Manna Dey: In Tribute

I am listening to Poochho na kaise maine rain bitaayi as I write this. I am hearing Manna Dey’s voice, bringing so much emotion, so much frustrated longing into “Ut jale deepak, it mann mera; phir bhi na jaaye mere mann ka andhera”.  And I am remembering all the other songs of Manna Dey that I’ve loved over the years. Songs that I grew up with (and, more often than not back then, didn’t know who sang them). Songs that I loved from the very first moment I heard them. Songs that have grown on me. Songs that make Manna Dey immortal, even though he’s no more.

Manna Dey (1919-2013)

Manna Dey (May 1, 1919-October 24, 2013) was not one of my first loves when it came to playback singing. Before TV came into our lives, we’d listen to the radio, or to my parents’ substantial collection of LPs. By the time I was 10 or so, I had heard Ameen Sayani mention—in his introduction to songs on Binaca Geetmala—names like Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh. But the first male singer whose voice I was able to recognize was Hemant. Then came Mukesh. Then, perhaps, Talat.

There were lots of songs, though, that I loved, even though I didn’t know who had sung them.

I remember watching Chori-Chori, for example, when I was about eleven. We lived in Srinagar, and the film was being shown on Doordarshan. I’d never been fond of Raj Kapoor’s films, and part of the reason for that was that I didn’t (back then) particularly care for RK’s quintessential voice, Mukesh. Too nasal for my taste.

So it came as a pleasant surprise to realize that Chori-Chori was chockfull of absolutely lovely RK songs. Songs I’d heard many times before, and which I’d loved. Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum, or Yeh raat bheegi-bheegi. No nasal tones there, just a gorgeously seductive male voice, smooth and beautiful and so very sensual.

Around the same time, I watched Anand, and fell in love with Zindagi kaisi hai paheli.

And Bhoot Bangla, where I came across Aao twist karein, so utterly rollicking and madcap.

And Savera, which featured what remains, even now, my favourite kiddie song from Hindi cinema, the delightfully playful Chhuppa-chhuppi o chhuppi.

When we shifted from Srinagar to Delhi, I was nearly thirteen. In our school assembly, we’d have the usual school prayer, the national anthem, the pledge, a patriotic song in a regional language—and, occasionally, a solo song (always a patriotic one). One of my classmates used to be often called upon to sing solo. And she always sang the same song. A song that moved even a jaded veteran of countless school assemblies like me. Its words were Ae mere pyaare watan, ae mere bichhde chaman. It gave me gooseflesh.

Along the way, I came to recognize Manna Dey’s voice. I realized that a lot of my favourite songs were his songs. And songs that were never predictable. Yes, Prabodh Chandra Dey was a trained classical singer and is probably best remembered for gems like Poochho na kaise maine rain bitaayi or Laaga chunri mein daag—but this was also the man who was, in so many songs, Mehmood’s ‘voice’ (remember O meri maina? Ek chatur naar? Aao twist karein?)

Manna Dey
His was also the voice of fabulously folksy songs: Chalat musaafir moh liya re pinjrewaali muniya, Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re, Dil ka haal sune dilwaala. His was the voice of romance, of everything from the dewy-eyed dreaminess of Na jaane kahaan tum thhe to the more mature, self-assured affection of O meri zohrajabeen, to the hopeful Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare.  His was the voice of qawwalis like Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, of bhajans (Tu pyaar ka saagar hai remains one of the few devotional songs from Hindi cinema that I like), of club songs, of ghazals, of just about every genre of song out there.

That is what I love and admire about Manna Dey: his versatility, his immense range of songs, his ability to imbue his songs with so much emotion—whether that emotion was a deep love for one’s motherland, or pathos, or a rollicking don’t-give-a-damn. This was the man after one of whose songs  a restaurant chain was named. This was the man Madan Mohan bribed with a mutton-bhindi curry to get him to sing a song. This was the man for whom Balraj Sahni put in a special request to sing playback for him in Waqt.

An era has gone. Manna Dey, the last of the great male playback singers of the golden years, has passed on. His voice will live on, though, and that will be some consolation. Some.

