She is a living legend with an active career of six decades and she needs no introduction. Padma Vibhushan-honoured Asha Bhosle turned 86 on Sunday and, in between celebrations with close friends and family in Dubai, she took out time for a quick tete-a-tete with IANS over the phone.
Bhosle, who celebrated her birthday after 11 years, says she was surprised to see so many people turn up to wish her on her special day at her Dubai restaurant, Asha’s.
“I celebrated my birthday here at the restaurant and so many people came to wish me. I really wasn’t expecting so many to turn up. In fact, the restaurant got crowded. I felt overwhelmed, really. People’s love is something that cannot be achieved in any other ways. I feel fortunate. You know it is after 11 years that I celebrated a birthday.”
Life otherwise, she insists, has not changed over the years.
“Every morning I wake up to music even today, I do my riyaaz for an hour every day. Riyaaz is not a task for me, it is my lifestyle. I carry an electric tanpura even when I travel, and for one hour, wherever I am, I have to do my riyaaz. That is my way of starting my day, there is no other way for me. If God has gifted me a voice, I should keep nurturing it. Regular riyaaz beautifies and maintains the voice. Iska koi shortcut nahin hai.” Bhosle said.
Why did she decide to celebrate her birthday away from her very own city Mumbai this time? “Every time I come to Dubai I get so much love from fans. Every year on my birthday, people from here make video calls to wish me. They come to my restaurant here and look for me. So, I thought why not celebrate my birthday here this time? For me, it was more about meeting fans at my restaurant, arranging food that I specially curate for our menu, and also have a good time,” she said.
Since the late 1940s till Bhosle has sung numerous blockbuster hits including “Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko”, “Parde mein rehne do”, “Piya tu ab toh aa ja”, “Dum maro dum”, “Yeh mera dil”, “Mera kuchh samaan”, “Dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaan lijiye”, among others. This time, the iconic singer shared her passion for food.
“I designed the menu which is a combination of veg and non-veg cuisine. I love cooking and feeding people, and I really take special care of what should be on the menu. For instance, in the biryani section, I especially included fish biryani and Kesar biryani. Sultani kebab is one of the recipes I got from Lucknow. It is prepared in an old style of cooking,” she said.
Among Hindus, there is the tradition of avoiding onions and garlic, and also fasting, during festival months. Bhosle kept this in mind while designing her menu. “During our Hindu festivals, when people in Dubai are fasting, they can come and eat food here. I have instructed the kitchen to cook food separately without touching onion or garlic. I am an old-school about these things.”
Born in 1933 on September 8 into the musical family of Master Deenanath Mangeshkar, Bhosle learned music since childhood and, as a kid, she not only gathered inspiration from her father but also her elder sister, the Nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar.
Bhosle has many special memories of past birthdays. She recalled one for us: “This one time, many fans had come to wish me all through the day. I was with my children Varsha and Anand. As all of us were exhausted, so we decided to dine out. Anand said he wanted Chinese but Varsha was in the mood to eat Indian food. They started arguing in the car, and I said, ‘Eat whatever you children want, just don’t fight!’.
Finally, we made our way into a hotel, and inside a dark room. Then, suddenly the lights came on, and I find myself in a room studded with my loved ones — there was (late husband) RD Burman, Lata (Mangeshkar) didi, my mother, (younger sisters) Usha and Meena, (brother) Hridaynath, besides industry colleagues including Hariharan, Shailender Singh, Nitin Mukesh among many others. I was so surprised! We sang and chatted all through that memorable evening. Since that birthday, this year’s has to be the special one. I am celebrating with my fans this time.”
The singer last lent her voice for the 2017 Bollywood film “Begum Jaan”, with the song ‘Prem mein tohre’, which was picturised by Vidya Balan.
Bhosle, the first-ever Indian artiste to be nominated for a Grammy Award, said that although she sings these days, she missed the golden old days when she worked with iconic music directors such as OP Nayyar, RD Burman, Khayyam, and Madan Mohan among many others.
“I still record songs, but for me, things are not as glorious as they used to be. Those days, those people” she trailed off, into a flood of sweet nostalgia.