Asha Bhosle on music, food and her magical mantra


By Neeru Saluja

Legendary singer Asha Bhosle has entered her 80s but her voice is still as youthful as an eighteen-year-old girl. You can feel the innocence and simplicity in her mannerisms, and you realise how she mesmerised the nation with her golden voice for decades.

Asha Bhosle is one of the greatest playback singers in Bollywood’s history. With a career spanning over six decades and 20 languages, she is also one of the most versatile of South Asian singers. Being the first Indian singer to be nominated for the Grammy Award, the most recorded artist in India history, a recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, her lists of achievements is endless. She was also the muse for British band Cornershop, who paid tribute to her with their hit 1997 single Brimful of Asha. Our very own Aussie cricketer Brett Lee also could not resist her charm and sang a song with her!

She started her career singing for B and C grade films, but her powerful voice and collaboration with music director RD Burman (her late husband) became an instant hit. Her most popular numbers are Piya tu ab to Aaja, Dum Maaro Dum, Chura Liya, Yeh Mera Dil, In Aankhon ki masti and Rangeela Re.

The Queen of singing now returns to Australia for one last time to celebrate her glorious singing career with her fans. In a heart-to-heart conversation, we shared a few laughs with Ashaji and talked to her about music, food, her favourite songs and what makes her going strong at the age of 82.

Ashaji, I interviewed you last time when you performed in two sold out shows at Sydney Opera House in 2007. I’m really excited to see you perform again, are you equally excited to perform in Australia?

Yes. There is a unique charm in performing abroad. The theatres are par excellence; the people are warm and welcoming because they miss their homeland. And the foreigners are nice as they are keen to know what kind of singer has come from India!

And it’s not a singer but the legendary singer Asha Bhosle. You have mesmerised music lovers spanning generations. You are still as energetic and enthusiastic as you were 30 years ago. What’s your motivation?

Singing. It’s nothing but my love for singing and music. It’s also my nature. I want to sing till I can. I don’t want to sit idle. And this spirit of mine reflects in my songs. A song can keep a person alive. Music is the reason why I’m still alive and kicking.

Songs are an integral part of Bollywood films and the lyrics of the songs are equally important. Do you feel today’s songs have meaningful lyrics and substance?

Not at all. I don’t like the lyrics of songs nowadays. If the lyrics aren’t good, how do you expect the singer to add feeling or any emotion? If the song lacks emotion, then as a singer it’s difficult for me to express myself.   Bengali and Nepali songs have become more meaningful than Hindi songs. Nevertheless, the trend is changing and we are getting lots of slow music through Hindi songs.

With the changing music trends, have you ever felt that you had to change yourself as a singer?

There have been instances when I had to change myself as a singer. For example, in our era songs were recorded in studios on CDs and records. In Mumbai all these music stores have shut down. My songs are now recorded on the internet. It’s a big change for me as a singer.

Your songs top the list of favourites for every music lover. Which songs are close to your heart?

I have many favourites but there are a few songs that are close to my heart. I love the songs of the film Umrao Jaan. I also like Pancham’s songs and one of my favourite is ”˜Do Lafzon ki hai’. I’m also fond of songs of Madan Mohan, OP Nayyar, and Roshan. I usually hum their songs and sufi songs.

Besides a penchant for singing, what are your other interests?

I do my riyaaz daily and then I go to my kitchen. I also love reading books in Hindi. I believe our language and expressions can improve by reading books by famous poets in Urdu, Marathi and Hindi.

We do know you are also famous for your culinary skills and are a successful restauranteur. You get flooded with requests by Bollywood celebrities for your kadai gosht and biryani. When you come to Australia, will you try the Aussie cuisine?

When it comes to food and fashion, I’m an Indian. I’m very old fashioned. I like eating Indian food and wearing Indian clothes. It’s not that I’m saying western food and clothes are bad, they are good, but Indian food has always been my preference. I’m very fond of cooking and feeding people. I love cooking Punjabi and Marathi food. I have become a biryani expert and cook all kinds of biryani, be it mutton, chicken or vegetarian. If someone comes over for a feast, then it’s even more fun. I enjoy feeding more than eating. At this age, I don’t eat much. In my restaurants, home cooked meals like daal and bhaingan ka bharta are the most popular dishes. In India we are very lucky to have different kind of cuisines.

The way you know the right spices for your dishes, what are the ingredients of a perfect song?

Music is food for soul. As a singer it’s important to understand the meaning of the song so it can be correctly expressed. We have to emote the song accordingly. If it’s a love song, we need to understand the depth of love. If it’s an item song, we need to bring out the sexiness. If it’s a sad song, we need to feel the sadness of the song. Like every dish has it’s own spices, every song has a different spice.

You are a master of a variety of genres in music. But what kinds of songs do you like singing?

I don’t differentiate songs according to their genre. The song needs to be good – be it a sad song, a cabaret song or a folk song. I embrace the song and give my best to it. As a personal choice, I love classical songs.

Can you share your most memorable performances with us?

I have sung for so many years and performed for so many concerts, that’s it’s difficult to recount the most memorable moments. But I do remember as a child I always wanted to perform in the biggest theatre at New York which came true. Another dream come true is to perform in the iconic Sydney Opera House. I’m very happy that my dreams are being fulfilled.

By your upcoming performance in Sydney Opera House, you are not only fulfilling your dream, but a dream of thousands of your fans. What can your fans expect from your performance on March 14 in Sydney?

I’m coming to Australia and would sing all kinds of songs. From qawali, folk, sad songs to Indian opera songs, there will be something for everyone. If my fans are looking forward to my visit, I’m also eagerly waiting in preparation to perform in Australia.

I’m sure my last question is lingering on everyone’s mind. A successful career spanning over six decades – what’s your success mantra?

I entered the music world to sing and that’s all what I did. I gave my full devotion to singing and worked very hard. My success is the outcome of my hard work. I feel that today I’m enjoying my success more than yesteryears. This is what God had planned out for me and I’m thankful to Him.








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