Book Review: Raju Bharatan’s Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography

At the risk of being labelled an iconoclast and being trolled by diehard Lata fans, I have mentioned several times on this blog how much I like Asha Bhonsle. It’s not that I don’t like Lata: I do, very much, and there are many, many songs of hers that I cannot imagine anyone else singing, or singing better than she does. But when I think of Asha, of Aage bhi jaane na tu and Saba se yeh keh do and Yehi woh jagah hai… I cannot help but think that Asha is too often unfairly dismissed as being second to her Didi.

So, when I was offered a chance to review Raju Bharatan’s Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography (Hay House Publishers India Pvt Ltd, ₹599, 332 pages), I jumped at it. (If you want to read a shorter and more tactful review, read the one I wrote for The New Indian Express, here).

Raju Bharatan's 'Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography'

Bharatan’s book is a bit of a misnomer (but that, as you’ll see later in this review, pretty much applies to a lot of the contents of the book as well). Because this is not so much a biography of Asha as a hotchpotch of ideas, facts and details, most of them badly structured and eventually not enough to merit a book this long.

Don’t get me wrong; Bharatan does cover the basic ground when it comes to Asha’s life, or what is generally known of it: her elopement, when she was just fourteen, with Bhonsle; her long affair with OP Nayyar, and her partnering—personal and professional—with RD Burman. Her rivalry with Lata Mangeshkar. These details, however, are at times spotty: for instance, Bharatan goes into unsavoury depth regarding Asha’s relationship with OP Nayyar, but says next to nothing about Asha’s early life, growing up in the Mangeshkar household.

Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle

Writing about Asha’s career, Bharatan uses a few pivotal points, the main ones being her associations with the three main composers who gave definitive shape to her voice and her singing: SD Burman, OP Nayyar, and RD Burman. He discusses, in a fair bit of depth, each of these men, as composers and as human beings: the ‘self-centred’ SD Burman, the OP Nayyar who would use slaps to drive home a tune, the Pancham who, despite being married to Asha, gave some of his best tunes to Lata. He describes many songs and films, both landmark and obscure; he writes about other singers, male and female, and Asha’s dynamics with them, he lists—in painstaking detail—numbers. How many songs with this composer, how many songs with that, how many duets with Rafi, how many with Kishore, and so on. Impressive.

Why, then, did I not especially enjoy this book? Why did I heave a sigh of relief when I reached the end?

Firstly, because it’s poorly structured. One gets the impression that Raju Bharatan had a few select points to make—Asha vis-à-vis Lata, Asha vis-à-vis OP Nayyar/SD Burman/RD Burman, Asha versus Anuradha Paudwal, Asha in the new age—and he goes on repeating them again and again at different points of the book. Asha’s summary dismissal of the role OP Nayyar played in shaping her voice (and her career), for instance, gets repeated several times throughout the book.

Asha Bhosle with OP Nayyar

Even otherwise, one tends to get the impression that Mr Bharatan is trying to stretch the book; there’s a lot of pointless rambling here and there. This, for instance: “It [Ae kaash kisi deewaane se] is an ultra-bright tune in which Lata on Asha Parekh lends vivacious voice to the idea of our Aaye Din Bahaar Ke star attraction unfurling as the glamour puss of glamour pusses. But the vastly underrated Nazima comes across as a tomboy all joy as she visually vivifies on Asha Bhosle spiritedly standing up to a Lata Mangeshkar. The ‘seasoned’ Asha Parekh looks the picture of ‘spring is here’ as the one symbolizing Aaye Din Bahaar Ke. But Nazima is not far behind in capturing the spirit of spring. Ae kaash kisi deewaane ko is just the kind of blues-chaser to come off in the well-harmonised Aaye Din Bahaar Ke voices of Lata-Asha. There is light-legged buoyancy to Laxmikant-Pyarelal getting Lata-Asha to tune with Asha Parekh-Nazima…”

Ae kaash kisi deewaane ko

There is an abundance of adjectives and adverbs (many of them misplaced; Khushwant Singh described as “without batting a blue-turbanned eyelid” is priceless). There are painful puns (“Much water had flowed under the Howrah Bridge by then… indeed Asha – even given the peerless presence of Madhubala opposite Ashok Kumar – had failed to Howrah Bridge the gap between Geeta and her…”). And some of it is downright ludicrous: “Ashok Kumar, in the Travancordial arms of a Padmini looking as Keralovely as ever…”). In addition, the distinctly Yoda-ish construction of most sentences put me off.

