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Did Lata-Asha turn their backs to each other while singing?

By SUBHASH K JHA
September 08, 2021 16:54 IST
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'There is absolutely no rivalry between us.'
'I've always wished her well.'
'And she has always looked up to me as her elder sister.'

Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle

IMAGE: Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Photograph: Kind courtesy Subhash K Jha

On a cloudy monsoon morning Subhash K Jha brings up the ostensibly taboo topic of Lata Mangeshkar's sister, Asha Bhosle, and Lataji's priceless voice lights up.

"Asha and I are close. We don't meet that frequently these days because she lives far away with her son Anand," she says about her younger sister who turns 88 on September 8.

"Earlier she lived right next to me. We even shared a door between our apartments in Prabhu Kunj (the residential complex on Peddar Road, south Mumbai, where Lata Mangeshkar stays).

"I know people find it hard to believe. But that's the way it is.

"Of course, we've had our differences in the past. Which siblings don't have differences? There were things she did in her youth that I couldn't approve of."

 

Like getting married too early?

"Yes. I knew it was too early.

"I could feel it would end in disaster. And it did.

"But it was her life and she was free to do what she liked with it. In our family, we never question one another's decisions."

What about professional rivalry?

Lataji patiently clarifies, "There was never any professional rivalry between us. She evolved a completely different style of singing.

"What she could do, I couldn't. Even with Pancham (legendary composer R D Burman married Asha Bhosle in 1980; it was her second marriage), the songs that I sang for him were very distinct from what Asha sang for him.

"I sang Na koi umang hai for Pancham in Kati Patang. I could never do Mera naam hai Shabnam, another song from the same film. It had to be Asha.

"Our individual areas of singing were clearly marked out."

There was talk of the two illustrious sisters turning their backs on one another when they sang together.

"I don't know where that started," sighs Lataji.

"There was some picture of the two of us recording a song while looking in opposite directions. This was taken to mean that we couldn't see eye-to-eye.

"Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Asha and I really enjoyed singing together whenever we got the chance.

"There is absolutely no rivalry between us. I've always wished her well. And she has always looked up to me as her elder sister."

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SUBHASH K JHA