MANNA DEY, 1919-2013
Legendary playback singer Manna Dey succumbed after a prolonged illness and left for his heavenly abode on October 24. The 94-year-old singer, who was being treated at Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital since the last five months for respiratory and renal problems, died of a cardiac arrest. He lost his wife Sulochana in January last year. While his daughter Shumita Deb and son-in-law Jnanranjan Deb were with him, his other daughter lives in the US.
The singer, who ruled the roost for over five decades, had lent his voice for around 4000 songs in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese, Bengali, Malayalam and Kannada till the ’90s. He had several hits songs to his credit even when there were versatile singers like Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar in competition with each other. With his demise, the Indian film industry loses the last of the veteran singers who dominated the music industry.
Early days in the industry
Hailing from Kolkata, Prabodh Chandra Dey, as a young boy, took training in music from his uncle, Krishna Chandra Dey and Ustad Dabir Khan. Much later he learnt Hindustani classical music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan. It was in 1943 that Manna Dey began his singing career in films with Tamanna which had music by his uncle. Suraiya accompanied him for the duet. Though the song was a hit, it was after a long gap, in 1950, that he got another film offer to sing Upar gagan vishal, his first solo ever, in Mashal, composed by S.D. Burman.
Over the years, he experimented with different genre of songs, but it was the demand for complicated raag-based songs that not only made him immensely popular, but he was also once pitted against his idol Bhimsen Joshi. The Ketki gulab juhi song from 1956 film Basant Bahar was a big hit. Besides raag-based songs, he specialised in qawwalis, ghazals and fast-paced modern and romantic numbers. Even as an accomplished singer, he assisted S.D. Burman in composing and has worked with composers like Anil Biswas, Shankar Rao Vyas, S.K. Pal, Khemchand Prakash and Mohd. Safi from 1947-57.
Dey also lent his voice for poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala. He sang duets with Rajkumari, Suraiya, Shamshad Begum from the earlier lot, but his first duet with the then upcoming singer Lata Mangeshkar was Lapat ke pot pahaney bikral in Narsingh Avtar in 1949.