Bharatan writes with authority, and—considering he was pretty much in the thick of things—I would not be inclined to question most of what he puts forth as fact (except, possibly, an incident he mentions about Roshan telling him, Bharatan, to pass on a message to SD Burman that he, Roshan, had borrowed Burman’s Thandi hawaaein lehraake aayein as a base for Rahein na rahein hum. This, considering that Rahein na rahein hum was a fairly faithful copy of Roshan’s own tune, Tera dil kahaan hai, for Chandni Chowk, in 1954, sounds as if someone—Bharatan or Roshan—was confused).

Tera dil kahaan hai, from Chandni Chowk

Or perhaps it’s just a case of Bharatan trying to alert us to his importance in the golden days of Hindi cinema. Some of the anecdotes he recounts would, at any rate, be more appropriate to a Raju Bharatan memoir than an Asha Bhonsle biography.

All said and done, I found this book disappointing. It does give us an idea of Asha and her career, and (for me, more interesting) Hindi cinema back in the 50s and 60s—but the writing itself leaves a lot to be desired. Enough, at least, to not make me want to read more of Bharatan.


40 thoughts on “Book Review: Raju Bharatan’s Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography

  1. I am not surprised. As a College Going student , initially enjoyed his writings on Films and Cricket. But gradually found the play of words very very painful. Much of his past writings I found an undercurrent of spreading rumours with an air of authority so that they appear to be true and also trying to portray one artiste against the other. You saved me Rs 600. I would rather spend a day listening to Songs of Asha singing for Dada Burman, OP Nayyar & Ravi. I only comment on your blog on songs that I liked (Almost all of your choices). But could not stop myself writing about the Author


    • “But gradually found the play of words very very painful.

      I don’t recall having ever read Raju Bharatan before (unless in some brief article), but plodding through this book was very painful. At least if something is written in good, simple language, without these lame attempts at wordplay, one can still read it. Here, the language got in the way of actually understanding the book.

      Definitely, a day of listening to Asha sing is far better than reading this.


      • Madhu, you’re absolutely right ! When I got this book from flipkart in July. I wanted to pounce on it. A book about one of my 2 absolute favourite female singers. But when I began to read it , it put me off. The main reason was Bharatan’s odd style (which jarred even in his earlier books “A journey down melody lane” and “Naushadnaama”. O why in hell can’t he write normally Without twisting sentences and words into nonsense… words like Keralovely arms ,Ugh. My hands were itching for a pencil to reconstruct the sentences and improve the syntax. What I really wanted from the book was a clinical biography starting from the beginning & then going on till one reaches the end (as Alice is told to do !} With all of Asha’s films & songs listed chapter by chapter from her earliest onwards. instead it’s a mixed up mish-mash with no head or tail. And he has concentrated on 3 music directors only, who he says have MADE Asha. What about Ravi , Sapan Jagmohan and others….. Besides, a reserved person like me positively cringes at reading about the love affairs or rumours of two not so physically lovely people ! So ,I’d say keep their personal lives to a bare minimum. His chapters have no chronological order & he jumps from one decade to another at the drop of a hat. All that said, however Raju Bharatan is at present the WONLY (oh sorry that should have read ONLY) correspondent & expert who not only has a phenomenal knowledge of Hindi film music of those times,& the pronunciation of Urdu words, but was also present physically at most of the recordings then. .So he needs a ghost writer and a complete revamp of the book…. …However, I like him because in magazine articles of his, he has praised Sadhana to the skies in the picturisation of her songs & her overall loveliness. In the “Aaye din bahaar ke” song , “Ae kaash kisi deewane ko..” Naazima seems to go out of her way to copy her idol Sadhana’s dance movements from “Tere pyaar me dildaar” to the hilt ! At this same time I read Sujata Dev’s book , “Mohd Rafi. Golden voice of the Silver Screen ” which was marginally better. { As a life long fan of Agatha Christie’s I just hated her autobio coz it just concentrated on her personal travels abroad, and nothing about how she went on to write each of her novels…. what a waste that was. A fan is obsessed by the books he reads & the songs he listens too, not about how many oranges the author ate in New Zealand ! Shammi Kapoor’s book is out too , it’s called “The 50 shades of Grey” — no, sorry -that book was on the top of the stack in my library ! No, it’s called “The Game Changer” by Rauf Ahmed.


