the baton-wielding arms of R D Burman.
Neither Meera nor Dada Burman was elated about their only child Pancham wedding an Asha years older. But Pancham, by 1980, was his own music man. He moved to a Santa Cruz music-room - into a flat in Asha's name. A flat Asha's preserved as a Monica memento to her Pancham.
Santacruz is where Sapnaa meraa toot gayaa took shape. Ask young or old to jot down 75 Asha songs, both generations would do the 75 listing job offhand.
What's the secret of Asha's eternal singing youth? She never hesitated to reinvent herself. Take the time Runa Laila of Bangladesh invaded India. Runa rattled each Indian singer - for whom that songbook-in-hand had become a perennial mental crutch behind the mike.<b1>
Momentarily, even Asha felt discomfited upon Runa's emerging as a Damadam mast qalandar telegenic sensation.
But Asha never did spurn a challenge. Within weeks she'd metamorphosed on TV. To turn herself into the neo-swingersinger via the Yeh Hai Asha programmed projection on DD.
All razzmatazz was Asha here. Moving beyond Opee, Asha now commanded spot-mod attention, as she articulated Pancham innovation after innovation, handsfree, on stage. Innovations ranging from Dum maaro dum to Khullam khulla pyaar karenge.
Opee maintained he left Asha.
The reverse is true some brick Asha dropped when she trendily jilted Opee! Still, her 1974 Filmfare Best Singer award came to be for Opee's Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye classic, Chain se hum ko. The swan-song abiding as the sentimental symbol by which we re-live Asha-Opee's togetherness through nine years.
Clear the blur
But Asha skipped the 1974 Filmfare awards function, thereby sealing their break. A break redolent of Piya piya naa laage moraa jiya (on Madhubala in Phagun), Bekasee hadd se jab ( on Padmini in Kalpana) and Akelee hoon main piyaa (on Anjana in Sambandh).
Under Opee, her long-awaited box-office breakthrough came with those three 1957 Naya Daur Asha-Rafi duets – Maang ke saath tumharaa, Udey jab jab zulfen and Saathee haath badhana.
Likewise, her Pancham breakaway came through three 1972 Jawani Diwani Asha-Kishore duets - Agar saaz chhedaa, Naheen naheen abhee naheen and Jaan-e-jaan. <b2>
The crunch came as Asha took to Lata Mangeshkar in Pancham's Aa jaa aa jaa for litmustesting her vocals, urging her sister to testify to her breath-control. Lata pronounced Asha to be bang on the ball - asking her to make but a slight modulating adjustment in that Teesri Manzil cult number.
That Asha, under Pancham, proceeded to create her own niche as a singer, is her matchless achievement. Maybe Opee here played a key Woh hans ke miley preparatory role.
Dada Burman, too, had his Ab ke baras vocal-rounding contribution to make. But it was Pancham who, vitally, polished the rough diamond into the Meraa kuchch saamaan finished product.
Today, at 74, Asha is at her performing zenith. Asha came to my only kid Shilpa's wedding reception, staying for a full hour. Saying she was doing so since Pancham hadn't been able to accompany her. "But Pancham chose this saree-shade I'm flaunting!" emphasised Asha.
This singer's singer was visibly moved as I introduced her to the audience as the one-and-only Asha Bhosle. She's that, if only because, at near 13,000, Asha Bhosle is today on the top in the numbers game. Forget all about 30,000 – the Guinness noting got knocked out in 1990 itself ! What about Asha's resonance beyond Opee and Pancham? Let that be for another birthday.. a song.