Since my taste in songs is pretty fluid, there are some songs that I will always like, some that I like in context, some that I like very much today but perhaps not as much tomorrow... and so, this list is not reflective of my tastes forevermore. Once again, I'm not trying to list her 'best' or my 'favourites' as much as trying to collate a variety of Asha Bhosle's duets with a variety of singers, both male and female. For obvious reasons, I'm not including any songs that include a third singer. While the list is chronological in order, I have decided to list the female duets first. So without further ado...
Ghir ghir ke aasman par (Rajkumari)
Bawre Nain (1950) / Music: Roshan / Lyrics: Kidar Sharma
This song was in the beginning of her career, and her senior, Rajkumari, sang for Geeta Bali, while Asha Bhosle had to be content to complement the lead. (She also got a duet with Mohammed Rafi: Mohabbat ke maaron ka haal. Bawre Nain was also a make-or-break film for Roshan who, after the failure of his first film, Neki aur Badi (1949), was all set to leave. Mentor Kidar Sharma insisted he compose for Bawre Nain and the rest is history. A contrived melodrama with a wafer-thin plot, the film was a resounding success, and the songs even bigger hits.
Dil ko lagaake huzoor (Mubarak Begum)
Rukhsana (1955) / Music: Sajjad / Lyrics: Khumar Barabankvi
Rukhsana was a cloak-and-dagger film starring Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar, with the former playing a princess and the latter the leader of rebels; its plot sounds delicious enough for me to want to see it, especially since its music is so good (and I can watch Meena Kumari any time). However, there's not a print available. (Or I haven't found one.) Asha got her chance when Lata, unusually for her, discovered she had 'no dates'. (She would record only one song for this film.) Sajjad, already discomposed by the absence of his favourite singer, was taken aback when he realised that Kishore was the lead. He didn't have much use for Kishore either, scornfully referring to him as 'shor' Kumar.
Aingan baingan (Shamshad Begum)
Duniya Na Mane (1954) / Music: Madan Mohan / Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
While the most famous Shamshad-Asha duets are Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka (Naya Daur) and Kajra mohobatwala (Kismet), I had used Nigahon ka ishaara hai from the relatively lesser-known Night Club in my post on Shamshad Begum's duets. I first came across this delightful song when I was writing my post on Children's songs, and was amazed when I learnt the music director was Madan Mohan. Somehow, it didn't seem to fit the image I had of the man. Here, instead of Asha singing for the female, and Shamshad Begum for the male, both singers are singing for a bunch of adolescents, one of whom is Mohan Choti. I haven't been able to identify the second boy.
Jaanu jaanu ri (Geeta Dutt)
Insaan Jaag Utha (1959) / Music: SD Burman / Lyrics: Shailendra
While Geeta Dutt did feel, perhaps rightly, that Asha Bhosle had manipulated her career so that music directors chose her instead of Geeta, their personal relationship remained unaffected. Geeta, who had already become popular by 1949, and had established herself by 1951, was, along with Shamshad Begum, the first choice after Lata Mangeshkar for music directors. A struggling Asha, who had sung her first song with Geeta Dutt and Zohrabai Ambalewale in Chunariya, imitated Geeta's way of singing in the initial stages of her career. This duet, one of the sweetest of their songs together, and picturised on Madhubala and Meenu Mumtaz, is also a personal favourite.
SD Burman reportedly measured the distance between the wheels of the construction machine before he composed the metre of the song, so he could have the sound of the bangles jingling just when the girls reach one wheel from the other.
Dard-e-dil (Sudha Malhotra)
CID Girl (1959) / Music: Roshan / Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
This is a song I came across just recently when I was looking for Asha Bhosle duets with other female singers. I must confess to not having heard the song before, nor of the film. It seems destined to lie shrouded in obscurity, which makes me wonder why some songs languish so, especially when they are such delightful melodies. There is such joyous abandon in the voices of Asha and Sudha Malhotra that it makes me want to tap my feet in response. If any of my readers can shed some light on this song? [The film apparently starred Geeta Bali and Balraj Sahni.]
