Like many Indians I have grown up with the dichotomy of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsale. Scratch that. Make it like many South Asians I have grown up on that great Lata-Asha binary – witness Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif discussing it in his 1000 ladi bomb of a novel A Case Of Exploding Mangoes: across the country lines are drawn between those who like Asha and those who like Lata. Tea of Cofee? Coke or Pepsi? Maoist or Leninist? Shia or Sunni?
The preference is supposed to categorise you instantly, like the Hogwarts sorting hat in Harry Potter. If you are a rootless cosmopolitan, who believes in fun and flirtation, sexual freedom and give a fig for moral orthodoxies then why, you must like Asha. Like Lata? You’re conventional, sentimental, stick-in-the-mud, and probably hide a little prudishness within. It is the good old- fashioned virgin and vamp, good woman and bad girl binary. Uske oopar Lata Mangeshkar has been called desh ki didi and voice of the Nation with all its conservative implications
Chalo, like everything there is obviously some truth in these things, but but but…
I’m not very padha likha in general but pleasure is my subject and Hindi films songs are a big fat textbook in that syllabus.
I did always love Asha Bhonsale and there is no Sexy Saturday Songs list on which she does not make an appearance. She was mischievous and throaty and sometimes so sweetly, collegially beckoning. A playlist in her sexy name another day. But is this really the only way to be sexy? Doesn’t it remind you of all those dodgy guys who, when they can’t cope with you saying no, instantly accuse you of being a prude? Know what I mean na?
Like many young people, women in particular, let me freely admit that for a while I bought into this idea. Both the prude business and the Asha is the only sexy business.
Now I know better and feel differently.
So, inspired by the recent discussion on The Ladies Finger which reiterated this vamp-virgin narrative and another which contextualized it, I thought I’d also join the karaoke party and say why I think this dichotomy is also little bit bhaicotomy. It’s like an old fashioned body-mind-heart divide which succeeds more in dividing ishq rather than exploring its different rasas.
What is sexy anyway? Are we saying a married or monogamous person can’t be sexy? Is intelligence sexy? Is dreaming sexy? Are we saying longing is not sexy? Is sexy always extroverted? Can there be a more contained, not always evident sexy? Just because you don’t have a come-hither note in your voice does that mean your voice doesn’t have chashni in its pants? I don’t think so – and I’m sure you don’t either. For that matter aren’t emotions sexy? Isn’t falling in love and longing longing longing for someone also sexy? And this emotional sexy is something Lata Mangeshkar, I think, sings so very well – among other kinds. So here are some sexy songs that are Unexpectedly Lata Mangeshkar.