As a small child I remember while passing by a radio I heard for the first time the song "Tu Pyaar ka Sagar hai---". Something in that voice and the music made me stop and listen to it . Ever since it has been a top favourite song of mine, which from time to time I listen to. It was the mesmeriseing voice of the play back singer Manna Dey. Yesterday he passed away forever but has left his beautiful voice in nearly 4000 songs for the world to listen to forever.

He was the last of the great legendary singers of the century gone by who made their mark in Hindi music through the medium of cinema. After Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mehmood and Kishore Kumar, he was the last to go. He sang his first song in the movie Tamanna in 1942 and did not look back. His voice attracted admirers and he was to make singing his career.

Born on May 1,1919 in Kolkatta, Manna Dey was interested in singing from a very early age. In fact he used to do stage shows at the age of ten onwards. In college also he used to participate in singing competitions and stood first in all three years of his college stint. His interest in music was so strong that he did not become a lawyer which his father wanted him to become.

Manna's junior uncle was the famous singer/music director of his time, K C Dey  who also sang in films. He had seen the young boy's interest in singing at an early age and came forward to tutor him in singing so that he could make a career of it.  He accompanied his uncle in 1942 to Mumbai and there worked under him and later on under another great music director S D Burman as their assistant.

In 142 he got an opportunity to sing his first filmy song as a duet with the famous singer Suraya for the film Tamanna. The song "Jago aayee Usha Panchi Bole Jago" became a hit. The music for this song was given by his uncle K C Dey. Most of the songs he sang during this period were well received and became popular. He sang his first songs for S D Burman was the now evergreen Upar Gagan Vishal for the film Mashaal.

Post 1947, he sang under leading music directors including  Anil Biswas, and with fellow singers like Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle, Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar. During this period he was to establish his reputation as a classical singer but with great ease could also sing fusion of classical and pop music based songs. The fifties and sixties saw him blossom as a singer with a unique style and the classical raga based songs gave him a universal appeal and he became a niche singer. 

His songs for Raj Kapoor are ever green songs sung under the baton of Shanka-Jaikishen . The  song Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua from Chori Chori has become a cult classical song. They were to work together in movies like Aawara, Shree 420, Boot Polish, Mera Naam Joker giving immortal songs heard with delight today also. 

He went from success to success and recorded nearly 758 hindi songs between 1953 - 1969. It was an R D Burman song Aao Twist Kare in 1965 from the film Bhoot Bhangla which made him tick with the young cine goers. It also made him in a way the voice of comedian Mehmood for whom he would sing many songs the most famous being Ek Chatur Naar  from the film Padosan. Another song Yeh kahani Hai Diye Ki Aur Toofan Ki from Diya aur Toofan composed by Vasant Desai is a perennial favourite for its energy. The song Aye Mere Pyare Watan from Kabuliwala would bring tears to many listeners staying away from their homes. This song and Laga Chunri Main Daag from dil hi to hai would make him a national favourite and these songs would be sung by hopeful singers in singing contests to demonstrate their skills. Yet another classical evergreen from that era is Pucho Na kaise Maine Rain Betayi from the film Meri Surat Teri Ankhen. One can go on and on.

His voice had a unique charm which was enhanced by his mastery over classical sur and ragas. It is this which set him apart from other equally talented singers of his time with whom he had to compete. He always had this feeling that he was very few times asked to sing for the hero but that notwithstanding almost all songs he sang for non heroes have gone to become immortal. This is because of the very high quality of his singing.

With Rafi he sang 101 duets and with Asha 160 duets. He recorded 31 songs with Kishore and the most famous was Ek Chatur Naar from Padosan under R D Burman. But Kishore was to give him a tough period as he became the in demand singer upon release of Aradhana. However Manna Dey continued singing the odd songs which invariably became chart busters like Na Maangoo Sona Chandi from Bobby. It was Rajesh Khanna for whom he sang many songs which extended Manna's singing career. Songs like Zindagi kaisi haiPaheli (Anand,1971),Tum Bin Jeevan Kaisa Jeeavan (Bhawarchi, 1972), Gori Tori Paijanya(Mehbooba, 1976)  were sung by him for Rajesh Khana and became hits.

It was in 1972 that he gave up recording Hindi songs but continued sing Bengali films and also bhajans and ghazals in different languages. He sang around 1262 filmy and non filmy Bengali songs, 86 Gujarati and 56 Marathi songs. He recorded his last Hindi film song in 2006

He was awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan and Dada Saheb Phalke Award by GOI. He received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

The voice that gave songs like Dharti kahe Pukar Ke, Aey Bhai Dekh Ke Chalo, Kasme Vaade Pyar Vafa, Jhumta Mausam Mast Mahina, Yeh Dosti Hum NahiChodenge, Aey Meri Zohra Jabeen, Yeh Raat Beegi Beegi, Yari hai Iman Mera and on on is no more.

Born as Prabodh Chandra Dey and christened as Manna Dey by his uncle he was the last of the great legendary singers of the nieteen forties, fiftes , sixties and seventies. There will never be another like him.

RIP Mannada.


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