“Khana Comes Before Gaana”: The Inimitable Asha Bhosle At Her Frankest Best On Her Restaurant Business, Illustrious Sister, Struggles & Triumphs.
Asha Bhosle is on an unparalleled high.
In spite of crippling personal tragedies–she lost her daughter some years ago, and her son last year–She is still singing with a diva’s selfassurance . In addition she’s a proud restaurateur owning a worldwide chain of eateries where Ashaji’s own home recipes are on the menu.
Ashaji is far from satisfied with her vast achievements. “My daughter Varsha once asked me why I speak to everyone from my residence’s watchman to the guy who does our laundary. I inquire about everyone.That’s an old habit. My daughter asked, ‘Do you know who you are?’ I thought about it. She said, ‘You’re AshaBhosle.And you must maintain a distance from people.’ I disagree with that. Just because I sing, it doesn’t I mean I am not ahumanbeing . I like to see myself as a simple person.I may dress up in public. But at home you’ll see me in a simple saree.”
Ashaji is full of gracious reverence for her more celebrated sister Lata Mangeshkar. ”
It feels good to hear her say she can’t sing what I can. But I disagree with her.I feel if she wanted to sing my kind of songs she would have. But she didn’t want to . She didn’t have to. She got to sing all the songs for the heroines, so she didn’t have to sing for the other female characters in a film. I got those songs. And I made the best of them.”
Recalling those days of struggle Ashaji says, “When there was already a Taj Mahal I came to build another one.Bahutmushqil thi.Who would want to go to another singer when there was already a Lata Mangeshkar? On top of that, I was her younger sister.Hamesha humein ek tarazu mein tola gaya. Janam bhar hum ussi tarazu mein baithe rahe.It was very tough for me to escape all these hurdles. I still haven’t escaped those comparisons.Didi and I had to be different singers. Copying her would have meant the end of my career even before it started.No one would have entertained a copy of Didi.Just as long asKishore Kumar was there no other male voice stood a chance. I first had to get songs that were comparable with Didi’s. I had to cultivate a Western style of singing. I had no choice.I had to be prepared to do any kind of song that was offered to me. Didi became instantaneously successful. Plus there were other singers like Geeta Dutt.”
Ashaji attributes her resilience and staying power to her honesty. “I am like glass. You can see right through me. I also refuse to cling to negativity. I like to move on.I am blessed because I get so much respect both in India and abroad, even at places like Spain and Portugal. No one has ever misbehaved with me in public . I think this world is beautiful.Not that I’ve forgotten any of the pain that I’ve gone through. It’s there all stored away. I am the soldier who has taken wounds on my chest. I am proud of them. I faced all the adversities.At 80 today I am happy and peaceful. No regrets.God gave me endurance power and because of Him I am still standing tall today.Main Bhagwan ki laadli hoon.”
In addition Ashaji had to fight off the image of singing naughty number. “People during those days considered cabaret and dance numbers to be very lowly. Anyway I managed. On second thoughts, maine nahin kuch kiya,hota gaya.God was kind..And here I am.People think I’ve achieved a lot. Mujhe kuch nahin lagta. I still feel I’ve plenty to do. People hanker for recognition. But these are so temporal . If I stop singing for a year everyone would forget me. The public memory is very short.I never get carried away by fame and recognition. I am far more concerned about giving my attention to my home and family.”
Speaking on new generations of singers Ashaji ponders, “The world has moved on.Earlier the female singer sang at a high pitch and the male singer at a low pitch. Now that has been reversed. There’s no time for slow soft sentimental songs.No point in clinging to the past and pining for nostalgia. If you remember, happy occasions whether it is the mehndi ceremony or a wedding, have always been celebrated with songs.Every individual wants to dance and sing.Rhythm ka zamana hai.No one listens to the words. You can’t stop the world from moving on. If you try you’ll get left behind.It’s not as if we don’t have talented singers. Sukhvinder Singh is inviolable. I am open to singing any kind of songs as long as the words are not cheap. People at my age are confined to retirement. I am still singing. The language isn’t of primary importance as long as I sing something that I and my fans are satisfied with.”
She speaks of R .D Burman with much affection, though she is not too fond of the RD remixes. “I’ve done two albums of his re-mixes. When I did Rahul & I , I wanted to be faithful to the original.But my son Anand, who’s a big fan of Burman Saab and who looks after all my interests, told me to just leave it to him. I surrendered to him. He designed it according to today’s tastes. And he was right. The album was a resounding success.No one can stop others from doing re-mixes.People are forever cashing in musical names. You’ll see big posters of Lata Didi and mine at concerts. They turn out to be shows of our songs sung by other sings. CDs have our big pictures and a small ones of the actual singers. Music and musicians have suffered heavy losses because of these deceptive imitations. But what to do? Duniya aisi hi hai. You can’t fight it.But please, if you doing re-mixes, do be thoughtful towards the original.”
She is enthused by food as much as music and is proud of her growing chain of restaurants. “In my opinion khaana comes first, gaana later. You can live for three days without music. But you can’t live without food for a day. I am a mother by nature. I love to feed people.I started cooking for my children. Then later when I became good at it my son suggested I write a cookery book. But I refused.Who cooks from books? But my son wanted to take his mother’s food to the people. That’s how the first restaurant came about. Now we have ten restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc.”
Ashaji personally supervised the menu at these restaurants. “I had two kitchens for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The design and décor , menu card have all been done with great care. The menu card has rare picture of me and other singers. I not only put my own recipes on the menu, I also included recipes I learnt from my colleagues.For examples there is theSultanpuri Kebab. I got the recipe from the poet-lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri Saab. The restaurants are dotted with my pics withLata Didi and others who figure in my life.”