August 19, 2022
Manna Dey

Manna Dey: The legend singer

Manna Dey is a legendary singer and music director who was the most prolific music director of Hindi films during the golden era. He has sung more than 4000 songs in over 800 films and scored around 100 films.

About Manna Dey

Manna Dey (born as Manna Mohan Debnath) was born on 1 May 1919 at Amta, Howrah district in the state of West Bengal. He is an accomplished Indian playback singer, who has sung for over a thousand Hindi films and created the largest body of work in Hindi cinema. He is also a music director and has scored music for several films.

Manna Dey made his debut as a singer with the film Pooja Ke Phool (1941), where he performed all songs with classical perfection. After a few more films like Kajar (1942), Nai Roshni (1943), etc.

Life of Dey

His birth

Manna Dey was born as Manna Mohan Debnath on 1 May 1919 at Amta, Howrah district in the state of West Bengal. In his childhood, he was fond of music and regularly attended all kinds of classical performances.

He had joined the Indian Army during the Second World War and served as an army officer for some time. In his army career, he fought against the Japanese in Burma.

His education

He completed his high school at the Hare School in Calcutta and took admitted to the prestigious Scottish Church College, where he studied English honors.

He learned music from renowned artists like Sailesh Duttagupta and Dwijen Mukherjee.

Manna Dey started his career as a singer after singing around 250 songs for films during a period of seven years. He was an instant hit with songs like Sei Piya More (Kajar), Tare Pyar Se Bichhad Kar (Baishakhi) in 1942, and Aayega Aanewala Pyar (Patri Baag), etc., and this established his reputation as the most outstanding singer of Hindi films.

His personal life

Manna Dey married Sulochana Kumaran, a classical singer. He had two daughters with her — Shuroma HerekarShuroma Herekar(1956-2016), a U.S.-based scientist, and Shumita Dev (b. 1958), a Bangalore-based businesswoman.

His career

In a career spanning over fifty years, he did film music for over a hundred Hindi films as well as numerous Bengali and Marathi films.

He started his career as a musician after singing around 250 songs for films during a period of seven years. He was an instant hit with the song Sei Piya More (Kajar), Tare Pyar Se Bichhad Kar (Baishakhi) in 1942, and Aayega Aanewala Pyar (Patri Baag) in 1943. This established his reputation as the most outstanding singer of Hindi films. His first full-length solo album was Vividha (1949), which had music composed by C. Ramchandra.

Early career (1942–1953)

Manna Dey got his first break when C. Ramchandra sent him for the song Neend Aayega Paar in Aag (1950). He was selected as the lead singer for the film Gulzaar after which he sang more than 400 songs in different Hindi films. His late 1940s songs were recorded on April 12, 1949, at the HMV Studio, Mumbai with musicians like Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmood, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and other musicians.

The music album Vividha was released on 26 August 1949 and this album by itself brought him fame. He went to Mumbai in 1949, started singing in Hindi films, and soon became a major playback singer. Some of his most popular songs at the time were “Tu Ganga Ki Mauj” from Kala Bazaar (1950), “Gore Gore Radha” from Mahal (1949), “Koi Awaara Hoon Main Toot Gayee” from Jogan (1951), “Yeh Raat Aa Gaya Bahar Aa Gaye” and “Ri Ga Ri Ghuma Raahe Nainon Mein” from Ankhen (1955).

Manna Dey was the most prolific recording artist of Hindi film music in the 1950s. He recorded in over 150 films, pioneering the Bengali style of singing in Hindi films. Despite being a successful singer, he was not happy with the way his career was going. During his time, only playback music was accepted, but he wanted to compose and sing complete scores. He then decided to take up composing as well as singing seriously.

Dey then started working with Anil Biswas as an assistant composer and he worked with him in films like Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Kabuliwala (1961), and Antraksh (1959). He also worked with S D Burman on Main Nashe Mein Hoon (1960).

1953–1967

His first full-length solo album was Vividha (1949), which had music composed by C. Ramchandra. After this, he went on to score music for a number of memorable films like Kismat (1956), Aag (1959), Daag (1960), etc. He started directing and composing music for films as well; his first was Char Diwane Ka Badla in 1958 starring Dev Anand, Shakila, and Raakhee. He also directed many Kannada and Marathi movies in addition to the Bengali movies, which he made before he hit big with Hindi cinema.

He has directed and composed music for films like Main Nashe Mein Hoon (1960), Aas Paas (1963), Shama (1965), Lokta Devta (1966), Bhoot Bangla (1967), and Lalchand Aur Diamond Pyar Ka. Manna Dey has also composed music for many Bengali films which he made before he became a music director for Hindi films in the 1950s. He did some memorable songs like “Sukh Nee Do” from Chirodini Chirodini (1955), “Tujhe Yaad Aaye” from Anupama (1956), and “Lenin Jaye Gur Padiye” from Sujata(1964).

Manna Dey

He started directing and composing music for films as well; his first was Char Diwane Ka Badla in 1958 starring Dev Anand and Shakila. He also directed many Kannada movies in addition to the Bengali movies, which he made before he hit big with Hindi cinema.

Manna Dey’s first full-length solo album was Vividha (1949), which had music composed by C. Ramchandra. He sent a demo of the song “Piya Tu Ab to Aaja” to S. D. Burman, who on hearing this song, S D Burman invited him for Janbaaz (1954).

1968–1991

In 1968, Manna Dey started directing and composing music for films as well; his first was Matwala (1968), followed by Gharonda (1970), Rudaali (1972), and Chhoti Bahu (1974), and then he directed Sultanat (1973). After that, he directed many films including Seeta Aur Geeta, Raja Babu, Rani Maa, Mahabharat, and Harishchandra. 

From 1970 to 1991 he composed music for a number of films for Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Manna Dey won his first Filmfare award for the song “Ki Mon Jaaye” from “Mohra” in 1970. He also won a Filmfare award for the Hindi film “Chak De India”, for the song “Aa Jaye Hai Meraa Dil”. Dey has also composed music for many Bengali films which he made before he became a music director for Hindi films in the 1950s. He did some memorable songs like “Sukh Nee Do” from Chirodini Chirodini (1955), “Tujhe Yaad Aaye” from Anupama (1956), and “Lenin Jaye Gur Padiye” from Sujata (1964).

In the 1970s, his career slowed down a little. But he worked with S D Burman again on some films like “Aandhi” (1975) which was a remake of a Marathi film. After that, he did a few films like Chaalbaaz (1976). From 1975 to 1988 he turned into a full-time music director for many films like Naseeb (1981), Agar Bazar Agarwal (1983), Talash (1985), and Saaheb-e-Azam(1988). He also worked with several lyricists such as Hasrat Jaipuri, and Kavi Pradeep and even composed music for the film “Bhoot Bangla”.

His last Hindi release was the film Surati in 1991. He composed music for the Marathi film “Samraat”, which was released in 1992.

1992–2013

Manna Dey composed music for two Kannada movies in 1992 and 1995. He also composed music for a Bengali film called “Anurager Chhaya” in 1993. He did Ghazals with Jagjit Singh and also gave playback singing in some of his own albums like “Gora” (1996), “Koyel” (2007), and “Moner Manush”(2008), and “Alam Chaplam” (2012).

In 1997, he went to the USA for heart surgery. After that, he kept working on a few Hindi films as a music director starting from “Hameshaa” (1999) till 2006’s Zinda.

Awards and honor

Manna Dey has been award the prestigious Padma Shri in 1972 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994. He was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for his song “Ki Mon Jaaye” in the film Mohra (1970).

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