        • I have never read Agatha Christie’s autobiography – I would’ve thought that would have been worth reading! But no, I certainly am not interested in how many oranges she ate in New Zealand or wherever. Good Lord! I’ve seen the Rauf Ahmed bio of Shammi Kapoor in bookstores but haven’t got it. Somehow, since Shammi Kapoor is such a favourite of mine, I am a little apprehensive of stumbling across things I’d rather not know – have you already read it?


  2. Madhu, I read the paragraph on Ae kaash kisi deewane se and now have a headache. Thank you for saving me the time and the money (from buying the book). One thing I have learnt from reading Mr Bharatan over the years is that he is so full of self-importance – there are some articles where he talks of ‘Salil’ sending him a tune, and asking his opinion. So his tale of Roshan smacks of the same glorification of self that he has consistently been doing for the last so many years.

    I have no doubt that as a journalist of note, he had access to many of the film people – actors, directors, singers, music directors et al. But I do seriously doubt his self-proclaimed ‘authority’ or even ‘facts’. I’m convinced, from reading him over the years, that he makes them up to suit his fancy. For instance, in an article following Raj Kapoor’s death, he spoke about how RK had ‘introduced’ his brother-in-law, Premnath, in Barsaat. Forgetting perhaps that Premnath had been re-introduced in Aag in 1948, which was RK’s first film. (I’m not entirely sure it was not Premnath’s debut as well – he was supposed to have acted in another film the previous year, but I cannot find any trace of it.)

    His unauthorised biography of Lata Mangeshkar, written when he was at outs with her, is so nasty and so full of rumour-expressed-as-fact that I lost all respect for the man. For a senior journalist to stoop so low is unacceptable. And if you think this book is rambling and filled with misplaced adverbs (which I believe from your excepts), you should try reading his Naushadnama. Aaargh!


    • “you should try reading his Naushadnama. Aaargh!

      No, thank you. :-D Having read this, a very emphatic NO. *nahin face*.

      You’d reviewed a book of his – I’ve forgotten which one – so I was pretty much prepared for the self-aggrandisement. What took me by surprise was the sheer awfulness of the language and the rambling, incoherent nature of the writing. Why on earth a publisher like Hay would publish a shoddy book like this is beyond me (but of course, they’re probably banking on his name to push sales). I found this book tedious, to say the least. I probably wouldn’t know rumour from fact since I don’t follow gossip (which Bharatan seems to excel in), but yes, some of what he mentions does sound a little suspect (Asha and OPN ‘spooning’ – to use his word – in public? Okay, that’s kinda bold).

      No more Bharatan books for me, thank you.


  3. Thanks for the warning, dear Madhu.
    Well-written and well-warned, if I may use Mr.Bharatan’s way of writing.
    I like the song, ‘ae kash kisi deewane ko’, but reading Mr. Bharatan’s description has put me off it.


    • You’re welcome, Harvey. :-) Yes, that description of Ae kaash kisi deewaane ko is painful, isn’t it? And there are dozens of other songs described in a similar way. This was just one example. :-)


