Asha Bhosle’s resurgence in the mid-1990s through A. R. Rahman tunes

Asha Bhosle – the gifted voice of Bollywood since 1940s. She remained at her career peek in the 1970s and 1980s. She gave some amazing songs in her husband’s compositions during this era. In the 1980s when R. D went through a rough period during his professional career, Asha Bhosle worked with almost all leading composers during this period. Yet with 1990s with the rise of young voices and new composers in Bollywood, her career too witnessed a downfall. Her rising age too was an important factor. But year 1995 witnessed a major turning point in her professional career.

Asha’s second innings at the age of 61 

Rangeela Re from Rangeela (1995)

Asha Bhosle celebrated her 60thbirthday in 1994. Same year she lost her life partner R. D. Burman also. Many music critics might have assumed it to be the stopping point of her luminous journey of about 4 decades. In the decade of 1990s till then, she delivered only a few memorable songs for movies such as Baazigar, Dil Ka Kya Kasoor etc, when the music industry was fully dominated by Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Anuradha Paudwal whose voice was used for younger heroines.
But year 1995 witnessed a major milestone of her professional career. Though A. R. Rahman was quite familiar to Bollywood fans through numerous dubbed films such as Roja, Bombay, Hum Se Hai Muquabla etc, he marked his actual Bollywood debut in the year 1995 through Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela, which established Urmila Matondkar as the new glamorous queen of Bollywood.
Asha was 61 years old when she recorded the chartbuster tracks – Rangeela Re and Tanha Tanha featuring Urmila in an extremely glamorous look. Many were surprised to see the new avatar of this singing legend, who recorded these peppy tracks for a heroine in the early 20s and her voice suited Urmila very much. The songs turned out to be the biggest hits of year 1995. In fact her voice and singing style gave new dimensions to Rahman’s songs, and established him as the ‘New generation music composer of Bollywood’ – a trademark left by Asha Bhosle’s husband, the great R. D who left the world about one year ago. There was no turning back for Rahman after that, and the rest is history.    
When two legends came together for the first time, a new trend was already born which Bollywood has never witnessed or heard before. Rahman also received Filmfare award for best music for his debut Bollywood album. Since then Asha Bhosle sang many amazing songs for A. R. Rahman and most of them were huge hits.

Asha’s age reduces considerably while singing Rahman songs 

asha bhosle tanha song

Tanha Tanha From Rangeela

Asha mostly sang for heroines in their 20s, when she past 60 and 70 years age. When she sings for Rahman, hardly does anyone notice that there is a huge age gap between the heroine and the playback voice. Since 1995, majority of her chartbuster songs belong to A. R. Rahman. It can be said that Rahman revived the singing career of Asha through his wonderful compositions, and he explored some of her hidden talents which were earlier discovered and used by R. D. Burman only. For many years he tried to include at least one song of Asha in his Bollywood albums, and most of them turned to be huge chartbusters too.

Asha mostly sang fast tracks for Rahman

Rahman is known for experimenting with new voices. But very often we forget that he experiment with established voices of Bollywood also. When most music directors preferred to play safe by offering soft melodious songs to well-established and elder singers like Asha or Lata, Rahman started a new trend by rediscovering Asha of 1970s through his compositions.

Many music directors followed the trend started by Rahman 

Lucky Lips featuring Sneha Ullal

Lucky Lips for Lucky – No Time for Love and Sharara Sharara for Mere Yaar Ki Shaad Hai – though both of these songs are not composed by Rahman, they definitely fall in lines with Rahman’s compositions for Asha Bhosle. For both these dance numbers, Asha sung for younger heroines. It’s unbelievable to watch young Sneha Ullal of 16 years old to sync lip and dance to Asha’s voice whose age was 70 years when the song – Lucky Lips was recorded. Kambaqt Ishq of Pyar Tune Kya Kiya can be seen as an extension of Rangeela magic, where Urmila played a model/actress role. 

Taal – The musical hit of year 1999 

taal songs

Kahi Aag Lage – One of the top songs in Rahman-Asha Bhosle combination

Asha Bhosle is indeed known as the queen of pop who is simply at her best for item songs and cabarets. Though she is well-versed in melody tracks, her fans mostly love her fast and peppy numbers. After Rangeela, this magical combination is perhaps best remembered for the song – Kahi Aag Lage Lag Jaaye belonging to 1999 musical Taal. Though it’s a dance sequence pictured on Aishwarya Rai, it’s also a romantic track which expressed broken heart and agonies of love at its best. A. R. Rahman also received Filmfare award for best music for Taal.

The huge hits were obviously dance numbers 

Radha Kaise Na Jale from Lagaan

Asha Bhosle mostly sings dance numbers of Rahman, who puts extra efforts to compose those songs. ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ of Lagaan for Gracy Singh, ‘Kahi Aag Lage Lag Jaaye’ of Taal for Aishwarya Rai, Mujhe rang de’ of Thakshak for Tabu, ‘Mera Dil Ka Woh Shehshada’ of Kabhi Na Kabhi for Pooja Bhatt etc can be easily tagged as dance numbers, and they got well-noticed by music fans. Chori Pe Chori of Saathiya was the weakest track of the album, and Asha Bhosle also sang its original version, September Maadam of Alaippayuthey

Other chartbuster hits in A. R. Rahman-Asha Bhosle combination

Though Asha Bhosle is tagged with Rahman’s dance numbers, she has also sung a few romantic tracks for Rahman. O Bawre of Daud is perhaps the only duet song of Asha Bhosle and Yesudas in A. R. Rahman composition. The movie also included a sizzling number – Zehreela Pyar in Bhosle’s voice. After the huge success of Rangeela, Asha Bhosle’s voice has been frequently used by many composers for Urmila.

Less heard songs in this combination

Dhua song for Tabu belongs to the movie – Meenaxi was also recorded in Asha Bhosle’s voice. Asha sang the popular dance number – Off Ho Jalta Hai aside Sonu Nigam for the movie, Lakeer – Forbidden Lines. Mehrabaan for Shabana Asmi from the movie – Tehzeeb is one of the less heard songs in this combination.

I think, in the past one decade or so, A. R. Rahman has not recorded any song in Asha Bhosle’s voice; hoping to hear more songs in this celebrated combination. If I have missed to mention any popular song of this combination, please let me know.

Read a few more posts on A. R. Rahman, the sensational and most popular music composer of present generation. Here is the page link. Click on the images to read. 


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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3 Responses

  1. Akshay Singh says:

    Well written article.

  2. Ashish Simalti says:

    Nicely summarized. Said had one more song by Asha bhosle . Love the texture of her voice in rangeela songs

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