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Asha Bhosle Top 10

The "age cannot wither her" dictum sits on her beautifully. For someone who was heard as a hesitant, and then confident voice from the early 50s, Asha Bhosle has been laughing all her way through her wonderful songs for close to five decades now. Her gurgling brook-like vocals show no sign of fatigue, even as her younger counterparts are running out of steam faster than you can say Asha Bhosle. Asha tai has plenty of statuettes to decorate her mantlepiece, but she finally holds the greatest honour of them all - The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is, indeed, a symphonic acknowledgement of all those hours in the studio conjuring magic.

There can be many top 10 lists dedicated to this phenomenon, who has led a musical life replete with chills and "trills." But this is a tribute to the vintage Asha - the one who looks time in the eye and puts those oven-fresh ditties on top of countdowns all the time. This is Asha after the landmark Tanha tanha...

1. Tanha tanha: Rangeela (1994)
An incredibly tongue-in-cheek Asha recalled her recording for this oomph-oozer at a recent concert. "When I first met Rahman, he asked me to sit in a small room and sing the song. I was apprehensive, but all he said was, 'Amma, gaao'. When I later realised that Tanha tanha had taken shape so beautifully, I could not believe it." Rahman had perhaps committed an unintentional faux-pas in addressing Asha tai as amma. For, when the throbbing rhythm of Tanha tanha invites comradeship with Asha and her wine-drenched vocals, you want to applaud him and forgive him at the same time. When Urmila danced in the sun-kissed beaches of Goa in gay abandon and little else, Asha tai's vocals demanded all the attention. Note the antaras of the song, where she hits the high notes with the ease of sipping a cup of chaai. Amma triumphs!

2. Zara sa jhoom loon main: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Jatin-Lalit courted Bacchus with a vengeance in this song, and Asha tai was their chief weapon. She need not have tried too hard. It was as if her vocals had drunk in the magic of the piquant tune. As Kajol played slave to cognac in amazing faithfulness, Asha tai, old enough to be her grandmother, embellished Zara sa with an untouched charm. And notice how the song fitted Kajol like a second skin. Asha tai's diction circus also provided the added effect - the way she rolled her Rs in Zara (it sounded more like Zarrrra), and the emphasis on the "D" in the Thandi thandi pawan line. In fact, Sonu Nigam remarked how the Thandi thandi... line was the perfect indication of Asha tai's enduring youth. Amen to that!

3. Le gayi le gayi: Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
Uttam Singh was testing the waters for the first time. But he had won half the battle, since he had the chief Gods of the pantheon, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle to breathe life into his compositions. Though Lata had a prominent presence in the soundtrack, her sister was given one composition. But what a gem of a composition it was! Asha tai is one of the few singers who creates onomaetopic wonders, and she did so in this song. Note how she lowers her voice suitably in the Chori chori chhup chhup kar part, as her voice glides into your ears. Or the part where she delivers the Bikhri bikhri zulfein, yeh hai behki behki chaal line with just a hint of an auditory swagger. Wonder of wonders!

4. Sapne mein milti hai: Satya (1998)
It could not have been a more strange situation. A gangster and his wife celebrate the marriage of their friend's sister. Vishal ruled in his refined pedestrianism, and Asha tai's vocals lent a rare dignity to the essentially "street" number. Vishal chose old faithful Suresh Wadkar to do the male vocal honours. But Asha tai was in undisputed control of the proceedings. She led, and the others faithfully followed. There was just the right dash of playful piquancy, and Asha tai was at her robust best, without once crossing the line. As she savoured the mischievious lyrics and gave them a new identity, Bhiku Mhatre and his wife danced on!

5. Rang de: Thakshak (1999)
It almost seems like Rahman had the hidden agenda of creating the most memorable tunes for Asha Bhosle. Rang de captured the imagination of music lovers, before the film came along, bombed, and ruined it all. Rang de was an orgy of rhythm, and Asha tai wound her way through the arrangements with the class of a warrior. Rahman used Asha tai's flexible vocals with an alacrity that astounds. It was R D Burman who first initiated this aural hide-and-seek with Jaane jaan in Jawaani deewani, where she went high and low on her voice with aplomb. Rahman did well to bring back those memories.

6. Kahin aag lage: Taal (1999)
Rahman was reunited with his amma again. Kahin aag lage was a beautiful celebration of poignancy, and Asha tai's vocals managed the perfect marriage between sorrow and joy. The frothy Jungle mein koyal bole prelude offset the complex fabric of emotions that Asha tai's voice would cast over the song. What is remarkable about Kahin aag lage is its hurried feeling, to indicate that the turmoil would all culminate in one grand climax. They did, and Asha tai did the needful. As she slowed down for the last line Is toote dil ki peed sahi na jaaye, it was like the calm after the storm. But the storm never abated.

7. Jaaneman jaaneman: Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000)
An afterthought that became history - if Asha tai willed it, who could stop her? Rajesh Roshan had a clutch of young tunes up his sleeve for his nephew's first venture, and all of them reached dizzying heights. But what was it about Jaaneman jaaneman that was so magical, even if it was a late entrant? For one, its posterity was almost assured, since it had Asha tai's name on the jacket covers. The enticement in the song was never superficial, and that is what rendered it a refined air. Debutant Amisha Patel sizzled on screen, because she had Asha tai's support all the way.

8. Janmon ki jwaala: Hey Ram (2000)
This multi-hued and multi-layered meandering came straight from virtuoso Ilayaraja's heart. The canvas of Kamal Haasan's Hey Ram was widely spread, and there was every chance of this masterpiece getting lost. But it did not, thank God for that! In a celluloid eipc with very little scope for romantic episodes, Janmon ki jwaala set the stage beautifully for the short Rani Mukherjee interlude. Another of Ilayaraja's masterstrokes was opening this gem with Jibonandadas' evocative lines. Asha tai and Hariharan took command of the myriad layers of the song with the ease of veterans, as history was made.

9. Kambakht ishq : Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya (2001)
Asha tai's complete command over the proceedings in this passion anthem would certainly have other wannabes running for cover. Even though she had Sukhwinder Singh and a much-younger Sonu Nigam for company, she had them on their toes with her supreme navigation of this Sandeep Chowta creation. Chowta seems to have composed this number with Asha tai in mind. The legend is in full control here, grabbing each of Nitin Raikwar's words by the throat and giving them a new identity.

10. Radha kaise na jale: Lagaan (2001)
If jealousy had a tongue, it would cry out Radha kaise na jale. Aamir Khan, while talking about this song said "If you need to feel the envy in Radha kaise na jale, listen to the drums." Rahman has always been known as the master of rhythm, and this was the edifice on which he set his masterpiece. That, and Asha tai's phenomenal rendering of the envy tune did the trick.

Listen to the song closely, and you will find Asha tai's deliciously plaintive vocals challenging Udit Narayan's more playful ones. It was almost as if the two were indulging in a delightful duel of their own, while recording the song. And as Asha tai ascended the highs and descended the low notes of the song with aplomb, you had another masterpiece in the making...

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