Kahe tarsaaye jiyara (Usha Mangeshkar)
Chitralekha (1964) / Music: Roshan / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Now, this is a song that I have heard before and love very much. Unfortunately, the film didn't do too well at the box-office, but fortunately, unlike so many other wonderful musical scores that languished unheard (for ex. Madan Mohan's) because of the failure of the films, Chitralekha's score is not only well-known, but is appreciated for the classics they are. While Sansar se bhaage phirte ho, Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare, Sakhi ri mera, and Ae ri jaane na doongi are very popular, this song is no less beautiful. Asha and her sister, Usha, sing for a trio of dancers (Bela Bose is the only one I can recognise), while three other dancers dance in a mute challenge to the commander of the Mauryan army.
Man kyun behka (Lata Mangeshkar)
Utsav (1984) / Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal / Lyrics: Vasant Dev
Shalini, one of my regular readers, avers that the Lata-Asha duets are 'underwhelming'. I tend to agree with her. However, this is one of their duets which I really like, and where I think both sisters have given of their best. Considering their extremely long careers, and the number of songs they have individually wracked up, Lata and Asha have only sung 75 duets. My other favourites from among these 75 songs are Manbhavan ke ghar gaaye gori (Chori Chori) and Sakhi ri sun bol papeeha (Miss Mary), the song that I chose for my post on Lata Mangeshkar's duets.
Sab kuch karna (SD Batish)
Ada (1951) / Music: Madan Mohan / Lyrics: SK Deepak
From the females singers to duets with male singers. SD Batish was not only a singer but a composer in his own right. In what was only his second film as composer, Madan Mohan had managed to make up the tiff with Lata Mangeshkar, and anointed her his raakhi sister. She got the cream of the songs, with three solos. While Geeta Dutt was also given a solo, both Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle had to content themselves with a duet apiece. This song, sung with verve by SD Batish and Asha, is a song that I only recently came cross.
Udhar chand nikla (GM Durrani)
Khushboo (1954) / Music: Shankar Lal / Lyrics: Gopal Singh Nepali
A film starring Motilal and Shyama, Asha Bhosle had the opportunity to sing three duets, out of which, this one, Udhar chand nikla is quite a delightful, light romantic number. Again, I must confess to not having heard of the film or the composer before this. For some reason, this song appeals to me, however.
Dil jawaan hai aarzoo jawan (Talat Mahmood)
Samundari Daku (1956) / Music: Jaidev / Lyrics: Vishwamitra Adil
Another obscure film, but a not-so-obscure composer, this is a lovely romantic duet with Talat coaxing a somewhat reluctant heroine to at least look at him; who can resist his silken voice? Asha joins in, sweet as honey, and the result is this wonderful melody. Talat also gets to sing a solo [sad] version of this song. My other choices for the Talat-Asha combination were Pyaas kuch aur bhi bhadka from Lala Rukh, and Sach bata tum mujhpe fida from Sone ki Chidiya. (My husband vetoed the latter.)
My initial choice was Ye hansta hua kaarvan from Ek Jhalak. However, the song only had Asha humming, not singing. So upon digging some more, I came across another version of Shirin Farhad that had Madhubala and Pradeep Kumar as the eponymous lovers. Considering that all great love stories end in tragedy, it seems befitting to have Hemant Kumar inject his pathos-laden vocals to give voice to Farhad's angst. Asha joins in, to give us a sweet romantic duet that is probably the one happy song for the tragic lovers. Asha adored Hemant Kumar's voice so much that she named her son, Hemant.
O aaja panchhi akela hai (Mohammed Rafi)
Nau Do Gyarah (1957) / Music: SD Burman / Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
One of the singers with whom Asha Bhosle sang the largest number of duets was Mohammed Rafi. Their duets run into the hundreds, and if it was difficult to pick one song for the other combinations, think of my plight when it came to Rafi-Asha duets: from Abhi na jao chhodkar (Hum Dono), which is a perennial favourite, to Phir miloge kabhi (Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi), O haseena zulfonwali (Teesri Manzil), Ishaaron ishaaron mein (Kashmir ki Kali - another favourite; it's such a romantic song), Ude jab jab zulfein teri (Naya Daur) and Aap yunhi agar humse milte rahe (Ek Musafir Ek Hasina - yet another favourite), it's almost impossible to choose. However, having to pick one, I decided to ask my husband for his choice, and he chose this. What's not to like? A dapper Dev Anand, for whom I have always preferred Mohammed Rafi as his 'voice', and a very pretty Kalpana Kartik whose vivacity on screen is matched by Asha's winsome voice. Lovely!
