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Asha Bhosle - trying to be one-up on 'didi'

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Like elder sister Lata Mangeshkar, now Asha Bhosle is doing an album of songs featuring the poetry of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Music lovers are still soaking in the delectable melodies that 22-year old Mayuresh had composed for Lata in the album "Antarnaad", which encapsulates Vajpayee's choicest poems.

But just a month after the release of that album, Asha is all set to record her own album of the prime minister's poems that will feature music composed by Vishal Bharadwaj, who's currently in the US.

In his absence, his wife singer Rekha Bharadwaj confirmed the news. "Yes, Vishal is doing an album of Vajpayee's poems sung by Asha."

Lata is unaware of these developments. When told, she fell silent before saying: "I'm truly happy for whatever my sister does. It has always been that way. Contrary to popular belief I always encouraged her singing aspirations.

"And I think Asha is a very versatile singer. In fact, I can't do some of the things she can. I wish her all the best with this album."

A protective elder sister's generosity does not take away from the incongruity of the whole matter.

"How could Asha Bhosle be doing what her sister has just put on the market?" asked a shocked young composer.

While Lata's album is marketed by her nephew Adinath's label Musicurry, the Asha album is being put out by Sa Re Ga Ma, which owns the copyrights to most of Lata's perennially popular melodies.

When it came to her elder sister, Asha Bhosle's insecurities had always bubbled to the surface.

For decades Asha, the younger and less celebrated of the Mangeshkar sisters, had to reckon with being in her didi's, or elder sister's, shadow. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Lata got the lion's share of every composer's tunes while Asha had to be content with singing the leftovers.

While all the songs for the leading lady in films automatically went to the elder sister, Asha had to be happy doing numbers for secondary female characters.

Only O.P. Nayyar tapped Asha's supple chords for songs to be lip-synced by the leading lady.

The late R.D. Burman, who was Asha's husband and who is believed to have given her the choicest tunes, actually apportioned his most cherished melodies for Lata, using his wife for the more experimental Westernised tunes he composed.

Not surprisingly, Asha has harboured a burning ambition to equal the Nightingale, an ambition that now seems unlikely to be fulfilled. But it doesn't stop her from trying!

According to reliable sources, Asha also plans to sing some of the late R.D. Burman's unused melodies for a proposed album.

Is it just a coincidence that Lata has recorded the unused songs of Madan Mohan for a film currently being produced by Yash Chopra?


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