According to Asha Bhosle, music is like a never-ending river. And, when she celebrates her 90th birthday on Friday with a live concert in Dubai, India’s singer for all times and ages could be describing her own career, which began an unbelievable eight decades ago. “At the age of 90, I have to stand for three hours on stage and sing songs, and I’m happy I can do this at this age,” Bhosle told PTI in an interview before of the concert.
She sang her debut film song “Chala Chala Nav Bala” for the Marathi film “Majha Bal” in 1943. Eighty years and 12,000 songs later, Bhosle is back on stage – and shows no signs of slowing down.
Music, she said simply, is like breathing. And it wasn’t always easy, said the singer whose voice has emoted every nuance and every mood for actors down generations, right from Meena Kumari to Kajol and hundreds of others in between.
“Humari saans nahin hoti hai toh aadmi mar jata hai. Mere liye music meri saans hai (For me, music is my breath). I have spent my life with this thought. I have given a lot to music. I feel good I’ve come out of difficult times. Many times I felt I would not be able to survive, but I did,” Bhosle said.
From peppy numbers such as “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja” and “O Haseena Zulfon Wali” to soulful ghazals like “Dil Cheez Kya Hai” and the classical “Tora Man Darpan Kehlaye”, Bhosle has been the voice millions of Indians have tuned into day and night.
Her middle name may very well be versatile. Her music has found favour with foreign bands as well, as she is always willing to innovate. Some of her songs were covered by the Black Eyed Peas. She also worked with Boy George, Stephen Lauscombe, and international cricketer Brett Lee.
And in 2020, she marked her YouTube debut with the single “Main Hoon”, dedicated to spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
“Music kabhi khatam nahin hota. Ye dariya hai (Music never ends, it’s like a river). If anyone says, ‘I feel complete’, then this is wrong to say, because no one is complete. It is always about how you can change or evolve with time,” she said.
“I’ve sung songs for the main artist and for the dancers as well. I believe I could fit in well with anyone. But I wish I had sung more songs in different languages. I wish I could have done more classical singing,” Bhosle added.
Looking back on her extensive body of work, the singer admitted that navigating the ups and downs of the extremely competitive music industry hasn’t been easy, but she’s grateful to have survived the challenges.
“In every field, there’s politics. In films too there’s politics, so it is not easy. I believe a lot in destiny and I believe whatever is meant for me will come to me and what is not meant for me, I’ll never get that. I faced difficulties but today when I look back, it all looks mazedar (fun) as I came out of it,” she said.
As she readies to go on stage again, the birthday girl exudes the same spirit.
‘ASHA@90: Live in concert’ is big and special, she said.
“It is like a Broadway show, there are many dancers, musicians and technicians. The stage is going to be big. I’ve never done a show on such a big level. It is a special show,” she said.
“I didn’t plan to celebrate the birthday this way. My son and family members wanted it to be celebrated this way,” she added about the extravaganza touted as the first of its kind musical show.
This performance comes nearly five decades after Bhosle’s debut overseas performance at the Royal Albert Hall in the United Kingdom in 1976, which was attended by Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. In Dubai, she will perform some of her most popular songs as well as pay tribute to legendary Indian singers and musicians.
“The songs will play out according to my journey, like the classical songs, the film songs I did, and how I changed my style, the songs that I sang with other legendary singers and musicians. In a way, we are paying tribute to all the legends who have left us,” she said.
Bhosle’s son Anand Bhosle along with PME entertainment, a global event management company, is developing ‘ASHA@90: Live in concert’.
Performing on the stage still makes her nervous.
“I do rehearsals before the concert. Since this time we have chosen some different kinds of songs, something which I’ve never sung, so for those songs, we are working hard, doing more rehearsals.
“Before going on stage, I’m very nervous, I also yawn a lot. I feel like I should just run away somewhere. But then I remember god and my parents, and then the moment I’m on stage I forget everything just by looking at the love of the audience,” she said.
Bhosle recently said she is the last Mughal in the music industry. Asked to explain, she said she was referring to the outstanding work of singers and musicians of her era.
“Some of the old songs are still a hit. For instance ‘Dum Maro Dum’ is a more than 50-year-old song but is still widely loved. It feels good when people love our songs, even out of India and within. It is because some of the old songs were very well written, well composed and well sung. All the singers would sing so well be it Mohammed Rafi sahab, Kishore, Mukesh ji, and others. ‘Abhi, sab khali ho gaya hai’ (Today, it feels empty),” she said.
Bhosle had discussed the possibility of a performance under the name “The Last Mughal” with her elder sister, the late Lata Mangeshkar.
“I just said like that because Didi (Mangeshkar) had said we both sisters will do a show and we will call it ‘Last Mughal’. That thing was playing in my head; hence this came out. I didn’t mean to say that ‘I’m a maharani or I’m great’, what I meant is I know the industry closely for many years,” she added.