Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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October 24 happened to be legendary singer Manna Dey’s death anniversary. How can we ever forget him? He was unique singer who could sing classical-music based songs with as much ease as the romantic numbers, especially those which he rendered for Raj Kapoor. He was matchless in several ways.

I would not like to go into his life sketch but am recalling some interesting facts from his life. He accompanied uncle K.C.Dey for the latter’s appointment with Vijay Bhatt who was then making ‘Ram Rajya’. K.C.Dey had been invited to sing in playback but Dey refused and instead recommended his nephew Manna Dey who was then with him. Vijay Bhatt was not sure that this lad would succeed. But he did. There were two solos he sang in the movie which was a super hit of its times. One was, ‘Ajab vidhi ka lekh kisi se parha nahin jae’ which Valmik sings when Sitaji comes to stay in his ashram following her second ‘Banwaas’. And then he renders the last song, ‘Gai tu gai, tyagmahi, tu gai, teri amar bhavna amar rahi..’ He sings this when the movie comes to a close on a highly emotional and heart-rending note. This was the only movie that Gandhiji saw.
A crucial moment arrived in the 1950s when film ‘Basant Bahar’ was being made and Shankar of the Shankar-Jaikishen team called Manna to sing a competitive duet with Bhimsen Joshi in which he(Manna Dey) would be the winner. ‘Ketki gulab juhi’ was the song. Manna once revealed that he became so panicky that with his wife he fled to Bangalore and remained there for a few days hoping that Shankar Jaikishen would pick up Rafi for that song. But when he returned to Bombay, he found that Shankar was still waiting for him. Bhimsen Joshi encouraged Manna Dey to sing the song and assured him that he would lower the scale of his talents to ensure that Manna deservedly wins the competition. Wasn’t that great? Manna Dey showing respect to Joshi by running away and Joshi stooping to conquer our hearts by losing that competition?
Another problem cropped up when Shankar-Jaikishen booked him to sing for Raj Kapoor in Chori Chori. The film was being produced by AVM in Madras. When the owner heard that Manna Dey was to sing for Raj, he protested: ‘No, call Mukesh’. Shankar Jaikishen told him that Mukesh was out of the country and that Manna Dey would be an ideal substitute. ‘You first listen to him’. They recorded those classic duets by Lata and Manna Dey: ‘Aja sanam’ ,’ Ye raat bheegi bheegi’ and ‘Jahan main jaati hun’. The producer heard the songs and was delighted ! Those songs are evergreen in the archives of time. Raj used his voice for some songs in Shri 420 too. The duet with Lata is evergreen:‘Pyar hua iqrar hua hai, pyar se phir kyon darta hai dil’. For the song ‘E Bhai zara dekh ke chalo’( ‘Mera Naam Joker’) he won a national award. But one of the best songs of Manna Dey filmed on Raj was tuned by Roshan in ‘Dil hi to hai’—the classical gem: ‘Laga chunari mein daagh’.
I was mighty impressed by Manna Dey’s classical rendering with Lata of a four-raag song in film ‘Hum Dard’ It is one of the rarest of the rare beauties that elevates you, soothes you, inspires you to peep into the gems of classical music, our main heritage. The song begins with ‘Ritu aye ritu jae sakhiri’ followed by ‘Barkha ritu bairi hamaar;. Thereafter they sing, ‘Pee bin soona ri’ ending with ,’Ai madhu ritu basant bahar ri’. This film had a memorable romantic number by Manna Dey: ‘Tera haath hath mein aa gaya ke chirag raah mein jal gae’. The ‘Mashal’ song ‘Oopar gagan vishal’ was a superhit, to say nothing of the ‘Do Bigha Zamin’ gems like “mausam beto jae’.
In Parineeta Manna Dey sang, ‘Chali Radhe Rani akhiyon mein pani, apne mohan se mukhra morr ke’. I also can’t forget his ‘Mahatma Kabir’ songs like ‘Naina bhar laye neer data’ as also those bhajans rendered for Bharat Bhushan like ‘Ghoonghat pat khol re tohe piya milen ge’. A highlight was Manna Dey’s rendering of the famous Saigal number of ‘Street Singer’-‘Babul mora’ It was a chorus.
In RK Films he made his debut in ‘Awara’ with the duet with Lata in the dream sequence: ‘Ye nahin hai yeh nahin hai yeh nahin hai zindagi’. In ‘Bootpolish’ he rendered the title song as also some priceless numbers on David like ‘Lapak jhapak tu aare badarva’ and ‘Raat gai phir din aata hai isi terah aate jaate hi ye saara jeevan jaata hai’.
V.Shantaram used him for the title song in ‘Toofan aur Diya’—‘Nirbal se ladai balwan ki, ye kahani hai diye ki aur toofan ki’. He also contributed his talents in ‘Do ankhen barah haath’ as also ‘Jhanak jhanak payal baaje’

For Balraj Sahni he rendered some rare gems. The most widely remembered is the ‘Waqt’ number, ‘Ai meri Zohra jabeen’ but he also sang that famous song, ‘Mera naam karega roshan jag mein mera Rasj dulara; in Ek Phool Do Mali’. And you couldn’t have forgotten that rare devotional number, ‘Tu pyar ka sagar hai teri ik boond ke pyase hum’ from film Seema. But the most crushing song was from film ‘Kabuliwala’ in which Balraj Sahni renders that heart-wrenching song highlighting love for the motherland: ‘Ai mere pyare watan ai mere bichade chaman tujh pe dil qurban’. Manna moves your heart. He also did that while singing ‘Kasme vaade pyar wafa sab baten hain baton ka kya’(for Pran in Upkar).
His classics in ‘Basant Bahar’ include, ‘Sur na saje kya gaaun main’ and ‘Bhai Bhanjana Vandana Sun Hamari’. Equally crushing is the melody from ‘Meri soorat teri ankhen’ -;Poocho na kaise main ne rain bitayi’. And you couldn’t have forgotten the ‘Dekh Kabira Roya’ number, ‘Kaun aya mere man ke dware payal ki jhankar liye’ or Jhoola’s ‘Ek sama par do barsaate’ or Anand’s ‘Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hae’ or Padosan’s ‘Ik chatur naar badi hoshiyar’ ! I also cannot forget, ‘Kis ne chilman se maara nazara mujhe; or ‘Na to kaarwan ki talash hai’ and many many more. It is an unending stream of melody.
Manna Dey also composed music for some films. One of these was ‘Chamkee’ that had Mukesh’s breezy number, ‘Kaise zalim se parr gaya paala’ and Lata’s sad solo: ‘Pyar ko mat kaho koi pyar’. I also liked his music compositions in Naina. The song by a nautch girl, rendered by Lata was delightful to listen to: ‘Ho jiya chahe karun tose pyar’. But the sad number by Lata filmed on Geeta Bali was very impressively filmed. ‘Dekhun tohe din raati’.
In her tribute melody queen Lata said: ‘I salute his dedication’. So do we.


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