In an interview on Rafi's 90th birth anniversary, Asha reminisced about the man whom she remembered as 'Allah ke aadmi'. He never had a cross word for anybody, and would begin wishing everyone from the doorman onwards.
Phir na keeje meri gustakh nazar ka gila (Mukesh)
Phir Subah Hogi (1958) / Music: Khayyam / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
This, I have no doubts about - it is hands down one of my favourite Mukesh-Asha duets, and one of my favourite songs of all time. I love everything about this - the music, the lyrics, the singing, the picturisation... I love how the story merges into the song, and there's something very endearing about his shyness and her playfulness, his desires and her emotions, all merging into something so deeply satisfying.
Asha gave Mukesh the credit for improving her Hindi diction.
Kaari kaari andhiyari (Chitalkar)
Navrang (1959) / Music: C Ramchandra / Lyrics: Bharat Vyas
Navrang was C Ramchandra's [successful] attempt to compose a score without his muse. He came up with a bouquet of songs that are remarkable in their versatility and are rightly regarded as classics today; the proof is that three songs from the film made my long list, even if all of them weren't my final choices. As 'Chitalkar', the music director also provided playback and he has some fine songs to his credit. This is a beautiful song (and I wish I could have had a better audio recording), and one that I really like.
Dhadakne lagi dil ki taaron ki duniya (Mahendra Kapoor)
Dhool ka Phool (1959) / Music: N Dutta / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Mahendra Kapoor does not usually figure among my 'favourite' singers, but there are songs of his that I do like very much indeed. This is one of them. I really love the humming that begins the song, and the lovely, trippy melody that follows. Funnily enough, it also features a pair of actors about whom I feel the same way.
Two other Mahendra Kapoor-Asha Bhosle duets that I really do like very much indeed are Hum jab simatkar (Waqt) and Aadha hai chandrama (Navrang).
Re man sur mein ga (Manna Dey)
Lal Patthar (1971) / Music: Shankar-Jaikishan / Lyrics: Neeraj
I realise this is an unusual choice for a Manna Dey-Asha Bhosle duet but I do like this very much. Asha was always in awe of his voice and, in an interview, said: 'I think there is hardly anyone in the Hindi film industry who can sing classical songs as well as Manna Dey did.' So it made sense that I chose a classical song to showcase their individual and combined talents. (Plus, my husband voted for this - so now you know how I get my lists done.) One of my absolute favourites from their duets is Tu chhupi hai kahan from Navrang. It gives me the goosebumps. The other is a song that comes on the opposite end of the scale - Ae kaash chalte milke from Manzil. Three very, very different songs, but all so beautifully sung.
Jaane jaa doondhta phir yahan (Kishore Kumar)
Jawani Diwani (1972) / Music: RD Burman / Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
I'm sure I'll catch flak for choosing this song from the many hundreds that Kishore and Asha sang together, but there's something about this song that I really, really like. Also, it is an RD composition, and I believe there was magic when the three of them combined to produce a song. Besides, apart from Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar was probably the person with whom she sang the most number of duets. Indeed, she liked him very much indeed, because he was, like her, eager to experiment.
I know there are other songs, and I love them deeply - Aankhon mein kya ji (Nau Do Gyarah), Piya piya piya (Phagun), Main sitaron ka tarana (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi), and so many more. For the moment, however, this is my pick. It's both haunting and beautiful, not to mention that the orchestration is fabulous. Asha's voice holds all the mischief that is evident in Jaya Bhaduri's impish expression as she answers Kishore Kumar's part-fun, part-frantic, Tu kahaan?