  4. I remember reading various columns and articles written by Raju Bharatan as I was growing up – while I do not recall what his style of writing was at that time, I remember looking forward to them since he had a lot of inside information (or so it seemed) about the industry. I am sure a lot of it was accurate since at the time, he was talking about people that were still alive – and he was very much dependent on maintaining his relationships with the industry. While he has garnered a reputation for being petty and scrappy, I think the reality is that there is a lot of back-biting and crappy behavior in the industry (enough to make one’s toes curl), and people don’t want to necessarily hear such stories about their idols. So as the person who talks about it, Raju Bharatan takes a lot of criticism. The Lata book aggregated several stories that have been making the rounds in the industry for years – and it shattered the image that she had created around herself.
    Over time however, it felt like everything he was writing became more about himself – who he knew, how much he knew, how he had all these peoples’ confidences And around then, I realized that the style was very annoying – the Lata book was one of the first times it hit me in the face. There was a stream of consciousness style that desperately screamed for some organization. The more annoyed I got with his style, the more annoying his content seemed as well and it was pretty much downhill from there.
    Thanks for the review Madhu. You validated what I anticipated. I will probably still buy this book just because it is about Asha – independent of her being rated unfairly against her sister, I still think she is, in absolute terms the overall better singer. But that debate is possibly for another day and comments in some other more apt thread.


    • “There was a stream of consciousness style that desperately screamed for some organization. The more annoyed I got with his style, the more annoying his content seemed as well and it was pretty much downhill from there.

      You put that better than I could have. Yes, that is exactly how I felt, too. I don’t recall ever having read anything by Bharatan before (though I may have, considering my parents subscribed to The Illustrated Weekly for many years). But this book reeked of a certain egotism that was thoroughly off-putting. Especially when taken in conjunction with the language.

      (And, I agree with you about her being the better singer. I think she’s far more versatile than Lata, for one. But yes. that’s a debate for another thread, another post).


    • Sangeetbhakt, I will freely admit that I love Lata’s voice. But so do I Asha, Geeta, Rafi, Kishore, Manna Dey and a host of others as well. So I do not come from the position of a rabid ‘fan’ who has a problem if someone points out what you call ‘crappy’ behaviour in the film industry. I do have a problem with the way Bharatan positions various conflicts, however.

      I was a journalist myself, and I can narrate an incident any number of ways. I know how the ‘slant’ of an article colours the way the person who is being written about is perceived. Yes, there were/are several stories circulating about Lata. How many of them are true, and to what extent they are true – these are matters of conjecture. I say this, because I’ve found that we, as a nation, have a habit of building up our idols to be sacred cows – no one can/should say a word against them – and then, when we think they are too big, pulling them down mercilessly, attributing to them every flaw under the sun, whether true or not. Our icons can ony be saints or sinners – we do not allow them to be humans. We do this quite mercilessly, and in today’s times, quite profanely, as if it is their responsibility to be as we want them to be. It’s happened to Lata, and Asha wasn’t spared either. Thankfully, Rafi died before he could be hung on the cross. Dilip, Amitabh, Shahrukh, Aamir – they have all seen this happen. So has Aishwarya, to an extent that is disgusting.

      That, is the matter of a lay person. What was a senior journalist like Bharatan thinking of, when he wrote a book that, in any Western country, would have left him open to charges of libel? A lot of his Lata biography were rumours disguised as facts – and that is what I object to. That goes against everything I was taught as a journalist, back in the days when journalism still meant something. In today’s anything-goes pulp media circus, it is a different matter. But he, of all people. should know what journalistic ethics mean.

      His sense of self-aggrandizement is unbelievable. He woudl have you believe that composers like Naushad, Burman (senior), Salil et al came to him to approve their compositions!

      As far as having to be accurate because he was still working with the industry and ‘needed’ them, Bharatan was at outs with Lata when he wrote the book. He is at outs with Asha, and this ‘biography’ of hers has no input from her at all. It appears that anyone can write anything and get away with it because ‘fact’. That he was part of the industry and knows it quite well cannot be disputed. That he, like Khalid Mohammed, has a tendency to skewer the celebrities who displease him, is also an open secret.

      IMO, Bharatan is a petty, vindictive man, who likes to pretend he’s more important than he actually is.

      Madhu, sorry for this long diatribe on your blog. :)


      • “As far as having to be accurate because he was still working with the industry and ‘needed’ them, Bharatan was at outs with Lata when he wrote the book.”

        You know, I don’t think RB was particularly careful about his facts even during his active days in the industry. Friends from that time tell me that he was known to be a gossip-monger (a “Narada Muni” as one described him) and an instigator back in the 6os itself. The Anil Biswas-Rafi fracas, the SDB-Lata-Jaidev tiff, the Aradhana was really scored by RDB tale, Lata’s Guinness Book record fiasco – all have RB’s fingerprints over them.