I would have liked to do a ‘Ten of my favourite Manna Dey songs’ on this occasion, but I’ve already done that, several years back. So I will restrict myself to listing ten wonderful Manna Dey songs that weren’t on that list (either because I hadn’t heard of them yet, or because I hadn’t seen the film in question, or because it simply slipped my mind).

Here is the list, in no particular order:

1. Upar gagan vishaal, neeche gehra paataal (Mashaal, 1950)
2. Chalat musaafir moh liya re (Teesri Kasam, 1966)
3. Laaga chunri mein daag (Dil Hi Toh Hai, 1963)
4. Dharti kahe pukaarke (Do Bigha Zameen, 1953)
5. Chhuppa-chhuppi o chhuppi (Savera, 1958)
6. Chunri sambhaal gori udi chali jaaye re (Bahaaron ke Sapne, 1967)
7. Aan milo aan milo shyaam saanwre (Devdas, 1955)
8. Pyaar bhari yeh ghataayein (Qaidi No. 911, 1959)
9. Na jaane kahaan tum thhe (Zindagi aur Khwaab, 1961)
10. Zulfon ki ghata lekar (Reshmi Rumaal, 1960)

And here, if you’d like to listen to them, is the playlist I’ve created, on Youtube. Besides these songs, I’ve also added in the playlist the ten songs that comprised my earlier Manna Dey list.

Sit back, relax, enjoy. And thank the man whose voice you’re listening to. RIP, Manna Dey. Thank you for the music.


81 thoughts on “Manna Dey: In Tribute

  1. Yes an end of an era as now all the great singers of that beautifully
    golden era have passed on.
    Those are some lovely memories of growing up to recognizing him DO :-)
    Thanks for the playlist. It’s going to be played on and on today.
    One of most favourite Manna Dey songs being mausam beeta jaye has some lovely lyrics. I'm reminded of these;

    apni kahani chhod ja, kuchh toh nishani chhod ja

    And he’s really left behind so much. May his soul rest in peace.


    • Thank you, pacifist. I don’t usually make the effort of creating a playlist, but since I’ve been listening to Manna Dey’s songs all morning and most of the afternoon too, it seemed appropriate to create a playlist and share those songs.

      That quote from Mausam beeta jaaye is so apt! He has certainly left behind an amazing legacy.


  2. Manna Dey was part of my life from a very early age purely because the Madhushala LP was played by my parents regularly. I knew the poem by heart and sang along even though I had no idea what it meant! And so Manna Dey’s voice just like Hemant Kumar’s and Talat Mehmood’s was just there. I grew up with it, I loved it and as I learned to appreciate his voice more I spent a lot of my pocket money buying cassettes and later CDs which I still cherish.
    Madhushala is playing in the background as I type this and then I will move on to your play-list to remember and celebrate a singer who was not always the first choice for music directors and actors but did full justice to every song he lent his voice to be it Ae mere pyaare Waten or Meri Bhains ko Danda Kyon Mara.


    • Shalini, thank you so much for commenting! And for sharing your memories of growing up with Manna Dey’s voice in your life (yes, I guess I did have him in my life too, only I didn’t recognise him back then). I must admit, rather shamefacedly, that I had never heard his rendition of Madhushala before today, but I am actually hearing it right now as I’m typing this comment. A friend who is very, very fond of Manna Dey had posted the link to this on Facebook:

      So very beautiful. He does full justice to Bachchan’s poetry.


      • Its a beautiful poem and Manna Dey made it very special with his voice. I am so pleased you have been introduced to this rendition of Madhushala Madhu :-)
        I have spent a couple of days trying to compile a “favourites” list and it is not easy. The more I listen to him the more I realise I liked Manna Dey a lot more than I ever said!


        • I remember Madhushala being part of our school curriculum – I think in part, not in its entirety. It’s beautiful.

          Trying to make a ‘best of’ playlist for Manna Dey is a very tough ask. Even I ended up omitting some songs that are lovely, but where Manna Dey is only there for a while. For example, Aan milo aan milo shyaam saanwre is one of my favourite duets, but Manna Dey has a much smaller part in it compared to Geeta:


    • This film has been sitting in my to-watch pile for a few months now! I’ve been putting it off because the copy I have isn’t subtitled. This song (which, by the way, is beautiful) gives me more reason to watch it soon.


