthrough year for Asha when music director O.P. Nayyar got her to sing in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur. Ude jab jab zulfein teri from the latter film still remains a favourite among music lovers.
The same year the legendary S.D. Burman had a rift with Lata Mangeshkar. This came as a blessing in disguise for Asha, who soon became his favourite female singer.
In the 1970s Asha came closer to another legend of Indian music, R.D. Burman, who added a new and stylish dimension to her singing. The songs Piya tu ab to aaja, Dum maro dum and Chura liya hai tumne were a result of this combination. The two also tied the nuptial knot in 1980.
Her ghazals in Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan fetched huge accolades and remain an all-time favourite.
In 1995, a 62-year old Asha did playback for young actress Urmila Matondkar in the movie Rangeela. She pleasantly surprised her fans with superhit songs like Tanha tanha and Rangeela re after which she also sang for Karisma Kapoor in the song Mujhko hui na khabar.
For her contribution to music in Indian cinema, Asha was conferred the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest title in Indian cinema in 2000. She was also honoured with the Padma Vibhushan by President Pratibha Patil May this year.
Asha’s popularity goes beyond the Indian shores owing to her various foreign collaborations with artistes like Boy George and Stephen Lauscombe. In 2002, she teamed with Michael Stipe on the track The Way You Dream on the self-titled album by 1 Giant Leap.
In 2006, she recorded an album Asha & Friends with film actors Sanjay Dutt and Urmila Matondkar and cricket player Brett Lee.