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Features |  08 Feb 2011 16:40 |  By RnMTeam

The Hrishi.K Diaries: Asha Bhosle - ageless, god-like!

Get a drift on what's happening and what's not in the life of popular music jockey Hrishikesh Kannan a.k.a. Hrishi.K, who presents the breakfast show on 94.3 Radio One

What do you  do when you are in the company of a legend? Are you tongue-tied ? Or are you like yours truly? Wanting to live every moment twice, or hanging on to a single moment and concentrating upon it really hard in the hope that you will keep it in your memory cells longer?

Asha Bhosle came on to my show on Radio One the other day. It was a live, unplugged performance with just an acoustic guitar and a keyboard for accompaniment. But then would Maa Saraswati's avatar on this planet need anything more to supplement her voice?

I had been one of the privileged few to be invited to the hallowed portals of Prabhu Kunj, her residence,  for an interview when Ashaji's independent album with Ustaad Shujaat Khan was releasing. What I took back from that interview done over a month ago was some swell aromas wafting through her kitchen as well as all her cookbooks strewn in her waiting area plus her gorgeous 77-year-old warm smile that asked Tum mere pote Chintu ke dost ho na? Vahee Hrishikesh?. Only my wife and my mother call me `Hrishikeshâ€? in a `Hrishi.Kâ€?-obsessed world!

This second meeting was going to be the big one. The performance. I was heartened to see my old friend and Vice President of HMV, the warmest man in the whole world, Atul Churamani, there for the recording. I knew Ashaji loves him cuz apart from running the record label that owns her music, he also has genuine respect and love for tradition -- a fast-disappearing quality in this day and age.

We drew up the final playlist before we went on air. I say Ashaji, aaj kall ke youngsters Chura Liya Hai Tumne sunnaa chahengey.... She says in a firm grandma tone,  Bahut gaa liyaa…. rehne do usey abb!... I make a mental note here to coax her again when we get on the mike!

Atul says, Let's do something from `Dil Padosi Hai`....  She agrees. The keyboard player says, Parde Me Rehne Do.... It's a yes. Seeing that the yes-es have started rolling in, I ride my luck. And I get three of them (yes-es) for â€?In Aankhon Ki Masti Me', â€?Ho Ja Rangeela', and 'Mera Kuch Saamaan'.

The guitar player Sarosh gets a thumbs down. Ashaji adores him, but she says, Dum Maaro Dum Bahut Ho Gaya....

Aaand we're ready to roll!  She likes a few moments alone in the sound room, so we give her that. When I return she's doing her riyaaz -- a full-throated rendition of `Aao Huzoor Tummkoâ€?… and I say hey maybe this can be our first song.

Ashaji mai pehle sawaal karoon har gaane pe aur phir aap gaayengee?... I ask sheepishly,  and she goes Pehle gaa lete hain phir poochnaa.... It's a break from format,  but I think to myself: who better to create a revolutionary new radio show format than  this lady!

There's a mint popped in to lubricate her throat, and after some time, a cup of tea. I'm watching as she savours her `chaaha` and the lovely sideward glance and smile comes my way again. Tumm ththey Chintu ke ghar par new year's eve pe? Sunaa wahaan party hui ththee?... The question is asked with a naughty twinkle in her eye.

I go Nahee Ashaji meri biwi ki tabiyat kharaab ththee toh hum log miss karr gaye.... The smile again.

Her grandson and I go back a long way,  and to quote my dear pal Chaitanya Bhosle urf Chintu, My grandmum is rocking!!... Oh yeah she is, buddy boy!

And off we go into the performance. I get her to talk about her Gulzar bhai and her Bubbs (rd Burman) . The former called the latter `laal kauwaa` (red crow) cuz Panchamda's face would go red when angry. And the latter called the former `safed kauwaa` (white crow) because Gulzar saab's standard dress code was and continues to be a crisp white kurta pyjama! Were all doubling up with laughter.

Ohhh the voice ! Mumtaz's debut on screen song stripped down bare with no orchestra; just the strumming of a solo guitar and the lilt of the piano… �Yeh Hai Reshmi Zulfon Ka Andhera', `Kangna Mai Bandhoon` (from the album with Shujaat Khan).

And then as she loosens up, the gems come out. Can you imagine Asha Bhosle mimicking her colleagues and giggling like a schoolgirl? It happened and on my show! Kishore da and how he would yodel, saying Ashaji tum bhee gao… .jam jam chakka pukka jam jam chakka pukka!... plus how Anand Bakshi saab, the legendary lyricist, would laugh his hyena... laugh hawww haw haww haw... when he would want to make a point to Ashaji  in studio. How Majrooh saab (the great janaab Sultanpuri ) tasted her kababs and said Bitiyaa yeh toh humaare ghar ke kabab hain, yahaan tumhaare ghar kaise pahuchche?...  And Ashaji naughtily replied, Maine aapki begum sahibaa se recipe le liyaa hai, abb sirf aapke nahee hain yeh kabab!...

Then came the disco hits belted out unplugged (no computer technology or electronic sounds added at all) `Tu, Tu Hai Wahi` ,`Na Marte Hum`.

Usha Khanna and Shankar Jaikishen humesha mere janamdin pe recording rakhte ththey. Yeh dono music directors isey shubh maante ththey aur mai bhee yahee sochtee ththee,... says she before breaking into `Tum Jo Mile` and `Koi Pooche Mujhe....

Did it hurt you when people said 'you can't sing ghazals and were only a disco queen in the '70s?...  I ask

She replies Haan lekin Khayaam saahab (the music director) aur Rekha ji kee madad se Umrao Jaan ke liye mujhe bahut appreciate kiya logon ne,... before swinging into those rich Urdu lyrics and, surprise-surprise!,  a Jagjit Singh hit recreated live on the spot! Ashaji decides to do Sarakti Jaay,... saying she only told Jagjit saab after her first performance of this song,  apologizing for not taking prior permission.

Will I treasure this one single radio show forever? I'm thinking,  I will probably take the cd recording to my grave!

I know from my prior interviews with her that she loves cricket talk, and when I ask her about Sachin Tendulkar and Brett Lee, she waxes eloquent about her two favourite cricketers. Lekin Pancham sirf football premi ththey. Video cassette lagaakar kehte ththey, �Asha aao Black Pearl (Brazilian football legend Pele) ke match ko dekhein!...

Can a lady performer in her late 70s do an uninterrupted one-hour radio show with live singing and tonnes of interview questions thrown in? Probably not an ordinary lady performer, but this is Asha Bhosle.

She recollects her live stage show in iit Mumbai with childlike glee,  saying all those students sang along with all her songs.

I've worked her into a good mood, and Sarosh the guitarist recognizes that and suddenly starts strumming `Dum Maro dumdum,` and she relents. She starts singing it with so much fervour, the studio is whirring in front of me.

She ain't done yet. I ask her what her all-time favourite song sung by someone else is. And she says without batting an eyelid `Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo`,  the Farida Khanum classic,  and she asks innocently, Voh bhee gaa doon?...  â€?Are you kidding?' I want to ask her, but thankfully I respond with an appropriate nod, and she lets it rip.

When it's all over, she poses graciously for photos with our entire team and has a kind word for everyone. Are artists young at heart only because of their art? Is a question I have often asked myself.

With Asha Bhosle, the art itself has assumed god-like status, hence the ageless quality in her.

Gotta go now darlings. Tomorrow come back -- on Indias only music station 94.3 Radio One to listen to me from 7 to 11 am,  and also come back here to get your fill of `the Hrishi.K diaries`

Cheerio!