  3. Lovely tribute to Manna Dey, Madhu.

    I’ve been thinking of his songs all day.

    The first song of Manna Dey I remember hearing in my life was “Kasme vaade pyar wafa”. I was very young then – but even at that age, this song hit me really hard. And a lot of it had to do with Manna Dey’s rendition of it.

    Like you’ve said, he was the last of that golden era of male playback singers. We’re now left with those who started their careers, probably in the 70s.


    • Yes, it’s really sad, isn’t it, that all the male singers of that period are gone now. Like a lot of the actors, too. Only today, Richard and I were talking about who might be the oldest surviving film personality still around. The oldest I could think of is Zohra Sehgal, who – bless her – is 101.

      Kasme vaade pyaar wafa is such a bitterly cynical song. Definitely one of Manna Dey’s best. And that too, when he’d started off refusing to sing it because it would be filmed on a ‘villain’! :-)


  4. I’m listening to your playlist even as I write this, Madhu. Read about it only today morning. I know he was ailing, and I know he was 94 but it was still a shock to read about it. He was the last link to the golden era of HIndi film music. I think that is why I feel it even more.

    Your tribute is wonderfully written, poignant, and from the heart. Thank you, Madhu.
    Rest in peace, Mannada


    • Yes, Anu. Same here. I mean, I knew he was 94, and the newspapers had been reporting, over the past few months, news of him being unwell, but still. It was a shock. Even if he hadn’t been singing any more, or hadn’t been in the limelight. just knowing that Manna Dey was still alive was comforting.

      Don’t know if I’m making sense, but there. :-(

      What you say about him being the last link to the golden era of Hindi film music? I think that’s what adds to the distress, at least for me.


  5. Madhuji,
    Another chapter has come to an end.
    Let me too join you in paying my respects to Manna Dey on his final journey.

    Here is the link to a Rabindra Sangeet sung by Manna dey

    Roughly translated:
    I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you all and take my departure.
    Here I give back the keys of my door—and I give up all claims to my house.
    I only ask for last kind words from you.
    We were neighbours for long, but I received more than I could give. Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.


    • Thank you, Venkataramanji – for sharing that song (I hadn’t heard it before), and for providing a translation. That’s so appropriate for the occasion. Very beautiful; reading it brought tears to my eyes.

      Talking about Manna Dey’s singing in Bengali, I must share this song, to which I was introduced yesterday by my mother’s best friend. My mother grew up in Calcutta, and her friend was – still is – very fond of Manna Dey. She gave me this link to O amar mon Jamunar ange ange:


  6. It is said that many singers would refuse to sing classical songs along with him, because they knew he would always be better in classical songs. The song Laaga chunri mein daag from Dil hi to hai is ‘THE GOLD STANDARD’ of classical film songs. Everyone knows the level of difficulty of that song. In every singing competition, this song was the benchmark as the ‘toughest’ and most ‘complicated’ that everyone tried to replicate, but few succeeded. As you mentioned in your post, Ae mere pyare watan is truly a moving song. His song ‘Yaari hai imaan mera’ from Zanjeer is also a standard for friendship (along with Yeh dosti from Sholay). Also, his voice in Panchi banoon udke phiroon cannot be forgotten, though he did not sing in the main song.

    Truly a sad day… of the great singers of the golden era is no more. May his soul rest in peace.


    • “It is said that many singers would refuse to sing classical songs along with him, because they knew he would always be better in classical songs.

      Well said. It was amusing, therefore, to find Kishore Kumar’s voice winning in the ‘duel’ in Ek chatur naar. I believe Manna Dey had quite a laugh over that as well.

      I’d forgotten about Yeh dosti; thanks for reminding me of it.


  7. Hi,
    The first songs that comes to my mind is the “Kasme Wade Pyar Wafa…..” from the Movie `Upkar’. Manna Dey’s best soulful elegy brings tears to my eyes – the wordings and his voice makes this song so true and haunting.

