Asha in Ten Moods

A couple of months back, blog reader Shalini alerted me to the fact that this year was Asha Bhonsle’s 80th birthday. Would I be doing a special post to mark the occasion? I hadn’t known that it was such a landmark birthday for Asha, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity, because—at the risk of being labeled an iconoclast and inviting censure (and possible debates?)—I have to admit that I tend to prefer Asha to her sister Lata.

Unfortunately, most people tend to associate Asha Bhonsle only with the sultry, ‘cabaret’ songs that she sang for umpteen songs picturised on vamps, all the way from Helen to Parveen Babi. Few remember that Asha’s was also the voice of the hauntingly beautiful Yehi woh jagah hai, or the bhajan Tora man darpan kehlaaye.

To compile a list of my ten favourite Asha Bhonsle songs would be impossible; there are far too many Asha songs that are simply out of this world as far as I’m concerned. So I decided to celebrate Asha’s birthday with this list: ten Asha solos, from pre-70s films, all in different moods. Not merely seductive, not merely cheerful or come-hither, but songs that are proof of Asha’s superb versatility. As always, these are from films I’ve seen.

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Ten of my favourite Madhubala songs

The Hallmark Group recently introduced a limited edition of gold-plated silver ingots representing 25 historic stamps of India. Issued under the authority of India Post, it’s called the Pride of India Collection. The stamps replicated run the gamut of concepts, events and people dear to India: Rabindranath Tagore, kathakali, the Taj Mahal, cricket—and more. And with Bollywood so close to the hearts of so many millions of Indians, there had to be a film star featured: and they couldn’t have chosen better.

Pride of India Collection - Madhubala ingot

[Personally, I think the stamp (released in March 2008) does Madhubala justice; the ingot doesn’t. She looks as if, as P G Wodehouse would put it, she’d been bingeing on starchy foods. The eyes are puffy; the smile is off; and she has a double chin. No, I wouldn’t pay Rs 6,000 for this.]

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