        • Friends from that time tell me that he was known to be a gossip-monger (a “Narada Muni” as one described him) and an instigator back in the 6os itself.

          Wow. Incidentally, he mentions all of the issues you’ve mentioned, in this book too. Not surprising, I guess.


      • I don’t mind at all, Anu, because what you say makes a lot of sense. That summing up of Bharatan at the end had me nodding eagerly. His immaturity, his need to constantly keep trying to show himself as being kowtowed to, came across quite strongly all through this book.

        And – I can’t get over this – how on earth could Khushwant Singh have tied a turban on his eyelid? Doesn’t it impede one’s vision?


        • how on earth could Khushwant Singh have tied a turban on his eyelid?

          I would have liked to have heard Khushwant Singh’s response to this statement. :) That salty Sikh would have annihilated Bharatan, and by God, he could write! :)

          Also, what on earth were the editors at Hays doing that they didn’t catch this? Or did this doc come with, ‘Thou shall not touch my exalted copy’?


          • Yes, Khushwant Singh certainly knew how to write!

            I have a feeling this book probably came to Hay with a caveat about not doing any editing. I can’t imagine any editor even halfway competent being satisfied with rubbish like this. Forget about the rambling and repetitive nature of the content; the language itself is so amateur and painful.


  5. Thanks for saving your readers from investing in such a book. I have his Lata book gifted by a friend ( the only filmi book I owned till recently ). That was one hodgepodge of a book just as you described his Asha’s. I would pick it up every now and then, get lost in his sentences as to what is he trying to tell, and give up. It has become more of a reference book of Lata’s songs. Anu had warned me about his writing :). I do like Asha a lot, sometimes more than Lata. I wish and hope there would be a better written book about her.


    • I hope someone writes a better book about Asha than Bharatan’s written! There are several very good biographers out there (offhand, I can think of Akshay Manwani and Gautam Chintamani) who, even if they’re less than half Bharatan’s age and haven’t the privilege of having been on the scene, so to say, during the 50s and 60s, write a whole lot better than Bharatan does – and are objective, do their research well, plus are generally far more readable.


  6. A Raju Bharatan book on Asha Bhosle! And you had to read it! Poor, poor Madhu! Anu’s already prosecuted the case against the hack Bharatan so all that’s left for me to do is offer sympathy – which I most sincerely do.:-)

    As someone who falls in the same bucket as you with regards to Hindi film playback singers, I read your intro paragraph with bemusement. What does it say about our culture’s tolerance for differing points of view that an admission of preference for one *singer* over another has to be so cautiously made?:-) I love Lata, but love Asha more. Why would anyone else even care about my preference much less be bothered by it? I just don’ *Shrug*

    The other thing that I wanted to comment on, was the bit about RDB giving some of his best tunes to Lata, despite being married to Asha. I seriously don’t understand what’s so remarkable about that? Given how much he he worked with her, it’s to be expected that some of RDB’s best work would be with Lata. Just as some of Madan Mohan’s best is with Asha. All these people are music professionals working together in the same industry. One presumes that they all try to do their best in each song in each movie. I realize the real, not-so-subtle point of the “RDB gave his best to Lata” brigade is to claim that *even* RDB thought Lata was the better singer. To which argument, I say, “Enh, believe whatever you need to enjoy the music.” :-D


    • I didn’t have to read it, Shalini, but since I was offered it – and since I like Asha so much (and, possibly, since I had never read Bharatan before, and so didn’t know what to expect) – I decided I may as well. Never again, I think!

      Oh, yes. The virulent Indian fan’s dislike for differing views. You should read the nasty comments that followed my review of Gautam Chintamani’s biography of Rajesh Khanna. People – and Indians seem to be particularly good at it (possibly a result of what Anu mentions, the national tendency to put idols on pedestals?) – think it’s blasphemous to hold an opinion that’s contrary to their own. Why, I wonder. Isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Just because I am fond of something or someone doesn’t mean that anybody who isn’t equally fond of my idol automatically becomes my enemy and must be targeted. Whew.

