A tribute to legend Manna Dey
LIVING legend Manna Dey is the only surviving top – ranking male playback singer from the golden era of film songs in the subcontinent. His counterparts in the Indian film industry such as Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Talat Mehmood and Hemant Kumar died a long time back.
At more than 93 years of age, he is still energetic and travels around the world to present musical programmes. Besides being honoured with the titles of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Indian government, he has been given 21 awards by different state governments and institutions, including the prestigious Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
In the beginning of his musical career, Manna Dey was highly inspired by his paternal uncle K.C. Dey, who had already established himself as a reputable composer and singer in Bombay’s film industry. He shifted to Bombay in 1942 and started working as an assistant, first with K.C. Dey and then with S.D. Burman, who latter composed music for many super – hit Indian films. While working independently as a music director for Hindi movies, Manna Dey continued to take lessons in classical music from various Ustads. He started his career as a playback singer with the movie Tamanna in 1943 singing a duet with Suraiya, which was an instant hit. The musical score for this film was by K.C. Dey.
Although Manna Dey had lent his voice for other movies as well but his real break and popularity came with the duets which he sang with Lata Mangeshkar for the hit film “Chori Chori” starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis and released in 1950. Two of these duets ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ and ‘Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum’ composed by the duo Shankar Jaikishan, sent a magical musical wave in whole of the subcontinent.
These were followed by Manna Dey’s other super – hit songs like ‘Tu pyar ka sagar hae’ from the movie Seema (1955), ‘Pyar hua iqrar hua hae’ from Shree 420 and ‘Naen milay chaen kahan’ from Basant Bahar (1956). He was the leading singer alongwith Mohammad Rafi in the most famous qawwali “Na to karwan ki talash hai” from the film Barsat ki Raat (1960).
Learning classical singing from various Ustads paid back dividends to Manna Dey as three of his semi – classical songs turned out to be one of the best in this genre of film songs, viz ‘Kaun aya mere mun key dwarey’ from Dekh Kabira Roya (1957), ‘Laga chunri mein daag chopaun kaesay’ from Dil Hi To Hae (1963) and ‘Poocho na kaesay mein ney raen bitaee’ from Meri Soorat Teri Ankhen (1963), the last one was picturised on the ace actor Ashok Kumar acting as the ugly – faced lover.
There is hardly any music programme in the subcontinent where a singer does not present one of the above songs. Besides, Manna Dey sang ‘Sur na sajay kya gaun mein’ for Basant Bahar. He received both the National Film Award (1971) and the Filmfare Award (1972) for best male playback singer for the song; “Aay bhai zara dekh key chalo” for Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker.
Manna Dey has great fan following in Pakistan but it is unfortunate that he has never entertained the local audience with a live performance.