Asha Bhosle is the Quintessential Indian singer of this era, beloved to millions across continents and cultures. She is a name to contend with in the Indian film industry for more than five decades. Asha sings as if every yesterday is encompassed in all her todays and tomorrows. Her grasping power, voice throw and ability to give seductive shapes to words still remain unbeatable. The versatility of her voice has no equal. She has the distinction of having sung more than 12,000 songs in 18 languages,including almost all the regional languages of India and English, making her the most recorded artiste in the world. The latest feather in Asha's already crowded cap is the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in the year 2000, the highest annual award given by the Indian government for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.
Perhaps few can match the oomph, sensuality, innocence and ebullience that are so synonymous with her voice.
But this time the voice herself talks about the other great singers that she has been associated with.
Says Asha, "All the names I have talked about have God- gifted voices. They are in a class by themselves and nobody can touch or imitate them. I feel such singers are born once in many centuries. There is a gap between the heart and brain - that is where the soundbox lies - and while some sing from their heart, others use their brain. But all these singers apply both their hearts and brains. That is the reason I consider them great singers. I strongly feel that the government must preserve their songs to set an example for coming generations."
Master Dinanath Mangeshkar
"He is my father, so it is very difficult for me to say why I like his songs. But people say that I look like my father and sing like him. His lifestyle and will- power were unique. He left his home at the age of 8 and learnt singing. Later he formed his own drama company and had 200 people working in it. Then he went into films. My songs would be nothing had it not been for my father. I follow his footsteps. He used to say that anyone who knew the Sanskrit language would not find it difficult to sing songs in any language."
I have been listening to her songs since my childhood. Very few singers have the range that she has in her voice. She has been singing for the last 55 years. Her voice is sweet, her pronunciation excellent. Make her sing any song in any language - Tamil, Bengali or any other - she can sing brilliantly. And, whenever she sings, you will feel as if someone is singing in a temple. Her 'Allah tero naam...' is my favourite.
He had come from Lahore, Punjab. His greatest ability was that he could sing at a high pitch and shift to a low pitch immediately. He could manage that very well. One of his songs which I love is 'Suhani raat dhal chuki...'.
"I first saw him when the song 'Upar gagan vishal...' was being recorded in Bombay Talkies. He was then an assistant to S.D.Burman who had also composed the music. The song was written by the great poet Pradeepji. I had gone there with Didi (Lata Mangeshkar). At that time I never used to sing.Mannada was a Bengali and his Hindi was not very good, but his command over his voice was brilliant. There was nobody like him when it came to classical songs. I think there is hardly anyone in the Hindi film industry who can sing classical songs as well as Manna Dey did. He used to tell me: "Ashatai, you have never got an opportunity to sing appropriate songs. If time permits I will surely make you sing classical songs." But unfortunately that never happened. I must also say he gave me an opportunity to sing Bengali songs too. He wanted me to sing more classical songs."
"I met him in 1948 at Bombay Talkies. He gave 125 per cent to any song. His remarkable quality was that he gave music directors ideas that could be incorporated in his songs. He would say:"Guruji main yeh karoon, woh karoon? Main yodelling karoon?" He used to eat only paan in the morning and practice yodelling after that. He had all kinds of music records in his home. His only hobby was music. I never saw him at any parties or gatherings. He was very whimsical and one always had to assess his moods before talking to him. He didn't know classical songs but still sang them beautifully. His 'Nakhrewali...' is one of my favourite songs.
"I used to like him very much because his Hindi was excellent. It was very clear and his pronunciation was perfect. We are Maharashtrians and I think my Hindi has improved because of him. His voice had a speciality. He never imitated anyone, he was an original. 'Jaane kahan gaye woh din...' from Mera Naan Joker is one of his classics. 'Ram kare aisa ho jaaye...' from Milan is also worth remembering.
"I had first heard him in 1944. And I became a great fan of his. Unfortunately, we did not have tape recorders and CDs in those days. We only had the radio. And Hemantda used to sing on Bengal Radio. 'Aanchal se kyon baandh liya mujh pardesi ka pyaar...' is one of my favourite songs. After I got married, I kept my son's name Hemant because I loved Hemantda's voice so much. Later, I also worked with him and the greatness of his voice is that after hearing his songs, you don't feel like hearing other songs. His voice was like a deep ocean. Interestingly, his Hindi too was not very good because he was also a Bengali like Manna Dey. His songs 'Yeh nayan dare dare...' from Kohraa and 'Pukar lo...' from Khamoshi are wonderful. No one has that kind of a cultured voice.
'Badnaam mohabbat kaun kare badnaam...' is my favourite song by Noorjehan. I had seen her in early childhood when Badi Maa was made. I have also played a role in that film. I would call her Aapa. She sang beautifully. She was one of the greatest female playback singers at the time of K.L.Saigalsaab.
"He is God's miracle. I feel all those singers who have come from Marwar are really very good, and he is one of them. His sur and laya are brilliant. If an impatient man listens to his songs, he will calm down. That's his greatness."
"He is a human miracle. Unke gaane mein jo tadap hai woh kisi mein aa nahin sakti. Woh gaane mein kahaan hai aur kahaan jaayenge kuchh keh nahin sakte... A man will stand on his toes after he listens to his songs. Mehdi Hasan's songs can instill peace whereas a person will run to listen to Ghulam Ali."