      Yes, too, to that remark about RDB and Lata. Why should that make a difference? I suppose Bharatan is giving voice to another Indian institution, nepotism. If you’re married to someone, if you’re in love with someone, if you’re related, whatever… they get preference, always. No matter what. I’ve seen it a lot in the case of writers, for example. Hideous books get rave reviews on Goodreads, sending their figures through the roof – and when you have a look through the list of people who’ve given 5 star ratings and praised the book to the skies, you see they share the author’s surname.


      • Nodding in agreement with both Shalini and you, Madhu. Especially, Shalini’s points about him being Narad Muni; that, he certainly was, insinuating made-up stories, but with an air of one ‘having been there’ and therefore, the no-smoke-without-fire theory.

        But the point I was making with him being on the outs with Lata at the time he wrote her biography was because he went beyond his usual ininuations to outright calumny. It was a vitriolic hatchet job, and done purely on the basis of petty revenge. Just the larger point. I agree with you he’s nothing but a hack. :)

        I also agree with you about professional musicians giving particular songs to particular people – you do what is best for your composition. Manna Dey used to narrate a tale where he was asked to learn a song by his uncle, KC Dey, only to be told that Rafi was going to sing the song, not Manna. What his uncle wanted him to do was to coach Rafi in how he, Dey Senior, wanted him to sing it.. Manna was upset, but his uncle told him bluntly that that song demanded Rafi. This took nothing away from Manna Dey’s own formidable talent. Just that that *one* song required Rafi’s unique talents.

        I echo you – why can”t we just enjoy the music?

        Madhu, I think the broader point of these attacks against personal opinions is that people don’t seem to comprehend English, facts (or both).. To say you like someone’s singing/acting/whatever best doesn’t make all their competitors ‘less than’. If someone says ‘Rafi is the best’, hey, fine, his opinion. Doesn’t mean Kishore is not ‘the best’ for another person. Or Mukesh. Or Manna Dey. Or…I’ve had it up to here with the ‘Lata is the greatest’, ‘Oh, Asha is more versatile’ statements when they become contentious, and have to fought for until death.. As standalone opinions? Hey, as Shalini says, ‘Eh, whatever. Just enjoy the music.’ :)

        p.s. The Rajesh Khanna post comments were brutal. That was reading comprehension at its lowest ebb. And mistaking opinions for facts and vice versa.


        • I have had it up to here, too, with all those people who can’t accept that everybody’s tastes need not match – and that that is perfectly normal. Or that your opinions may also change over time. I mean, look at it this way: I positively drool over the Dev Anand of CID, Nau Do Gyarah and Paying Guest. The Dev Anand of Warrant and other films of that period, on the other hand, I cannot stand. It’s the same with Manoj Kumar – I love him in a lot of his early films (especially the suspense ones), can’t bear him in his uber-patriotic ones.

          And, if anybody held a gun to my head and made me supply one name each for my favourite male singer from Hindi cinema, I may be driven to say Rafi, but I know I’d still be thinking: “What about Hemant singing Tum pukaar lo? Manna Dey and Poochho na kaise maine rain bitaayi? Talat and the songs of Mirza Ghalib?” And even then, it’s not as if I adore every song of Rafi.

          Eh, as Shalini says. Just enjoy the music. Enjoy the movies. Marvel at what turned out so fabulous, irrespective of who did it.


  7. Madhuji,

    This article has generated longish comments unlike most others. I have read Raju Bharatan’s articles but do not remember much and also saw him talking on TV recently. Even on TV, he looked like a motormouth.

    The examples of his writing that you mention definitely put one off unless one is a blind fan. I do not think it is possible for a mature journalist to write this way. So, the only explanation left is that Raju’s age has caught up with him without his realising it.

    My lament is that I have read quite a few books about our great stars but the writing has been uniformly disappointing. The worst was the one on K L Saigal and closely following it was the biography of Sahir Ludhianvi. Dilip Sab’s biography too was very insipid and the writing style brings to mind the essays of average high schoolers. However, evergreen Dev’s autobiography was refreshingly frank and interesting. I have not read Naseeruddin Shah’s highly praised book yet. Would love to read your opinion on it.


    • “So, the only explanation left is that Raju’s age has caught up with him without his realising it.

