Eight Decades of Asha
A leading light on the international entertainment scene with a career spanning more than seven decades, Asha Bhosle celebrates her 84th birthday this September. We look back at the making of a legend.
From childhood experiences as part of a travelling family theatre company to Bollywood icon status, Asha Bhosle has been captivating audiences around the world for over 70 years: behind the scenes, on the silver screen and in the kitchen.
Her award-winning career began in 1943 since when she has recorded playback tracks for more than 1,000 Bollywood movies, released a repertoire of albums and performed in front of sellout audiences around the world as the most recorded artist in music history (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), with over 12,000 songs.
MUSIC AND FOOD IN HARMONY
Growing up in her father’s travelling theatre company, with a cast of almost 300 people to look after, this was Asha’s first exposure to communal dining.
“Food for the company used to be made in large vessels with cooks furiously cutting and stirring whatever they were preparing. I remember wandering through these kitchens, full of awe and curiosity,” she reminisces.
Food and music have always existed in harmony for Asha, from girlish curiosity through to the early days of a fledgling career, as she recalls: “I remember recording my second song in 1945. When I finished recording, it was early morning and my husband and I walked out onto the just waking up streets of Mumbai and had vada pav and hot tea at a small roadside stall.
“It was the beginning of my musical career and there was a simplicity in this that I liked. I was a young new bride, my husband was by my side and I felt I could conquer the world. I can still taste that vada pav and tea. It was better than any caviar.”
FEEDING THE SOUL
Her love of music spans many different styles and singers, and she admires “anyone and everyone who can carry a tune”, listing Frank Sinatra, Adele, Barbra Streisand, Ghulam Ali, Phil Collins, Kishore Kumar, Mariam Makeba, Rahat Fateh Ali, Kishori Amonkar and her sister, Lata Mangeshkar, among her favourites.
“I believe music and food go hand in hand. I have yet to meet a musician who is not a foodie and even though they may not cook regularly, they definitely try their hand at it and experiment,” she remarks.
She also regularly draws on personal memories when creating new dishes for the Asha’s Restaurants’ menu, as she explains: “One afternoon, my late husband Rahul Dev Burman was trying his hand in the kitchen. That particular day, he was thinking of frying jumbo prawns and having them with Bengali style daal and rice.
“I told him that he should invent something new and not use the usual breadcrumb coating. So, he thought about it and came up with his own recipe which is popularised on our menu as chingri chaap in [his] style.”
ASHA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
For Asha, there is an undeniable synergy between taste buds and ears “When I [create] the perfect dish, it’s almost like singing the perfect song. A medley of perfect dishes is like the perfect concert.”
From feeding the musical appetite of fans around the world to launching the first Asha’s Restaurant in Dubai in 2002, her love of culinary harmony is as legendary as her vocal ability.
“Everyone in Bollywood knows how passionate I am about my cooking. I enjoy feeding people. One day my son mentioned that I should take my love for cooking a little further with themed restaurants revolving around my recipes; and that’s how the first Asha’s in Wafi, Dubai was born,” she says.
In just 15 years, the world’s first Indian restaurant chain has become a firm favourite of regional and international diners with 14 locations on two continents including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, and Birmingham and Manchester in the UK.
The newest Ashas’ to open it doors in Europe, the Manchester restaurant has already been recognised for its outstanding contribution to the UK culinary scene with a listing in the 2017 Michelin Guide – the first and only Indian restaurant to be featured.
Sitting back and enjoying her restaurant success is not an option, as she explains: “All Asha’s Restaurants’ chefs are known to me personally, and we get together as often as we can for a cookout.
“These are the most enjoyable moments because besides cooking their own inventions, all chefs have to also sing a song and most of them can hold the tune quite well!”