She holds a place of her own in music, songstress supreme, whose voice is unique and adaptable, and spans many genres. At 80-plus this adventure lover has added one more frontier to her world of experiences, she has taken up acting. Her debut role is in the film Mai.
He is youngest of his siblings, but has taken on the role of being his mother's manager. Advising, and charting her career path with business acumen, ensuring that she gets her due always. Anand Bhosle presents a little-before-seen son's eye view of Asha Bhosle.
Firstpost: How did the movie role come about?
Anand Bhosle : The producer approached her, and asked her if she would consider the role. She was surprised, and reluctant, but the name of the movie intrigued her. Mai is her mother's name, that is what everyone called my grandmother. And of course she consulted me. I told her of course you can do it, you can act. And the movie has turned out quite well.
Firstpost: Tell us a little about your early days . What was she like as a mother?
Anand Bhosle: I am the youngest of her children. By the time I became old enough to know, we were in the joint family, with my aunts and Mai, my maternal grandmother. My mother made sure we had a very normal childhood, a life away from the limelight. Her father had been an artiste, and his life had had its ups and downs and she had seen all that. She wanted to protect her children from all that.
Firstpost: How was it knowing she was a celebrity?
Anand Bhosle: Believe it or not, none of us knew our mother and aunt (Lata) were singers. My uncle would do riaz and sing at home but all my mother's singing and my aunt's singing was at the studio, so we never heard it. My friends would say, your mother is a famous singer, your aunt is a famous singer, but I was an idiot I think, because I did not know, and would hotly respond saying no, my aunt is just my aunt, my mother is just my mother.
Firstpost: Did she not tell you what she did as work?
Anand Bhosle: It was not important then. She would give us breakfast, drop us to school and go off to the studio. It was only when we were older that we attended recordings sometimes. I would go if Kishore Kumar was recording or RD Burman. Mostly it would be if there was no pending homework, or if it was a weekend.
Firstpost : Did the recordings give you an idea of how talented or famous your mother was?
Anand Bhosle: Actually I attended a lot of my aunt's recordings. We did not know then who Madan Mohan was, or any of the other composers. There would be a recording at Mehboob Studio and we would go, and after the recording we would go to the cake shop inside and eat cake or mutton curry and bread. If we went to a recording at Rajkamal, V Shantaram's studio, we would be treated by him to cheese sandwiches. We actually called him cheese sandwich uncle. The food was the USP, the recording did not have any importance for us.
Firstpost : Did you have a normal relationship with your mom, she was so busy!
Anand Bhosle: Yes of course, she made sure of that. Mom loves to cook, it is a passion with her. So she would try to replicate anything that we ate outside and liked. Often she would invent dishes for us, it was a culinary adventure living with her.
Firstpost: And did you have outings together?
Anand Bhosle : We used to go a lot to Gaylord on Sundays. It was a treat, chicken patties and cartoon films at Eros. She would keep her Sundays for us. During the week she would be very busy, she would leave early and come back late at night. Sometimes it would be 3 or 4 a m by the time she returned from a series of recordings; only in the 1980s was it disallowed to continue recording after midnight. However late she came though, tired and weary, she would be up in the morning to ensure we had breakfast. She took her role as mother very seriously, and gave us all her attention on weekends.
Firstpost : Was being a single mother a tough task then?
Anand Bhosle: Actually she did as much as she could for us, but we were in a joint family. There were aunts Meena and Usha too, and my grandmother was there all the time. They all doted on me, and I never felt alone. Even at school functions, annual days they would be there fir me, I don't think I missed my father at all.
Firstpost: What is your mother like as a professional? How do you percieve her?
Anand Bhosle: I believe there is no one quite to match my aunt and my mother. I have no problems in saying they are the best female voices around, the good work they did is enormous. It is tough to find anything wrong in their music.
My mom is a thorough pro. She would give each song her best, even if she hated the composition. It us true that she hated a lot of the songs she sang, but never let that show when she sang.
Firstpost: Songs she hated! Do you remember any of those?
Anand Bhosle: There was the song from Dus Lakh, 'Gareebon ki suno... '. She asked Ravi, 'Raviji, what song is this, what lyrics'. She had a good rapport so she expressed herself. He explained the situation demands this...and so she sang it, gave it her best. She would also argue with RD if she did not like a song or agree with something in it. In fact he would often seek her advice in a composition.
Firstpost : Did you discuss her work at home?
