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<b>Asha Bhonsle-The Best peerless Entertainer</b> Asha Bhonsle-The Best peerless Entertainer

Topic started by k (@ on Tue Apr 29 01:13:25 EDT 2003.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Asha, the peerless entertainer

Arthur J Pais | April 26, 2003 15:24 IST

Asha Bhosle simply loves performing abroad.

"It is amazing to see the enthusiasm and love you get here, in Canada and England," she had said during an interview in New York a few years ago. "Indians here do not take us for granted. They are serious about our music."

Since they get to hear singers like her once in two years, perhaps even three, they come to the shows with great enthusiasm. "There are at times requests for songs going back to the 1950s, some beautiful songs that I might have momentarily forgotten," she had said, chuckling. "Of course, I don't have time to sing every request."

So don't ask her to sing hit numbers from the 1950s and 1960s from such films as Vachan, Nau Do Gyarah and Mere Sanam. Or her first movie song composed by the late A R Qureishi, better known as Ustad Alla Rakha, the tabla maestro. She says even songs like the landmark numbers Dum maro dum from Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Chura liya from Yaadon Ki Baaraat, which are about three decades old, are quite 'ancient'.

"I draw a line there," she now says, laughing gently. "Don't ask me to go beyond."

Bhosle, who enjoys poking fun at her age ("When you reach my age, you can afford to say anything on stage"), says she is only too happy that people are remembering her gems from over 50 years ago.

"But they should also remember we have limited time at concerts," she says. She is quick to add that she has energy -- even at this age -- to sing all night.

What is also gratifying is that hundreds of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Guyana came for the concerts. "So the artistes have even more reason to feel elated and challenged while performing abroad," she says.

She might have added that she draws a huge number of younger desis. A few years ago, I bumped into a dozen Trinidadian teenagers at Queens who were heading for her concert.

Do they go for many desi concerts, I had asked. "Only when movie stars come," several chorused.

A young girl explained why they were making an exception this time. "We have heard she is so much fun, and she is going to sing some really hip songs. Watching her would be more fun than watching a film star, unless he is Hrithik Roshan or Shah Rukh Khan."

Bhosle says she tries to reach out to all segments of the audience. So she would have Kambakth ishq (Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya) as the opening number, but will not forget the golden oldies. She will also include A R Rahman compositions such as Radha kaise na jale from Lagaan not only because they are outstanding and immensely popular, but also for a sentimental reason. Rahman's faith in her had resulted in the immensely popular Rangeela songs, encouraging many young composers to start reserving songs for her.

Bhosle will perform in New York on April 26 at the Nassau Coliseum as part of 14 concerts in Trinidad, America and Canada. The New York concert will be the fifth in the series. "Performing in each city is a different experience," she says, adding that she had had a wonderful experience in Miami, her previous stop. "But somehow New York is unique. It is like performing in the entertainment capital of the world."

Bhosle has been accompanied over the years by upcoming singers. And, at times, by singers like Amit Kumar, whose career she has been trying to resurrect. Sonu Nigam, for instance, performed with her at the Madison Square Garden in New York and several other venues across America seven years ago. Sudesh Bhosle, who has accompanied her on most of her concerts abroad, is also with her this time. "He is a member of my family and we instinctively understand each other," she had said in a previous interview.

Adnan Sami, whose career has zoomed especially over the last year, was chosen more than a year ago to accompany her, the organisers of the show say. This is the first time he is performing with her in North America. This is also the first time he is singing before such a wide audience. While other venues for their shows had about 2,000 seats, 12,000 seats have been set aside for the concert at the Nassau Coliseum.

The controversy raked up by singer Abhijeet, who demanded that singers of Pakistani origin should not perform and record in India, just before Sami's departure, has had no effect on the concerts, the organisers say. This is a concert that celebrates music, they say, adding that there is no room for politics.

"People love him," says Bhosle, adding that when they perform together, even if it is just one number, there is 'electricity'.

People often ask her how she has managed to keep her voice so young, and how she gets the energy to perform at 14 concerts.

"Frankly, I do not have an answer," she says. "Perhaps I must have done some good in my previous life."

But she also hastens to add that she has never taken anything for granted. She has never thought that just because she has lasted several decades, she will last some more. She does tremendous amount of practice and exercises her vocal chords.

"Today, I don't have to sing even a fraction of the songs I used to sing 20 years ago," she says. "But whatever opportunities come my way, whatever I choose to sing, I do it with great enthusiasm and devotion." There are instances of her taking more than two weeks to practise a particularly challenging number.

The same enthusiasm and devotion turn her concerts into a celebration of haunting, foot-tapping music.

Asha Bhosle, who had a special bond with Kishore Kumar, attributes part of her liveliness on stage to the late singer-actor. "I cannot stand in one place and sing for three hours," she says. "By nature, I like to make things lively."

She says part of her talent for mimicking and storytelling has been inherited from her father, the late Dinanath Mangeshkar, who was also a renowned theatre actor, singer and musician way back in the 1930s.

She never fails to pay tribute to her father at her concerts, and oftens tell a heartfelt story about 'Didi' Lata Mangeshkar, never mind the alleged rivalry between the sisters. She also talks about her association with favourite composers, even talks fondly of composers who used her sparingly. At one concert, she revealed that she had named one of her sons Hemant as a tribute to the late composer-singer Hemant Kumar.

Bhosle often talks about her artistic relationship with composer Khayyam who gave her one of her big breaks in Phir Subah Hogi nearly five decades ago. Several decades later, he wanted her to sing all the songs in Umrao Jaan. She needed no nudging to accept the offer, but she was touched when Rekha, who played the title role, talked about how Asha made those songs wonderfully melodious. "She [Rekha] predicted the songs and the movie would get awards; her prediction came true spectacularly," she adds.

Music is the most important part of her show, she says, quickly adding that she makes the show even more interesting with the memories and jokes. Not to forget the times she dances merrily as she sings one of her hit numbers. "By now, everyone knows I do not just sing standing in the middle of the stage," she continues. "I also dance and get others to dance with me."

She 'truly performs', she asserts. "And that is why my shows drive people mad."


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