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Stories of Sisterhood: The Tumultuous Lata-Asha Relationship

The complicated relationship between two headstrong women

The Lata Mangeshkar-Asha Bhosle relationship is no different than that of any pair of sisters : plenty of warmth and plenty of recriminations

Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeskhar

Those of you who follow us on Facebook and Instagram will know that the MBRB girls are celebrating Raksha Bandhan by exploring the bond between sisters (Why are we doing this? Find out here). All through August, we will bring you stories about sisters – many of them regular women like you and me; some of them famous, such as the Ranaut and the Phogat sisters. Write to us if you have a story, poem or picture to share about your sister/s, tag us on FB or Insta with sisterly inspiration, and help spread the word by sharing our Stories of Sisterhood

We want our stories to have a simple narrative- relationships easily resolved, and feelings that are either best described as abiding love or bitter enmity. But in the case of the Mangeshkar sisters, the truth is probably a little more complicated. They’ve squabbled, been bitter rivals, supported each other and been each other’s best friend through an entire six decades lived in the limelight. And that’s what makes their sisterhood so unique.

Lata Mangeshkar is the oldest of four sisters and one brother- Meena, Asha, Usha and Hriday Mangeshkar. But it is her relationship with sister Asha Bhosle that has inspired the most reams of newsprint, as well as a middling film.  Surely, people have conjectured, two talented and headstrong women couldn’t possibly also be friends?

Here’s what the sisters themselves have to say about this.

Lata on Asha

There’s no fight between us. Until recently we lived in adjoining flats and there’s a connecting door between our homes. We’re constantly in and out of one another’s homes.

I’m very proud of  Asha. She can sing every kind of song. Thank God she didn’t adopt my style of singing. If she had we’d have become competition for one another. She went on her own path. Yeh maanna padega ki woh bahut badi gayika hai.

Maybe it is just us, but there is  definitely a hesitance there –  especially in the way she is quick to point out that Asha Bhosle is a “different” style of singer. 

It is a well known fact that Lata Mangeshkar didn’t get along with Asha Bhosle’s first husband Ganpatrao Bhosle.

 “Once Asha was married, her husband did not want her to have anything to do with us,” says Lata Mangeshkar in Lata Mangeshkar… In Her Own Voice, a book by Nasreen Munni Kabir. “She wasn’t al­lowed to see us or write to us. This was the situation for years. Ganpatrao Bhosle used to take Asha to various music direc­tors and make her audition for them. He believed that she would earn him lots of money and wanted to control her. Asha suffered a lot during those years.”

She has also admitted that in many ways it was RD Burman who eventually affected a reconciliation between the two of them.

But differences remain.

Asha on Lata

In an interview with Rajeev Masand in 2012, Asha Bhosle called out Lata Mangeskhar for her lack of support during the difficult  phase when she had come back home after a failed marriage and was trying to establish herself as a singer. While neither sister has ever openly addressed the rumours, it has been conjectured that that during the late 1960s and 70s, music composers were firmly divided in the Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle camp, with very few working with both the sisters.

Although Asha Bhosle is also on record as saying on Lata’s 83rd birthday

A singer that can equal Lata didi has not been born yet.

So, professional respect and warmth, a few shared recriminations, and plenty of history? Sounds like any other sisterly relationship we know of. And that’s what makes it so special.

The Mangeskhar sisters  were independent career women long before that became a norm. They’ve lived their lives stubbornly on their own terms and carved a niche purely by the dint of their effort and talent. While they may not have got along all the time, they are possibly the only two who really understand each other’s unstinting ambition and grit too.

And that is why nothing in Bollywood compares to the sheer artistry of the rare occasion they sang together.

Friend for life or crab grass in the lawn of life? Contribute to this series by mailing us with what sisterhood means to you, or tagging us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prose, verse, pictures and caricatures are welcome, as are bouquets and daggers  

Image courtesy video of event where Lata Mangeshkar honours Asha Bhosle with the Pandit Hridayanath Lifetime Achievement Award 

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