      Even though I didn’t mention it, that was in the back of my mind too. ;-) What puzzles me is why the publisher agreed to print a book that has obviously not even been allowed to be edited.

      I haven’t read the Saigal book, though I liked Sahir’s biography (I’m assuming you’re talking about the Akshay Manwani book – I’ve reviewed that on this blog, earlier). I have read a very brief excerpt from Dev Anand’s autobiography, and was thoroughly put off (I am not at all keen on gossip about the personal lives of people, and even that brief excerpt was full of salacious secrets – not what I wanted to know). I’ve read a not-too-complimentary review of the Naseeruddin Shah book, too, from someone whose opinion I value, so I don’t intend to waste any money buying that.


    • I remembered that you’d reviewed the book, too, Anu, but I’d forgotten whether you’d liked it or not (and, to be honest, I didn’t have the time to go and search). What stuck with me was another review I’d read, by a friend, who didn’t like all the personal details that filled the book – like me, my friend likes biographies (auto- or not) to be more about the professional lives of people. At any rate, not about whom they slept with and so on. That was her main grouse about the book, and it put me off enough, too.

      (And, as I finish writing this comment, I realize that I’ve written approximately the same thing on my comment on your blog).


      • Do we remember our idols just because they were good at what they do or because of that something more that is difficult against the odds and make them look unreal? In this case I am talking about conventional morality.If the latter is not a necessary need for idolisation then I wonder why do we advertise them for selling Mahabhringaraj Hair oil or being UN ambassadors for education( when maybe they never went to school after their primary education,,voting after having never seen a ballot booth or Preventing Aids or such like ! Professionalism has the monogamous popularity of the mundane but never the xtraordinariness of being not ordinary ! In a “Bharatanish” way gossip or bedroom watching helps in adding up to the resume.Else it is all so photoshopped !


        • I guess you’re probably right about that when it comes to the ‘usual’ Indian fan – which is of course, as you rightly point out, the reason why we see stars endorsing everything under the sun (on a related note: I saw a full-page ad for an upcoming football match, in which all the people lined up and looking straight at the camera were cricketers. There seems to be no logic used when it comes to getting cricketers and film stars to endorse something).

          Personally, I have no interest whatsoever in the personal lives of stars. Yes, I think Shammi Kapoor’s reminiscences of going swimming in the river at Reva – using old tires for flotation – is fun, and Balraj Sahni’s memoirs of his days with the IPTA and the Communist Party make for insightful and good reading, but I’m very happy unaware of the salacious confessions or gossip about who slept with whom and so on. Icky.


  8. Madhu,
    As I read this, I thought it was interesting that it should come so soon after your “Ten tips to write better”, but alas, it is too late for Raju Bharatan now. I would not buy this book, not because of his English, but because I am not a great fan of Asha Bhosle.

    When you mentioned review of his Naushadnama, you might have been thinking of my Raju Bharatan’s ‘Naushadnama’. Bharatan’s style is gossipy, and since he is omnipresent, it creates a doubt about the veracity of his facts. I have a more tolerant view of him, because we, as a society, do lap up gossip about celebrities. He is the Gangotri of most of them about the singers and music directors. I don’t have to start judging people by what he writes. The plus about him, as far as I am concerned, is that I get to now a great deal of songs I had not heard before.


    • Yes, one does get to know a lot about songs and singers one didn’t know before (and, considering my knowledge of those is not a fraction of yours, that should be a huge plus for me). Sadly – perhaps it’s because of the editor in me – I cannot bear such shoddy writing. And since I one of those who have not the slightest liking for gossip, that puts me off as well.


  9. Somewhere in my remark about Lata and Asha, I felt I did not quite express what I meant. It came across as Shalini put it, that people have to express cautiously if about liking Asha over Lata. What I meant was that when I like some songs ( and they are sum total of everyone’s input, the music director, writer, singer, the musicians ) I seem to have more favourites of Asha’s than Lata’s. There are plenty of songs by both that I would not listen to a second time. The voice is the same, so there is more to a song than just a voice. When I first came to US, I could not get over the fact that there are soooo many singers, musicians with varies styles and voices and I liked so many of them. Why in a country of billions, we had just a handful of singers that are singing most of the songs, of course I am talking of film music. I like a song for a song, not necessarily based on a singer or musician etc. when you analyze your choices, one seems to favor some more than others. I know this has nothing to do with the book review, but I wanted to clarify because it was bothering me as to how my remark came across. If your comments allowed editing, I would have just rewritten my sentence ;).


