‘Bollywood playback doyenne’ might be an apt way to describe her but we aren’t quite sure if Asha Bhosle herself would like to be called that. She’s more like a rockstar, an indefatigably cool figure in the Hindi film industry whose music has both grooved and moved us beyond words.
Given her youthful exuberance, it is easy to forget that Bhosle turns 85 today. It’s more likely she turns a year younger. And, really, how amazing it would be to have her age backwards, because that would simply mean many more years of music, food, wisdom, her candour and tangy sense of humour.
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The evergreen Bhosle has been singing playback in Hindi films for nearly seven decades, a feat that has earned her an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for recording over 11,000 songs in 20 different languages.
Those are unprecedented numbers by any reckoning, and it’s quite possible no Bollywood singer in the future will be able to top that record. And yet, for most of her life Bhosle had to deal with being the perennial ‘Number 2,’ a not-so-subtle reference for having to remain under the gigantic shadow of the banyan tree called Lata Mangeshkar.
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Asha Bhosle was born on 8th September, 1933 in a Gomantak Marathi Brahmin family in Sangli, Maharashtra. She was the third among five siblings. Her father, Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar was a renowned classical singer and stage actor. Her mother Shevanti was Pandit Dinanath’s second wife. She trained in classical music from a very young age along with her other siblings. Though she had her brush with acting as a child artist, it was quite natural for her to choose singing.
Sadly, her father passed away suddenly in 1942 which was a huge emotional as well as financial setback for the family. She took up acting and singing along with elder sister, Lata Mangeshkar. The family had to move from Pune to Bombay on insistence of mentor and family friend Master Vinayak. Asha got the chance to sing in a Marathi film when she was just ten years old in 1943.
It was ‘Chala Chala Nav Bala’ for the film ‘Majha Bal’ with composer Datta Davjekar. Her first foray into Hindi film playback happened with the song ‘Saawan Aaya’ from the film ‘Chunariya’ with composer Hansraj Behl in 1948. When she was 16, she eloped with her sister Lata Mangeshkar’s personal secretary, Ganpatrao Bhosle and married him much against the family’s wishes.
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The marriage failed miserably and Asha Bhosle was driven out by Ganpatrao. She came back to her maternal home with two kids, Hemant and Varsha, and pregnant with the third one, Anand. Ashaji met Rahul Dev Burman while working as a playback singer and they got married in 1980. The marriage was a happy one and lasted till Rahul’s death in 1994.
Awards and Honours
Asha Bhosle’s talent has been recognised by a series of awards and honours from different authorities. She received the Dada SahebPhalke award in 2000. She was honoured with the Padma Vibushan Award by the Government of India in 2008. She won 8 Filmfare awards in the best Female Playback Singer Category in the years 1968, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1979. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Filmfare in 2001.
She has won 2 national Awards, in 1981 for the song ‘Dil Cheez Kya hai’ from Umrao Jaan and in 1986 for ‘Mera Kuchh Saman’ from the film Ijaazat. She also won the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in 2002 in the Best Playback Singer Female Category for the song ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ from the film Lagaan. She also won the Lata Mangeshkar Award from the Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1989.
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Apart from a Grammy nomination, she bagged an Immies in 2005. She received honorary degrees from University of Amaravati, University of Jalgaon and Jodhpur National University.