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'My brother opened a door for me to escape my grief'

Asha Bhosle has tried to channelise her grief over the loss of her daughter Varsha Bhosle by bringing to fruition one of Varsha’s cherished dreams, that of a charitable trust for children.

Asha Bhosle
But we soldier on, nevertheless. Singer Asha Bhosle in a contemplative mood

She had said earlier that if it wasn’t for music, the tragedy would have destroyed her completely. It was music too which helped her regain her composure, give her hope and strengthened her resolve to carry on. Now, the singer talks about attempting some closure through the trust and what starting to sing again after that tragedy, means to her.

Ashaji, what made you set up the Asha Bhosle Foundation?
My daughter, Varsha was very keen to start a charitable trust called The Asha Bhosle Foundation to help children. It could not happen during her lifetime. Now, after she’s gone I felt like reviving her dream. Hence, after four months of being completely away from the limelight, I performed in a concert in Pune last week. I performed because my brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar insisted that I do the show with him.

Prabhu Kunj
Police personnel outside Prabhu Kunj, Asha Bhosle's building after Varsha Bhosle committed suicide

How did your brother convince you to come out of your grief?
He called me and made me sit. He placed the tanpura in my hands and said, ‘sing’. I did. Even Didi (Lata Mangeshkarji) was there when I resumed singing. My brother opened a door for me to escape my grief. I love my brother Hridaynath immensely and I couldn’t say no to his request. From the time he urged me to resume singing I began doing riyaaz ever single day. That's all I did all day... practice my singing for four months. I had said earlier that my son Anand and his wife have been pillars of strength in the process of emotional healing. They have been with me in these trying times. But whenever they aren't around I get terrible thoughts. At times like these my riyaaz helps me to overcome my depression.

Hridaynath Mangeshkhar with Lata Mangeshkar
Hridaynath Mangeshkhar with Lata Mangeshkar

Finally, you were ready to go on stage...
Yes, and I got the most overwhelming response. People told me I sound the way I did when I first came into the film industry. I can’t tell you how much praise I got for the concert with my brother on January 19. People also donated generously for my foundation. A token cheque of Rs 1 lakh also came from my didi also as her blessing. We collected Rs 1 crore, 36 lakh. I have handed over this money to the Mai Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune. It will be used to help needy, ill children, whose families cannot afford to pay for surgery.

Gautam Rajadhayksha
Gautam Rajadhayksha

I am sure your daughter is watching this with much pleasure?
I could feel Varsha’s presence when I was on stage. It is God’s will. I feel each individual is born to do something in life. I am born to sing until the time when I meet my daughter in the next world. I am sure she's waiting for me. I feel lighter of heart after singing. I broke down while singing on stage. The last time I sang with Hridaynath, it was 12 years ago. When he sings I just listen.

You are very attached to him...
From childhood, I’ve looked after him like a mother. I am attached to him like a mother to her child. If he hadn’t asked me to resume singing I probably wouldn’t have. Now I’ll be recording songs with him. He told me, ‘If you don't sing for me I’ve no motivation to compose. Now that you’re singing I am motivated to compose.’ I will be recording songs in Marathi soon.

Your film Mai where you make your debut as an actress is on for release. How difficult was it for you to make the transition from singing to acting at this late stage of your life?
It’s a mother role. I didn't have to act. In fact I think acting is much easier than singing. While acting you get your emotions broken into several shots before they’re conveyed. While singing all the emotion has to come out in one go, in one take.

Would you be tempted to take up more acting offers?
I don’t think so. I think I’m better off singing. My deepest regret is that two people so close to my heart, my daughter Varsha and my friend, photographer Gautam Rajadhayksha won’t watch my film.

Is this new phase as an actress in your career important to you?
Once a singer, always a singer. Acting is a new adventure.

You’ve faced so many hardships in life, and yet, a majority of your songs are happy?
I had no choice in the songs I sang. I sang whatever came my way because I needed the money. Whenever I have sung, I have
set my sorrows aside. But when I sit down to think, I see so many sorrows in my life. Maybe, God thinks I would stop singing if I were allowed to be stress-free. I never relaxed in life. 

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