Anand Bhosle: Never. She never brought her work home. She would not even listen to her music. In fact if it was playing, she would say stop the music. She would be fed up, tired of it after a long day of recording. But sometimes she would discuss music, discuss tunes, the lyrics or the poetry. She read a lot, and so there was plenty to discuss.
Firstpost: Did she discuss never her own songs, then?
Anand Bhosle : She's crossed 13,000 recordings... To her once a job is done, it is done, it is behind her. She would not think about it. Once I remember the song from Talash, 'Karle pyar karle tu' was playing on TV, I said 'This is one of my favourites'. And she responded, 'Oh yes, I did it, ok ok'. She cannot take praise, when praised she looks down, says thank you and runs away.
Firstpost : How does she handle concerts. She is so good on stage.
Anand Post : She gets extremely nervous before a concert. I ask her you just belt out the numbers, why are you nervous. She says if I do something wrong, my entire career is at stake...I cannot make a single mistake. Every song is important, each song must be right. There is no place for complacency.
Firstpost : Does she then prepare before a concert? She is such an accomplished singer...
Anand Bhosle : Yes, she does, she is in her own mind before a concert, irritable. I know it is best to keep away from her. Then, she climbs on to the stage, and just transforms. It is the hallmark of a great achiever... To never think how great she is. To her each show is the first show.
Firstpost : All this talk about the rivalry between her and Lata, what is it about?
Anand Bhosle : Mama's favourite is Lata , she does not like any other singer, she says it openly. My aunt, on her part admires her, says what Asha can do no body else can do.
I think when they started, she was seen as Lata's shadow, and soon got conscious that she should not copy her, and do something else. Today in the history of Indian music, there is no one else who can jump from classical to hip hop to jazz only she can do it, she can do anything.
Of course there is professional rivalry between my aunt and Mom, there is nothing wrong in that, it is natural. But both cannot stand the other being hurt in any way. They do not discuss music at all, and have a grudging respect for each other.
Firstpost : How did it feel when your mother married again. R D was also so much younger....
Anand Bhosle : We loved Pancham, everybody in the family loved him, he was such fun, made us all laugh so much when he was around. And the marriage was not like staying in a separate house... He would stay in his house, he had his mother then to look after, and she was here. He never interfered in our lives, he was not a stranger and we were adults. Besides they did great work together, and we were fans of both.
Firstpost : Asha-ji is an entrepreneur too, and has a few restaurants. How did that happen?
Anand Bhosle : We felt she should take her passion of cooking internationally. Her cooking was legendary, she would cook for the unit, for her friends, for other stars...then we opened the place in Dubai saying let us see how it goes. It flew!
She is very hands on, visits all her restaurants, there's ten of them now, and works with the chefs.
Firstpost: Does she cook too at these places?
Anand Bhosle : She does. Recently all the chefs congregated in Dubai to prepare dishes to add to the menu. She was also there, cooking, and all of them would end up singing as they worked.
Firstpost : Is the musical legacy being handed down? Any singers in the new generation?
Anand Bhosle : My mom is gung-ho training my daughter, at eleven she has sung a song in Mai. We thought it was a good start, since her grandmother was also in the same film.
She is a great teacher, always helps younger co-singers. She likes others to do well. Anu Malik, Nadeem Shravan, she has helped them all. They admit it openly.
Firstpost : Your image of her
Anand Bhosle: Large hearted, generous, feisty. She says, "I have faced a lot of turmoil, but I have taken it all in front, nothing on my back." She has faced life headlong, never turned her back on it. And she is never afraid to try something new, in life. In music. So, all these many firsts in collaborations are a result.
Firstpost : Is there any thing about her you don't approve of or understand?
Anand Bhosle : I don't understand her need for ritual, for feeding Brahmins or having them come and recite mantras and shlokas. But she explains that the vibrations have effect,and perhaps she can understand their tonal quality being a singer herself.
Firstpost : You are her manager. How much does she let you manage her?
Anand Bhosle : She is open minded. And will take advice. She tells me, when I am serving you food or watching you eat across the dinner table, I see the little boy I used to feed with my hands. But sometimes you speak like my father... I can learn from you.
On my part I suggest, I prompt, explain... If she is uncomfortable, I drop it.
Sometimes I insist. the recording of Rahul and I.. She hesitated, she said they are his songs, how can I redo them, what will his fans say. I told her times have changed, tastes demand the change, listen to me and be a professional ; I was his fan too. It worked. She said, "If he were alive he would have done it himself... "And went on to create the album.
She is unique in this too, she can take a lesson from something even a child says!