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Songstress with the mostest

Jerry Pinto recounts Asha Bhosle in her various moods.. naughty, sensual and contemplative.

music Updated: Jan 24, 2008 18:36 IST

When the first of 50 Asha Bhosle songs in the Asha Ultimate Unremix DVD (Shemaroo) kicks off, with Urmila Matondkar high-kicking her way through Rangeela re from RGV's Rangeela, your breath catches.

Here is a grandmother kicking off with the kind of sound that a saucy teenager would be happy to be able to produce.

Much has been written about Asha the sexy. This is a bit of a cliché but like all clichés, has a grain of truth in it. As S D Burman says on the jacket, "Asha bahut mahaan kalakaar hai, har tarah ke geet gaane ki yogyata hai inme."

Har tarah ke geet
That ‘har tarah ke geet' should be a clue. Kicking off with Rangeela is a good idea because a DVD should start with loads of colour, a bunch of lunatic young men doing yogic aerobics and Urmila kicking.

But you wonder whether it would not be more sensible to divide the songs into the three kinds of songs she did so well. There are the sexy ones, most of which are far sexier when you listen to them.

When you watch Raat akeli hai for instance, you can see that both Tanuja and Dev Anand are having a blast. Neither is taking the seduction thing seriously. (She pours him a glass of dark fizzy chemicals, for the love of Pancham! Did they run out of grape juice, fermented? Or even old-fashioned Vat 69?)

And there's Asha lending the song her special husk. Or take Jab chaaye mera jaadoo from Lootmaar. There's an anaemic girl hoofing it gamely on a table who looks like she'd rather be knitting mufflers for her grandmother.

Kalpana Iyer, obviously called in to heat things up, does her best, but Dev Anand had no eye for beauty, no eye for a good shot. S D Burman was heartbroken when he saw what Dev Anand did with his tunes in Prem Pujari.

Getting naughty
If you should have the misfortune to watch that mess of a movie, you might understand why. If you count how many Dev Anand films are represented here, you'll want to use this DVD as a CD. No eyes.

There are also the naughty ones. These were picturised on heroines who were feeling a bit chanchal. That figures. If you have to start a song with someone shooting a pea at the hero's bottom, who should be singing the song? Two of the songs start like that. Padmini Kolhapure lets Anil Kapoor's behind have it in Woh Saat Din and Rajesh Khanna gets the other.

Finally there are the contemplative ones, the sad ones, the leavings from the Lata table. These are well represented here with Tora man darpan kehelaye from Kaajal and Kaali ghata chaaye from Sujata.

But what's missing is the Umrao Jaan numbers, the ones with which Asha finally broke free from the dark shadow thrown over her career by proximity to and kinship with Lata Mangeshkar.

Now if you're putting together a DVD of Asha's music, you can't just pay attention to the way the songs sound. You also have to worry about how they look.

We get Dil pukaare aa re Jeeva re from Jeeva (!) and Main ladki hoon from Kis Kis ki Kismet. Whatever you may think of Muzaffar Ali's film, it is one of the most beautiful Hindi films ever. They're missing. We miss them.