    • “Why in a country of billions, we had just a handful of singers that are singing most of the songs, of course I am talking of film music.

      As far as women playback singers are concerned, Bharatan does touch upon that in his book (and I’ve heard this elsewhere too) about how both Lata and Asha have used their status to push others out of the picture. Bharatan devotes an entire chapter to how Anuradha Paudwal stood up to them and with the help of T-Series forced open a niche for herself.

      I agree with you, Neeru, about liking a song for itself. If the song is good, who sang it or composed it or wrote the lyrics doesn’t matter; the same is true for a song that’s bad.


  10. I always used to wonder how you used to always appear soft and polite while responding even to some severe comments on your blog.That is what sort of made me want to do better in similar situations.But,now I know when you are in love with someone or something passion and anger together burst forth in unfamiliar ways.You seem to just get at him almost with disdain.Ever so silently with a sharp stiletto,if you please..For once I thought when one disagrees loudly and with a lot of noise like me the scars,as a result thereof, are likely to heal faster.For the ones that you manage to inflict can cause pestering sores. Bharatan surely would not like to get up to read of your loves.While as for me I shall not be able to buy this book like many before.Only I shall not borrow one….


    • I can get as angry as the next person about something that moves me. :-) I just try to rein in my temper, that’s all. What really riled me about this was that it was so badly written, and from somebody who should know better (half the trolls who comment on this blog don’t know any better, so I don’t even really care what they think). I’d have expected someone like Raju Bharatan to do better than this.

      (Also, I can be pretty scathing when it comes to book reviews. I review every book I read on Goodreads, and several of my reviews are fairly pitiless. Bad writing is not something I am patient with).


  11. Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography
    1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Biography Ever
    By Ashish – October 11, 2016
    Amazon Verified Purchase
    The worst book I read till date. Not deserving even a single star. Most reader- unfriendly, boring, slow-paced,confusing,misguiding,repetitive,full of verbose,full of trivial details,disjointed book. I can’t believe that it is written by a seasoned journalist.

    It has the blabber and gibberish of a madman. The author may be having tons of information. But he for sure does not know how to put it across in a perspective. And editing! I don’t think this word exists in his lexicon. OK he wants to make an statement that Ashaji should give credit to composers and singers other than RD and KK. But is it required to repeat this statement till infinity in the entire book?

    At times the writer behaves as if hell bent upon passing judgements. He believes that only his version of any story is the gospel truth and all else are rubbish. Mr. Bhartan, take a chill pill. There is no reason to be egoistic, have a holier than thou attitude and deny the collective intelligence and conscience of listeners. Give some room to have their views. Don’t force your dogmas down- the throat.

    There are several subplots and that too so long and oft-repeated that a reader starts looking for the real plot. Sometimes it appears like a Lata Mangeshkar’s biography, at times like Geeta Dutt’s and finally like a wikipedia on all the people connected with la Bhosle. Wikipedia, not encyclopedia as it is full of anecdotes which supposedly only Mr. Raju is privy to.

    The superfluous- often ungrammatical – use of adjectives and adverbs also makes the book more jarring.

    Mr. Raju has this uncanny habit of describing a person or event or situation only in superlatives .However the problem is that if one superlative has been used to praise a person to skies, an opposite of the same is used to run down the same person at a different occasion or in the following lines.

    Before reading any book, the aim of the reader is to get some knowledge, some information about a particular subject. But disappointingly this book tends to confuse one rather than make him wiser.


    • Ashish, I found your comment more entertaining than the book! Glad to see someone else echoing my sentiments so exactly. It’s such a shame that someone who might be expected to have the information and the insight – considering he was around and in the thick of things, back then – as well as the ability, considering he’s a journalist – should come up with something so disappointing. And I am amazed that Hay published this probably without even looking through the book once to see if it made sense or not.


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