Asha Bhosle in concert is a transcendental experience; she captures not just the sound of Bollywood but its very soul. 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. And To make things even more enjoyable, in between her songs, Asha told stories about 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 the medley from Hum Kisise Kum Nahin that brought Asha Bhosle back to the stage for her part. The second half also included ‘Saiyan re Saiyan’ from The Train. ‘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.
The audience was packed with young kids and families sharing the magic of Bollywood and 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 songs like ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’ have an emotional quality and a craftsmanship that isn’t very often in contemporary film songs.
Needless to say, if you get a chance, do go and see the show!