    Thank you


  8. The end had to come one of these days, after all he was ailing. I do not know whether I mentioned this in your blog or not but Manna Dey has the unique distinction of providing the playback for my father. Though my father never ever lip-synched to a song, there was this regional film Bhaiya, I think the language was either Magadhi or Maithili (both Hindi dialects), my father played the title role; in this film my father had to tunefully recite the Ramayana, Manna Dey did the needful. He was the last surviving male member of that golden era, with his passing away a wonderful chapter of Hindi film music comes to an end.–Shilpi


    • Wow. No, Shilpi, I don’t remember having read about this. I do remember you mentioning that your father just couldn’t bring himself to lip-synch, and that was why in one particular Hindi film, the director ended up using a song in the background. I hadn’t known about this episode. That’s quite a close – and unique – connection with Manna Dey.


  9. Film Bawarchi and his rendering ” Tun bin jeevan kaisa jeevan phool khile pghir murjaiye aag lage …” totally wasted on Rajesh Khanna.


  10. Madhuji, you rightly said that his mere presence was so comforting. Mohd Rafi once told a gathering of journalists, “You listen to my songs, I listen to Manna Dey songs only.” (blurb on the back cover of ‘Memories Come Alive: An Autobiography’ by Manna Dey. He had been blessed with the most versatile voice in Bollywood that could sing ‘Kaun aaya mere man ke dware’ as well as ‘O meri zohra zabin’ with equal ease. The following is ‘Tumhen yaad rahe naa rahe yeh to main sochun hi nahin’, Hindi Rabindra Sangeet:


    • Canasya, thank you for sharing that song. It was beautiful; had never heard it before. Manna Dey’s voice sounds somewhat different from his usual tone here… or maybe that’s my imagination. Or maybe because it’s a non-filmi song, it’s been recorded in a different sort of studio which alters the sound. Don’t know.


  11. Manna Dey’s voice did not have a romantic quality but he infused his songs with so much feeling. Listen to this : Chale Ja Rahe Hain – . Goes straight to the heart.
    One of my beefs with recording companies is that over time they have stopped issuing older recordings of several artistes’ songs and gone with newer versions. One of my favorite non-film songs of Manna Dey is Pal Bhar Ki Pehchan. I have an older recording in which his voice touches the higher notes with ease. Especially in the passage – Bechaini kitni nashili. He takes the end of ‘nashili’ and pulls the notes higher and higher. Manna Dey recorded another version of this song later when I suppose his voice was fading. In the passage mentioned earlier he simply chooses to sing it at a lower octave. It doesn’t have the same effect. Why can’t recording companies keep both versions? They have done the same with Jagjit Singh, Hemanta Mukherjee, and others. Pathetic!


    • That’s an interesting issue you’ve raised, Soumya. I had never noticed it before, partly because I invariably shut off as soon as I see ‘revival’ or anything along those lines mentioned on a music DVD. I must admit that I’ve never heard Pal bhar ki pehchaan, either the original or the re-recorded version, but I can understand what you mean. Such a shame, really, that some of the best renditions are unavailable. :-(

      P.S. Hadn’t heard Chale jaa rahe hain before. Wonderful song, and it certainly touches one’s heart. Romantic and sweet and beautifully sung.


  12. So sad to hear this. I loved his voice which was so unique. Some other Manna Dey songs which I love are:
    1. Hasne ki chah ne kitna mujhe rulaya hai – from Rajesh-Sharmila starrer Avishkaar
    2. Sham hai jaam hai khusboo bhi hai – a ghazal I heard on the radio once
    3. Songs from Meri soorat teri aankhe are so lovely – Tere bin sooni nain hamare and Poocho na kaise …. all so beautiful and heart rending
    5. Some of the funny Mehmood songs
    (i) Khali dabba khali botal le le mere yaar – Neelkamal
    (ii) Bhus bhardiya – Amaanat
    He was such a joy to hear!


    • Very right, Simplegal. Manna Dey was a joy to listen to. I’d actually forgotten some of the songs you’ve mentioned (except Poochho na kaise maine rain bitaayi – I can never forget that; what a sumply sublime song!), but I did hear Hasne ki chaah ne kitna the other day. So poignant.

      I’ve never heard the ghazal you’ve mentioned. If you do come across it again, please share.


  13. You can also add in your list another beautiful Manna Dey-Lata ji duet from 1961 film Krorepati ” Aap huye mere, balam main tumhari hui maan lijiye…” composed by Shankar Jaikishan where Manna day has lent his voice to another maestro Kishore Kumar singing with Kum Kum.

