Saturday, April 17, 2010

Asha Bhosle: Wakow!

“The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character, — a wonderful expression through stone, or canvas, or musical sound, of the deepest and simplest attributes of our nature, and therefore most intelligible at last to those souls which have these attributes.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing about Bollywood sometimes requires the use of sentimental and extremely over the top language – purple prose. How else could I write about the ecstasy of watching Hema Malini’s final dance in
Sholay where she must keep moving, even though every step pains her, or her lover will die? The pit I get in my stomach even though I’ve seen that scene a hundred times? Well, perhaps you’ll excuse me if I go a little overboard with this review because there is no other way I can describe the concert I attended last night: seeing Asha Bhosle in concert was a transcendental experience. Her performance captured not just the sound of Bollywood but its very soul as she infused every note she sang with, to quote Emerson, ‘the deepest and simplest attributes of [its] nature.’ Asha Bhosle is still a firecracker at 76 and she and Sudesh Bhosle performed for a good three hours last night at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC backed by the R.D. Burman band.

I had a good seat overlooking the stage, so I could watch the R.D. Burman band at work - eleven men, including the conductor, three percussionists, a man on Indian drums, three horn players, two on synthesizers, a bass player, and a smoking hot guitarist. The show opened with a fanfare – literally – as the trumpet player sounded out the opening notes of “Bachna Ae Haseeno” to welcome on Sudesh Bhosle, who performed a few Kishore Kumar tunes and treated us to his hilarious impressions of Amitabh Bachchan. Sudesh does a passable Kishore, although his voice doesn’t have the heft of Kishore’s on the slower tunes, he managed to capture some of Kishore’s exuberance on the faster ones.

Asha announced her presence from offstage by singing the line, “Mera naa-aaaam hai… Shabnam.” And there is no other word for it, she sauntered on to the stage decked out in a spangly black and silver saree and proceeded to invoke the great spirit of Bindu as she danced her way through the infamous vamp’s hit song. Next was “Aaja Aaja” from
Teesri Manzil and the sultry “Chura Liya Hai Tumne” from Yaadon Ki Baaraat. The latter went over so well that the audience made her encore it right there and then.

My notes get kind of fuzzy from this point on as I concentrated more on trying to understand her little stories about the songs. She spoke all in Hindi, so I only caught maybe 30% of what she was saying but I knew enough to know when she was imitating Shammi Kapoor and R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar and how they worked. The rest of the first half she did “O Mera Sona Re” from
Teesri Manzil, “Mil Gaya Humko Saathi” from Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, and a couple others. And then Sudesh came back on stage for some duets, including “Tu Hai Wohi” from Yeh Wada Raha, “Ek Main aur Ek Tu” from Khel Khel Main, and “O Haseena Zulfon Wali” from Teesri Manzil.

The second half had Sudesh back on first and he did some more of the same, culminating in WAKOW! Yes, the medley from “Hum Kisise Kum Nahin” that brought back to the stage Asha Bhosle for her part. The second half included “Saiyan re Saiyan” from
The Train and then possibly “Le Kar Hum Deewana Dil” from Yaadon Ki Baaraat, which I suspect only because my note for this song is – and I quote directly from my notebook – Guitar player = HOT! and “Le Kar Hum” features a wailing guitar part. “Khitne Bhi Tu Karle Sanam” from Sanam Teri Kasam moved right into “Piya Tu Ab To Aja” from Caravan and then the show closed with “Dum Maro Dum” from Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

Not only was it wonderful to hear all these golden oldies, Asha’s vibrant performances made them seem so fresh and vibrant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Piya Tu Ab To Aja” but there was something new to it when she sings it. And it was easy to forget that I was watching a 76-year old woman on stage when Asha kicked off her shoes and broke into some of Helen’s trademarked choreography for “O Haseena Zulfon Wali.” She truly is a living legend.

While I was completely transfixed, I fear that the magic of Asha’s performance passed by a good portion of the audience. Maybe one needs to have lived with these songs and these old films to really appreciate Asha Bhosle doing a Helen hip shimmy while singing “O Haseena” or telling a funny story about recording with R.D. Burman. I was seated in between two extended families and while the oldsters were enjoying the show as much as I was, the younger generations and even the middle generations lost interest early on and spent much of the show wandering around back and forth and chatting. Maybe this is me jumping up on my Ralph Waldo Emerson soap box about appreciating Truth and Beauty but I hope those kids took something away from the experience of seeing Asha Bhosle in concert and explore some of these old R.D. Burman songs on their own because, sad to say, songs like “Chura Liya Hai Tumne” have an emotional quality and a craftsmanship that is missing from a lot of contemporary film songs.

