Choti Si Asha, Bholi Si Asha

Hers is a voice that wafts through different eras to meet the trends of the day. Like the flexible ballerina, she moulds her notes to the rhythm of the times. Asha Bhonsle.

By her own admission, she sings each song, "as if it were part of my debut album." And this freshness cuts through the very soul of the character her songs portray.

A sultry siren, a sati savitri, a new babe on the block or a woman in love — they all find expression in the voice of Asha Bhonsle, the most versatile singer of our times.

Maybe even that of the next generation which is already learning to jive to the quick tempo of Janam Samjha Karo and her own remixes that she decided to do after she heard, "others re-mix my songs and kill them in the bargain."

Now contemplating an album with Adnan Sami and Shankar Mahadevan, Asha Bhonsle, caught on her way to the airport for that umpteenth flight, is more in the mood to talk of the two twin grand-children that came into her life recently than songs she is set to sing.

"I am waiting to get home and play with them," she pipes happily, informing that they are an ideal pair. "The girl is called Zainai, though I love to call her Zai and the boy is Ranjay Raj. They are an absolute delight."

Exuding an effervescence that only comes with real happiness, Asha insists, "Today I only live for my children Varsha, Anand, Hemant and my daughter-in-law, Anjana. Unke saamne aur koi itna important nahin."

Tell her that you sensed the bonding in an article daughter Varsha wrote and she asks, "Did she also write that I used to hit her when she was young? But, what could I do, she was so stubborn?"

Asha, a tough mum? "I always believe in being a friend to the young. But I also do believe they have to be instilled with the right values."

And it is just this fine balance that emerges even in the songs she sings for the swinging MTV lot. The glam slam or glam gran era emerged after climbing the learning curve.

"At a concert, I had this group of 18 to 20-year-olds turning their back on me, and I realised that the generation gap had to be bridged." So out went the old fashioned South silks. In came embroidered saris and lycra-fitted blouses.

Out went the discreet playback singer image and in came the smiling, dimpled face that struck an instant rapport with international groups like Code Red and Boy George. "Soon after Code Red, I was touched when this group of 18-year-olds in my building came up to me to tell me how well I sang! But then, to be one with the young, you have to sing in their voice," she insists.

Asha dismisses the rest of the glam act to, "those great photographers like Gautam (Rajadhyaksha) who are so good for my ego. They can make anyone look good. Also, age is in the mind. I am still singing like I did 30 years ago."

To perform rare and musical compositions from the Senia gharana with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan one day and then to give a musical dekko to Boy George’s Karma Chameleon the other, and then go on to re-mix your yesteryear hits.

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