On Asha Bhosle’s 85th birthday, a close look at her life’s experiences
Think of popular culture in contemporary India and a few well-known names will cross your mind. Now, think music and there’s no way you can miss the Mangeshkar sisters. And if Lata Mangeshkar has rightly been venerated as the Nightingale of India, it is her sister Asha Bhosle who remains arguably the country’s most popular singer across generations.
At her prime, Asha always remained in the shadows of her older sister. She is, nonetheless, a tremendous talent and increasingly liked more. Her forte has been her magnificent range and versatility - rarely has the world seen an artist excel in so many varied genres.
Having said so, the fascination for Asha Bhosle rests not just in her class as a singer of exceptional calibre. Her songs reflect her attitude to life too - a fun-filled and a carefree lust for life. Her songs brought out the joy and excitement of youth, the yearning for fulfillment in life, an unabashed celebration of love, longing and lust. Unlike her older sister, coyness wasn’t a quality one associated with her. Above all, her joy for life was more than evident in her singing.
Yet, hers has been a life full of personal tragedies. As she turns a year older and celebrates her 85th birthday on Saturday, HT sees her, up-close and personal.
An unhappy marriage
Asha married her personal secretary, the 31-year old Ganpatrao Bhosle in 1949, when she was barely 16! It was a romance that nobody in her family approved of. So, she eloped and had three children with him, sons Hemant and Anand and daughter, Varsha. But hers was an unhappy marriage--she had to constantly deal with a suspicious husband and ill-treatment by her in-laws. The marriage ended painfully in 1960 when Asha was thrown out by her husband with two young children and pregnant with the third.
Varsha Bhosle commits suicide
In October 2012, tragedy struck when Asha’s daughter, Varsha committed suicide at her Peddar Road home. She shot herself in the head while her mother and brother were away in Singapore. A journalist by profession and a columnist with Rediff, Varsha reportedly had a troubled life. She was given to mood swings, which only her mother could handle. No one knows what really happened but it is commonly believed that she couldn’t handle the pressure of being the daughter of Asha. Varsha had married a public relations professional, but the couple divorced in 1998.
Hemant Bhosle dies of cancer
In September 2015, Asha lost her elder son, Hemant, who died in Scotland. He had been battling cancer for many years. Their relationship too had been strained for over a decade, ever since he fell out with his wife Sajidah alias Rama Bhosle.
Her relationship with Lata Mangeshkar
Whether or not, theirs was a bitter-sweet relationship, nobody will know fully. However, much has been speculated about the supposed rift between the two. What is known, however, that her marriage was a matter of rift between them, with Lata Mangeshkar supposedly disapproving of the match. Their singing styles too ever very different and at least, in the initial years, Asha did live in the shadow of her older sister. The sisters have routinely dismissed the rivalry as just tales, but a Bollywood film Saaz, directed by Sai Paranjpye and starring Shabana Azmi and Aruna Irani, said it all.
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