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Asha should dare to tread an experimental musical path -- with her celebrity status she can surely break out of filmdom's cliches

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Introducing Asha in a double role

Aap ki Asha


Aap ki Asha  is Asha Bhonsle's debut at composing and singing her own tunes, and shows unmistakable R D Burman and O P Nayyar influences 

Asha Bhonsle has been around on the Indian music scene for nearly 50 years. If the plaintively innocent voice in the Geeta Dutt-dominated film score of Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam -- singing Meri baat rahi mere man mein -- shows her in one mood, her cheeky songs for R D Burman, like Aaja aaja, bring out another, incredibly different and contrasting character to her voice.

O P Nayyar created for her a singing style that made her throw out her voice and lend it more expression and body. Uptil then, she was singing without that added stress and style which now is characteristic of her singing. Just listen to the way she goes over the words, the lilt in the cheerful songs, the ring of truth in the sad songs, the breeziness in songs filmed on Helen, and the daring to rise to musical challenges offered by Ghulam Ali on his quirky, quicksilver ghazals. Ayee re ayee re from Rangeela is one of Asha's more recent hits, and it's nowhere near her best, and around the same time she did an album of classical compositions with Ustad Ali Akbhar Khan, underlining both her versatility and openness to new and old styles.

And this is the latest of her efforts, composing music. She is reported to have said, "I thought it would be very difficult to compose music and I always put it off whenever people asked me. But when I got down to it, I found it very easy."

Asha also acknowledges that this was the last album that Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote lyrics for, and wishes he were around to listen to her tunes and critique them. Her debut album, which came about thanks to the prompting of Vijay Lazarus of Universal Music, was released in May 2001 in Mumbai by Sachin Tendulkar.

The R D Burman and O P Nayyar feel is evident in all songs on Aap ki Asha . Na marte hum is more RD whereas Dil mera gaye ja is definitely in the O P Nayyar form, with its leaning towards the ghazal idiom.

Na marte hum sounds like R D Burman of the Sanam Teri Kasam days, in the '80s to be precise. A fast track. Haske mila na karo doesn't make much of an impression.

Salamat salamat is Arab in its inflexions  and works from a low pitch. Asha, needless to say, handles the micro inflexions with ease and her voice adds a pouting, sultry dimension. The orchestral arrangement by Tarun Sutradhar is intelligent and dreamily introduces voices and lutes and takes its time developing instead of prosaically rushing past.

Dekhna aa ha is too light to stay on, though it tries to bring back the R D Burman aa-aahs to Asha's voice. The interludes are all done in the pop style but the overall effect is insipid. Dil mera gaye ja starts with a bansuri and synth strings, and its slow movement reminded me a little of Yeh subah kabhi na ayegi by Hemant Kumar and O P Nayyar of course.

Aisa bhi kya has a fast version and a hip hop version. Interesting in its unexpected progression, the tune has the drawback of using a rather unimaginative violin and guitar orchestra arrangement, which thanks to the Hindi film music industry's overuse, sounds stale. Dil pyar mein lutake has all the influence that Asha, as O P Nayyar's favourite singer, must surely have imbibed. It also has some of those jazzy trumpet influences. The ei ei chorus in the present-day style adds a contemporary touch to a tune reminiscent of the good old days.

Uljhi laton ki tarah starts with an alaap in raga Miya ki Malhar. Then the bass and chorus take over. The opening stanza goes back to a traditional raga based tune, and in the interlude the beat stress changes and a solo violin, in the style of L Subramaniam, dazzles with its quick phrases. On the song itself tip toeing notes on the piano lend a charm all their own.

Asha with her long years of experience and intimate knowledge of so many great composer's styles needs to come up with her own distinct style. With her name she can be bold enough to test unusual arrangements. While commercial filmdom sets cliches as standards, for someone of her stature the way to being different is surely easier?

S Suchitra Lata

Posted on 20 July 2001

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