Maybe I'm being overly sentimental but I truly felt like I was in the presence of something magical last night and I'm very grateful for the chance to have seen Asha Bhosle in concert.


Archee ologist said...

Wow! I wish I was there. What a waste for the new generation!

Anywya, do you know if she is performing in other cities? Montreal, for example?

Filmi Girl said...

I think she is in Houston tonight and after that... I don't know. Sorry!

It's so hard to get lists of tour dates for Indian shows... :(

batulm said...

Lucky, lucky Filmi Girl, I've never yet seen an Asha Bhonsale concert, and I live in the same city, I presume. But yes, I think it is the mischief and fun in her own temperament that reflects in her voice and that make her songs, especially the cabaret numbers so, so memorable. I would have loved to see her do the Helen shimmy. Wow!

Filmi Girl said...

@batulm I was very lucky - we need to treasure Asha while she is still able to perform so wonderfully!

I wish somebody would do a concert DVD of this tour so everybody could see it. :)

Banannie said...

I've watched one of her concerts on TV before. She is so amazing! I don't have words to describe how awesome she is on stage! You are so lucky you got to see her live!

Zeeshan Suhail said...

Great write-up! And it was musical magic indeed. I'm so fortunate to live in a day and age where she still performs - and performs so well!

Would you have video clips of the performance? Especially of the piya tu ab tau aaja segment? That was off the hook!

Filmi Girl said...

@banannie I feel so blessed... :)

@zeeshan Sadly, I do not have any video clips. I really think they should do a DVD of the concert to capture the show for everyone to see!

Harshi said...

What a wonder! To have come across your blog....I attended the show just 6 days before you saw it right here in Silicon Valley, CA. Moreover, the word "transcendental" sent shivers down my spine since I exactly know what you mean there. I felt the same way and the proof is my article which I wrote right 90 minutes after meeting her the other day of the concert at her Hotel.
I shared few drinks with the musicians and had a great time. Hailing from Maharashtra, I could speak to them in fluent Marathi that gave a special touch to the toast :)

The musicians were magnificent, not only with their instruments but also to talk with. They were narrating some anecdotes and making the most of my day by telling me about their experiences with the great R.D. Burman back in the day......what a day.....what a day.
At the end of the day, I met the ever scintillating Asha Bhosle.

Simply great to read this article :)
Please visit my blog at to read my article. Thank you so much!

Harshi :)

Harshi said...

Oh yes! I also have some video clips I took till they asked me to stop =D
They gonna go straight to my YouTube channel soon. Will post a link here too.

Filmi Girl said...

@Harshi Thank you so much! I will look at your review - and I envy your chance to meet Asha Bhosle. Wow...! She is such a living legend! :)

Harshi said...

I was sitting right there in the VIP section of the Orchestra level at the auditorium. Before singing a song, she would narrate spicy bits of history associated with the song. (Shhh! The song she was gonna sing was never disclosed) but every single time I was able to NAIL IT! I could sooooo guess what song she was gonna sing next. The families sitting around me in the VIP section were surprised. More to the fact that I am just 23 years old and knew so much about the films, the music, the tiny bits of history attached to the song etc etc etc (I dont wanna sound cheeky in any case, but just narrating my experiences in full zest =D Pardon me!)


Harshi said...

Thank you Filmi Girl :) Your blog is just awesome!

Filmi Girl said...

@harshi I'm glad you think so! :D I love the golden oldies. Are you on twitter at all? We're doing a Vinod Khanna appreciation week next week. :

Harshi said...

That sounds awesome. I do have twitter but having some issues with that at the moment. Gonna post my username once I fix it :)


Harshi said...

Do you happen to be on facebook?
Catch me at

Filmi Girl said...

@harshi I just added you on FB - can always use new Bolly-friends. :)

Harshi said...

Oh hell yeah! Thanksssssss :)

Harshi said...

Talking about Golden oldies, please check out my YouTube channel whenever you get a chance Uploaded some rarities there :) said...

Wow! I missed your post completely, though I follow you on Twitter (I think), I went to the same concert, blogged about it too, and shared your thoughts 100%!


Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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