It’s after 15 long years that Asha Bhonsle is back with her new Bengali album ‘Mone Rekho’ on occasion of Durga Puja. The Queen of Melodies in conversation with our Correspondent.
Why did you suddenly decide to come up with a Puja album after 15 years?
I have sung many Bengali songs with veterans like Manna Dey, for music directors like Nachiketa Ghosh, Hemantdada (Mukhopadhyay). But Puja albums have their special significance… it’s festive time and Bengalis really look forward for something special from us singers. The first Puja album I recorded was for RD (Burman). Songs like ‘Jabo Ki Jabo Na’ and ‘Chokhe Choke Kotha Bolo’ became overnight hits…all copies were sold out, and I was forced to give a silver disc to HMV (smiles). After that, Pancham and I decided to do a Puja album every year…and all became hits. And then, one day, Pancham passed away and I decided not to do any Puja album…
Because, first, I didn’t feel like doing an album without Pancham, and then, I knew it won’t be possible to recreate our combination. But God gives time for every thing. One fine morning, I asked Babul (Bose) to compose eight Puja songs. He didn’t believe me at first…and then asked, ‘Where do you want to record it? I was supposed to record for my friend Mahua Lahiri years back…she even set up Asha Audio (after my name) for that…but the project never happened. So it was my payback time. We recorded six songs within eight days. Then I had to go to America; but I returned as soon as possible to record the remaining two songs. Then, they got busy in…what do you call that ‘awaaz bigarne ko’?….mixing. Besides, this is the first time I am featuring in a Bengali music video. The song ‘Dingulo Bhola Gelo Na’ was shot mostly in RD’s music room in Mumbai.
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“There is hardly a sensible music director.”
So ‘Mone Rekho’ (Remember Me) is a tribute to RD Burman?
Yes, you can say that. While recording the songs I felt Pancham is sitting somewhere near me and listening to my songs. Babul also realized that Pancham’s presence is necessary for me and the album. But for that he didn’t have to steal RD’s music (pointing to her smiling face on the album cover, said, Photo jaisi lag rahi hu? Bees saal purana photo hai!).
You are at 37th position in the latest World Music list. Your comments.
I just heard it from you…and am happy. But you know what, I am scared for the new generation of singers. I have sung so many songs…I am 75, how many more will I sing? But what will the new generation do? Now-a-days, no record company is ready to release new albums in face of piracy and internet downloading. What will happen to the new singers…will they stop singing if they don’t get films! If you do stage shows, you get money, but in the process, the shouting takes a toll on your voice. We seriously need to stop this piracy thing or else the singers will be in deep trouble.
But the new talents get platform at reality shows…
Now-a-days we can pick and bring anyone at reality shows…the Boogie Woogie types. Say, for three months the person stays 24×7 in front of public eye, he gets his two minute fame. But what happens after the show is over? The ‘saas bahu’ serial (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) went for years…people got addicted to it. But now that the serial has gone off air, who remembers it?
You have reigned for decades, you have seen the changing times. Why do you think, we don’t get soothing melodies like ‘Paan khaye saiyaan humaro’ now-a-days?
The films have changed totally….let aside the songs. Name a recent film where you can spot a soothing village scene or find an innocent ‘Gaon ki chhori’ singing love tunes for her beloved! Sorry to say, there is hardly a sensible music director or a lyricist around at present. See what sort of film titles we have?…’Kaminey’ …can’t even differentiate if it’s a film or an abuse. Earlier, the ‘mahaul’ was something else…Uttambabu (actor Uttam Kumar) stage pea ate the, toh hum mar jaate the jawani mein. Now it’s all about ‘cheekhna chillana’. We only get dance songs without situations in films.
So, you do miss Pancham now?
Why only Pancham…I miss Kishore (Kumar), Rafi, Latadididi (Mangeshkar)…everyone…those times were different. We used to have so much fun at recordings…if I start telling you it will take at least four days to complete. I used to teach Hindi to Pancham. But he never taught me Bengali…I learnt the language by listening to RD converse with his Bengali friends like Kishore in-between recordings. Now-a-days I don’t feel like singing in films. And as it is, there won’t be a second Asha.
With whom did you enjoy singing duets most?
Latadidi…because there was always this challenge within that ‘kuch karna hi hai’ (I have to do something special).
Even today, there is a Lata-Asha comparison…
That comparison is unavoidable because we are sisters. And since I am the younger one, people will tend to compare my singing with her. Had I been from outside the family, these things could have been avoided.
Are you planning a second Bengali album?
Yes, I will come up with a Rabindrasangeet album next year for Asha Audio.
Is there anything more that you want to achieve in life?
What I want is not important, what happens, is. I have never planned life because it is not necessary that what I fix will be fulfilled. My life has taken me from one place to another…an ordinary woman like me has got name, fame, RD, family, children, grandchildren, respect…what else can I want. But given a choice, I have twin grandsons…I want to dance at their weddings.
Any plans for your birthday on Sept 8?
No plans yet (smiles).