On a balmy afternoon at Bahri Bar in Madinat Jumeirah, we scribes are waiting in anticipation. How does one map the journey of over 12,000 songs in several minutes? Soon, Asha Bhosle, who has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, enters the venue and settles down for a series of interviews. Her childlike enthusiasm about music and a desire to connect with people make her an interviewer’s delight. No wonder then, with each conversation, she effortlessly relives her journey of seven decades.
1) You have a deep connection with Dubai because of your restaurants and concerts. Comparatively, how different was the experience of walking the red carpet for Dubai International Film Festival?
Can I share something? No one knows about this. I came to Dubai first in May 13, 1970. I saw the Dubai Airport during that time; I roamed around in the city. Dubai of the ’70s was very different. There weren’t as many things back then. I remember doing a show with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. It was big. After that, I did not come to the city for a long time, but when I did, it had changed. It’s almost like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly. People who govern this city have turned it into a breathtakingly beautiful place and compelled people from all over the world to visit it. When I see Dubai’s transformation, I feel every city should seek inspiration from it. I cherished it this time, as I do every time.
2) Your elder sister, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, was recently quoted as saying that the real challenge of bringing the two of you on the same mic is that “we are very different singers and the music composer has to find the meeting point”. Do you think it is more challenging for the current generation of composers to find that meeting point?
There are music directors who can do this. For instance, composers like Shankar Mahadevan really understand their music very well. People like them can certainly bring us together. But the only thing is my elder sister has to be ready for it (laughs). A new song of mine has come out called Main Hawa, and a young man has composed the music for it. So I am going to tell her that we should absolutely do something together that can appeal to the young generation.
3) Recently, you mentioned that reality TV may not produce great playback singers. Why do you think so? Don’t most playback singers these days come emerge from reality TV?
There are playback singers, who listen to songs umpteen number of times, observe the styles carefully and then sing. They find themselves in a fix when they are given brand new songs to sing. They can listen to our songs 200 times, but a music composer will only teach them four times and expect them to pick up.
4) You have been one of the most versatile singers. Who do you think among the current generation of singers can be called truly versatile?
There are some good singers, but these days music is different, the lyrics more so. How can they match our legacy with songs that have lyrics like Halkat Jawani (Heroine) and Zandu Balm (Dabangg). In these songs, voice is incidental; people listen to them for lyrics. No one knows what’s happening in that song, Halkat Jawani, but people will surely dance to it. These days songs are written so that people can dance to them either in films or at weddings.
As far as Didi (Lata Mangeshkar) is concerned, I do not think anyone can come close to matching her legacy in the next 50-60 years. I do not think that we will get to see another Kishore Kumar in the next 200 years. Everybody can sing, but matching the calibre of these legends is tough.
5) In 2013, you made your acting debut in a Marathi film called Mai. What will it take for a filmmaker to sign you for another film?
I signed that film for fun. We finished filming that movie in a month’s time. Mai was my mother’s name as well, so I also got a little emotional about the project. Also, my son kept insisting that I act in this film. I tend to get persuaded very easily (laughs).
The makers of the film were very new and did not have much idea about how to market it. Yesterday, I saw a great film on a professor who is differently abled (The Theory of Everything based on the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking). Even Mai dealt with a sensitive subject of Alzheimer’s, and I thought it would help spread greater awareness about the disease.