In her initial days in the industry, Asha always played second fiddle to her elder sister. Some say that Lata had once said something criticising Asha’s relationship with O. P. Nayyar. This widened the rift between the two sisters and O P Nayyar also decided that he would never work with Lata. O.P. Nayyar had once revealed — “Asha and Lata staying in opposite flats at Bombay’s Peddar Road, shared a common maidservant. Now this maidservant had merely to come and tell the younger sister that Lata had just recorded something wonderful for Asha to lose her vocal poise. Such was her Lata phobia that it took me some months to convince Asha that she had a voice individualistic enough to evolve a singing style all of her own.” Asha once said that she has worked for years to create a voice and a style that was different from Lata, so that she could carve her own niche and not be banished to live her shadow.
Asha and Lata have sung many songs together. Their first duet was for the film Daman (1951). Some of these include Man Bhawan Ke Ghar aye (Chori Chori, 1956), Sakhi ri sun bole papihaa us paar (Miss Mary, 1957), O chaand jahaan woh jaaye (Sharada, 1957), Mere Mehboob Mein Kya Nahi (Mere Mehboob, 1963), Ai kash kisi deewane ko (Aaye Din Bahar Ke, 1966), Main Chali Main Chali (Padosan, 1968), Chhap tilak sab (Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, 1978), and Man kyun behka (Utsav, 1984). While singing, Lata used to hold her notebook in her right hand, while Asha held her notebook in her left hand. This meant Lata had her face away from Asha, making it difficult for them to “anticipate” each other.
The movie Saaz, was supposedly based on Lata and Asha’s rivalry. Asha said about the movie — “To have two women in long plaits, take a couple of incidents and exaggerate them into a 3-hour film is such a waste of time.” In last few years, Asha and Lata have often been seen in public, enjoying each other’s company. In an interview with The Times of India, Asha once said – “I remember, sometimes both of us would be at a function and some industry types would ignore me and interact only with her, as if to prove their loyalty. Later, didi (elder sister) and I would have a good laugh!”