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Friday, May 1, 2009

Manna Dey turns 90

- Indraneel Mukherjee

Jeevan se lambay hain bandhu … yeh jivan ke rustay’ !! Its 1st May 2009..... Manna Dey turned 90 today. People close to Manna Da know that he is so passionate for music that even today he can spent hours in music sittings with his harmonium.
Manna Da was born in West Bengal on 1st May 1919. Very few people know that he began his career as a professional wrestler. He has been awarded Padma Bhushan, although he should have been awarded Dada Sahab Phalke much before or at least by now.
I sincerely feel that Manna Da did not get a fair deal from Bombay fillum music waalaas … of course he sang not only some or in my opinion all the great good Classical based songs … but also songs like… ‘Mere bhais ko danda kyoon maaraa’ …. These songs have a few taans which are very difficult to execute and even today very few singers could do that.
Dada sang for Mehmood which he told me he never regretted and they were all innumerable and tough songs; besides he sang majorly for Raj Kapoor who gave him at least one song in each of his films right till the Joker film happened … when on screen he sang ‘Aye bhai zaraa dekh ke chalo’; Dada laboured throughout his career … may be he did not get his fair share but what a singer, all his hard labour has given him the exquisite distinction of being the most versatile singer with such a beautiful subtlety which few of his contemporaries could match and yet the 1st top position eluded him which once everyone like a Rafi, a Kishore or even say a Mukesh or to some extent Hemant Kumar held it Hemant Da of course when even slightly felt free in Bombay was up there in Calcutta composing big time for Bengali films, but so did Manna da with superb renditions in Bengali film and non film music !
If you look back on his career I have a eerie feel as to how destiny associated this one big day together and it was his destiny to sing lot of these well labored songs with lot of practice etc. which might have gone into in order to do full justice to timeless songs like ‘Pucho naa kaise mainay raine bitaai’ ‘Kaun Aayaa merey mun kay dwaaray ‘ ‘Jhanak jhanak tori baajay paayelia’ ‘Laaga chunri mein daagh’ ‘Tere nainaa talaash kar jisey’ ‘Cham cham baajay re payalia’ and a whole gamut of other great songs such as these ! Very few know that Dada was an assistant composer to Legendary Composers like Khemchand Prakaash, Anil Biswas, S D Burman before he was to be a composer for several movies himself … ! Lekin kintu parantu … but, labour he did but all the labour did bring around at last a lot of colour and even today after 80 plus years of active singing Dada Manna Dey is still singing and the institution by himself inspires us to believe that success is all about Labour and hard work and there is no substitute for it … “rung dilate hai henna … patthar pe piss jaanay ke baad” .. is perhaps so apt as this great man labored a lot, learnt a lot, toiled a lot … but he never took any dictations from any composer, as he is one of the most professionally correct singers who reads notation which even a Saigol, Lata, Rafi, KIshore, Mukesh, Hemant did not … so when composers who faltered while composing, Dada Manna Dey immediately corrected them that this was the note you told me or sang first, now you have changed it ! It is because of this unique distinction of being able to read notations perfectly that Dada so easily mastered the toughest songs put to him by the Industry giants of his times and he mellifluously sang song after song with such brilliance and efficiency as few could or I feel if ever anyone would ? Now for the main point I wanted to make … he is bold, skillful, efficient par excellence and that is the reason why he lasts till today and sings till today and is shopping even till today … simply because he labored in the beginning and that bore fruit till date he is the epitome / icon of hard Labour … he travels the continent criss-cross several times a year where people still wishes to hear this Legend at his young age of 89 going on 90, while his contemporaries have gone … whether Mukesh, Rafi, Kishore, Hemant, Talat or just recently Mehender Kapoor in chronological order of leaving this world, however they are all immortal and none of them can ever die !
I spoke to Dada yesterday, fearing that he may be deluged with calls on 1st … but I got a little sad when I came to know that he had cancelled his shows in Calcutta on the 1st, 3rd and 7th as he is become a little unstable just presently with vertigo and it is a little too dangerous to take chances to venture out without support … but I told him Dada you have to bat a century ! I love him and I know so do you and millions of others - mainay toh unhay bohut saal pehle kaha tha .. “aapko meri umra lug jaaye” waisey hi aap sub bhi pray karein pooja karein … ke aap sab ka umra unko lug jaaye … wish the prayer is heard and we get him down at Delhi soon for a concert at Siri Fort !! Happy Birthday Dada .. May God keep you fit and fine !
( Indraneel Mukherjee is a Delhi based singer-composer and derives streams of musical inspiration from his guru, the great maestro Anil Biswas. He has twenty albums to his credit and is an exponent of devotional, semi classical and regional music, especially bangla. Indraneel has shared stage with Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh, Hema Malini, Dilip Kumar, Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Nitin Mukesh and many others. He runs the Vintage Heritage Music Institute through which he is making efforts to revive interest in the music of the past. )


  1. Happy Birthday to Manna Dey..he is my favourite artiste also..this article beautifully describes in short what the great legendary singer was all about! one missing link however is the fact that Manna Dey's birthday is on the same day as Labour's Day! well then the article definitely becomes more relevant with all his labour and hard way up the ladder of success!!

  2. Oh wow Good Good ... you got the point Amitabh ji .....nice that you mentioned it as it was meant to be ... I slipped the Labour Day statement as I was hurrying to put up the blog anyways by putting it up on Dada's Birthdate itself and lest we get late ... Thanks for the compliments and observation ! .... Indraneel

  3. Oh!! Neelji, that was such a wonderful writeup.
    You have brought out so many interesting info. about him at the same time pointing to his talent,expertise,involvement, humane side,etc.
    Let me add a tit bit too..from his radio interview on his B'day where he went on to say that "if only i can sing half of how Rafi saab,i would be the happiest.."...i could see his humblenes and his modesty side by side in those words. Also he was sharing about one song from Anand,'aane wala pal..',which was supposedly only a title song. But when Rajesh Khanna heard this song of Da..he said '..this good song only for title??? no way...i want this song to be picturised on me..i need to sing it on screen..',such was the rendition!!
    Of course he went on to share about his beloved wife for 54years, his daughters, his pass time, his favourite songs sung by Rafi Saab, Kishore da, Lathaji, Ashaji, and so on...It was one wonderful program for full 2hours filled with his songs too!!
    I could not help but share these thoughts here as i see such a great living legend is so humble and so humane too..
    Yes,Neelji, i'll pray to God too that Manna Da will live long and longer.
    This write up by you, Neelji, needs to be archived...and may be with some more pictures of our DaDa..
    Good effort and many Congratulations!!
    Priya from Bangalore.