Jaaneman jaaneman (Yesudas)
Chhoti Si Baat (1975) / Music: Salil Choudhury / Lyrics: Yogesh
Another one of my perennial favourites, I love this for the music, the singing, the lyrics, the picturisation... it was a very innovative way to introduce a song into a narrative that had no place for it. The playful nok-jhonk between two lovers was perfectly encapsulated by the teasing evident in both singers' voices.
While Yesudas had already recorded a song for Anand Mahal, his first released Hindi album was Chhoti Si Baat. Salilda had first met Yesudas during the composition of the score of Chemmeen, and had never lost his admiration of the singer's voice.
Man anand anand chhayo (Satyasheel Deshpande)
Vijeta (1982) / Music: Ajit Varman / Lyrics: Vasant Dev
I had originally put this song on the longlist of Asha's solos, when I realised it was a duet. Pt Satyasheel Deshpande joins in midway to lend voice to Daji Bhatwadekar, who plays Rekha's character's guru in the movie. This has to be one of Asha Bhosle's 'best' songs; she's sung it so beautifully. And Rekha did look like she was singing onscreen, not just lip-syncing to the words. There's a serenity about it that makes it perfect for a morning raga. Simply lovely!
Raat baaki baat baaki (Bappi Lahiri)
Namak Halal (1982) / Music: Bappi Lahiri / Lyrics: Anjaan
The 80s were not the greatest period for great Hindi film songs. (Or for Hindi films in general.) The 'disco' craze had come in, and general mainstream music turned into a cacophony with the tinny tone of the synthesizer taking the place of individual instruments. 'Music' became largely about beats than about lyrics, or even the melody. Amidst it all, a few films and songs stood out. From the mainstream circuit, from the baton of a man who was the acknowledged king of 'disco', comes this relatively quieter number where the voices get a chance to shine. Composer Bappi Lahiri does double duty as the singer as well and does a good job at that. The lyrics by Anjaan are not a travesty of 'cute' words that mean nothing. This is also, unlike many of the songs of the period, a song which pulls the narrative along - there's much that's happening in the background, even as the singer (Parveen Babi) is exhorting her audience to let whatever has to happen occur in what's left of the night.
Radha kaise na jale (Udit Narayan)
Lagaan (2001)/ Music: AR Rehman / Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
From the new millennium, this is a song that I like very much. Again, as much for the lyrics and the picturisation as for the music and the vocalisation. Another nok-jhonk song like Jaaneman jaaneman, here 'Radha' is wondering why she shouldn't feel jealous when 'Shyam' behaves so abominably. It is an interesting sequence because this is a janmashtami celebration, and so songs about 'Radhe-Shyam' are integral anyway. However, it also subtly refers to the relationship the dancer (Gracy Singh) has with the man she loves, and who she thinks is in danger of falling in love with another woman. Her Shyam (Aamir Khan) initially continues to tease her saying it's the women who chase him, not the other way around, but uses the opportunity to reassure her as well. He only has eyes for her. It's a rude awakening to the other woman who is listening to their song, and watching the by-play.
While Asha's voice had begun to show the strain by now, this is one song where she sounds delightful. (But Gracy Singh could dance!)
I have gone through five decades of her songs, and not touched even a tithe of the songs that this versatile, talented songstress has sung. If I had wanted, I could come up with an Asha-Kishore list, or an Asha-Mohammed Rafi list (several lists, in fact), and I would still face the same question - what do I drop? I have made some unusual choices, I know, especially where the Kishore-Asha combination is concerned, but sometimes it's a question of which song comes to mind when, or what appealed to me when I was writing the post. She, like her sister, has sung songs with many other singers, some of whom were not even born when Asha began her career. Like Lata, she has also sung songs for music directors, spanning generations: SD and RD Burman, Sardar Malik and Anu Malik, Roshan and Rajesh Roshan, Chitragupt and Anand-Milind. She has sung with Mukesh and his son, Nitin Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and his son, Amit Kumar. The history of Hindi film music will be incomplete without the contribution of this prolific singer, who has enchanted generations of music lovers with the magic of her voice.
My lists, as I said before, are never static; by the time I publish this post, some of my choices may change. So tell me, what are your choices of the moment?