When Asha Bhosle sings, the nation listens. When she strikes an opening note, the whole country sings along.
Whether it's the flirtatious Aaiye meherbaan (Howrah Bridge), the romantic Aage bhi jaane na tu (Waqt), the haunting Mera kuch saamaan (Ijaazat) or even the music albums that she has been part of (the delightful Jaanam Samjha Karo for instance) she has mesmerised generations.
"It is very tough to choose 15-20 songs out of more than seven decades of singing," Bhosle says. "The songs I have chosen are not in any order of preference. For me every song I sing is always like my first song."
Her personal favourites cut across eras, but still evoke the same emotions.
Asha Bhosle's all-time favourites
The iconic singer lists favourite songs that feature her vocals
Asha Bhonsle (Photo credit: Getty Images)
1. Yeh kya jageh hai doston and In aankhon ki masti ke (Umrao Jaan, 1981). Music: Khayyam. Lyrics: Shahryar
"Jaidevji was originally supposed to compose the music for this film, but later Khayyam saheb took over. Director Muzaffar Ali gave me a novel on Umrao Jaan to read to get into Umrao's frame of mind before we recorded. Everything about this song was so unique. It was sad, haunting and I sung it two notes lower than my usual pitch.
"For In aankhon ki masti ke... Khayyam tried an Indian classical style and we improvised each line with harkats. Rekha added such magic to it."
2. Jhoote naina bole saachi batiyaan (Lekin, 1991). Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar. Lyrics: Gulzar
"My brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar is a tough taskmaster. He trips you and challenges you with his experimentation with form. We recorded this song late into the night. It is a classical tune beautifully composed and was a challenge to sing. It's also Hemaji's favourite."
READ: Asha Bhosle, the ageless singer turns 80
3. Kaali ghata chhaye (Sujata, 1959). Music: SD Burman. Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
"It's a deceptively simple tune. But each line unravelled a new complexity as I discovered. Nutan's simplicity and longing for love heightened the mood of Bimalda's song."
4. Aaiye meherban (Howrah Bridge, 1958). Music: OP Nayyar. Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi
"Having the beautiful Madhubala as a diva crooner was half the battle won. OP Nayyar's score was inspired."
5. Shok nazar ki bijliyan (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964). Music: Madan Mohan. Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
"One of the few chartbusters I had with Madan Mohan. I liked the fact that it was picturised at a skating rink."
6. Roz roz aankhon tale (Jeeva, 1986). Music: RD Burman. Lyrics: Gulzar
"Pancham's biggest misfortune was that his best songs never got their due or were only recognised after his time. I like this song's opening and middle notes."
7. Chain se humko kabhi (Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye, 1974). Music: OP Nayyar. Lyrics: SH Bihari
"In sad moments, this song is a balm. I'm always asked for this song at my shows. SH Bihari has told me that the song was a reflection of the pain and turbulence I was going through at that time."
8. Sajna hai mujhe (Saudagar, 1973). Music: Ravindra Jain. Lyrics: Ravindra Jain
"The composition was melodious and also picturised evocatively."
9. Katra katra; Chhoti si kahaani se and Mera kuch saamaan (Ijaazat, 1988). Music: RD Burman. Lyrics: Gulzar
"Pancham made me use the double voice effect - he made me sing Katra katra twice, one over the other, to get an echo effect. This was much before editing and new forms of dubbing evolved. It was a tough song. Those days, it was all one take. No cut, copy and paste.
At the recording of Mera kuch samaan, Pancham would quarrel with Gulzar over the esoteric lyrics. When I started humming the refrain 'Woh lauta do' Pancham caught on to that catchphrase and composed the tune."
10. Raaz ki baat hai (Dil Hi To Hai, 1963). Music: Roshan. Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
"One of my favourite qawwalis. If I'm not mistaken, Lata didi is also very fond of this song of mine."
11. Tu tu hai wohi (Yeh Waada Raha, 1982). Music: RD Burman. Lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
"Pancham, Ramesh Behl and I were all one group and we'd discuss music and songs over the choicest khaana-peena. The Yeh Waada Raha songs happened at one such magical moment. I miss those days."
12. Maang mein bharle rang (Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963). Music: Jaidev. Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
"It's a very difficult song to sing, plus it had a sweet tune by Jaidevji."
13. Rang de (Thakshak, 1999). Music: AR Rahman. Lyrics: Mehboob
"It was a difficult song that AR Rahman made me sing. I feel breathless as the lyrics and the tune coil and overlap."
14. Abhi na jao chhod kar (Hum Dono, 1961). Music: Jaidev. Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
"Jaidev's tunes were like him - simple and pure. The aching feeling and the Sadhana-Dev Anand magic only added to the song's appeal. Rafi saab's nuances helped me as a singer too."
15. Ae babua, yeh mahua (Sadma, 1983). Music: Ilayaraja. Lyrics: Gulzar
"I've always enjoyed singing for Ilayaraja for his unusual rhythm pattern. I didn't realise this would turn into such a sensual song. It's picturised with Kamal Haasan and Silk Smitha. It's just Wow!"
16. Ambar ki ek pakh surahi (Kadambari, 1976). Music: Vilayat Ali Khan. Lyrics: Amrita Pritam
"This song by Ustad Vilayat Khan was mellow and had a lot of harkats. It was emotionally enriching."
17. Dum maro dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, 1972). Music: RD Burman. Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
"Sachin Dev Burman didn't want to compose for this film because it dealt with drugs and hippies, so Pancham took over. He gave the iconic Dum maro dum some really enchanting bass and harkats."
18. Chura liya hai (Yaadon Ki Baraat, 1973). Music: RD Burman. Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
"One of the most requested songs at all my shows. There's something really tender and love-struck about Pancham's lilting tune."
19. Raat akeli hai (Jewel Thief, 1967). Music: SD Burman. Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
"Dada wanted me to sing seductively and end the song with the high note, almost like a child whispering into her mother's ears and then escalating the vocals to a high pitch at the last minute. Dada was thrilled to bits."