    I am remembering another sweet melody by Manna Dey & Lata ji from film Santaan (1959) “Bole ye dil ka ishaara…” picturised on Rajendra Kumar & Kamini Kadam.


    • Aap hue mere balam main tumhaari was new to me. Quite a rare song, that, to see Manna Dey singing playback for Kishore! Thank you for telling us about it. (And, for others who haven’t heard this song, here it is):

      And here is Bole yeh dil ka ishaara. This one I’d heard before, but forgotten about. Such a nice peppy song.


  14. I love Mannadey in Nadiya chale chale re dhara from Rajesh Khanna starrer Safar. This is a great song and Mannadey shows his entire range in this song. He also puts in a lot of emotion in this inspiring song.


    • Ah, Saawan ki rimjhim mein… mayurpankhi re. :-) I hadn’t heard this till a few days back (actually, when I posted this blog post). Then, my mother’s old friend, who has been a Manna Dey fan since her college days, told me that this was one of her favourite Manna Dey songs too. It’s a lovely one.


  15. Do you Know Madhudi that Manna Dey apart from big a great singer was a very very good composer too. I have talked more in detail about his compositional prowess in the part-2 of my Manna Dey tribute series. Here’s the link-

    And again a big thanks for going thorough part-1 of my Manna series. By the way, here are the links to the part-3,4 & 5 of my Manna tribute series-

    By the way, in the 5th part Shammi Kapoor talks about his relationship with Manna Dey!!


    • Thanks for the other links, Raunak! Even though I didn’t comment, I did go through your second post in the series and listened to all the songs – they were lovely. Will read the rest of your posts this coming week (or tomorrow, time permitting!)


      • Thanks a ton. And it feels nyc that u liked the songs in the 2nd part too but then the credit for that goes to Manna Dey, not me!! So well sung and to top that, many of those songs were composed by Manna Dey himself. Right now watching A bengali film ‘Sesh Prishtaye Dekhun’ starring my Fav Soumitra and Aparna Sen, which too has a nice score by Manna Dey. Another film that Manna dey composed music for is ‘Ram Dhakka’. Here are two songs from that film-

        The second song is very much in the Baul tradition.


        • Listening to the Lata song you’ve posted, Raunak – and loving every bit of it. So lovely. Manna Dey was very talented indeed. I wonder how many people (especially those who are familiar only with Manna Dey vis-a-vis Hindi film music) realise what a fine composer he was, too.


          • Yup absolutely.Most people who aren’t familiar with Bengali music do not even know that Manna Dey was a composer too.That he was mighty good at it is completely alien to most.
            By the way, the O amar mon jamunar ange song that your aunty introduced to you and whose youtube link you posted in one of your comments is also composed by Manna Dey with lyrics by Shyamal Gupta, a famed lyricist, who by the way is also Singer Sandhya Mukherjee’s hubby.


              • I like that somewhat rustic, folksy feel to their songs. And the entire concept of wandering minstrels is interesting. Mostly, though, it’s the ‘flavour’ of their songs, and how various composers have used them even in Hindi film music.


                • hmmm….. I too like Baul but i prefer Bhatiali, Dhamail, Sari & Bhowaiya folk traditions of bengal more. My fav Baul number though is Tere Dwar Khada Ek jogi from Nagin, Composed and Sung by Hemant Kumar in hindi films,


                    • Well i will do a detail post on all these folk song genres of Bengal later on but yes i can give you an example of each in Bollywood here-
                      1) Dhamail- Dil ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar (Tere Ghar Ke Samne)
                      2) Bhowaiya- Yaar Bina Chain kaha re (Saaheb)
                      3) Sari- Roop Tera Mastana (Aradhana)

                      Baul & Bhaitiali you have heard so me not mentioning them here as then this comment will become too long.


              • Oh great that u know about Shyamal Gupta…. your knowledge and passion for movies and music makes me feel jealous,very jealous Madhudi!!

                P.S: I am thinking about blogging more regularly on Bengali, Assamese, Oriya & Telugu Films. I think i rather do it now when i have time because who knows i might not have the same opportunity later on!!


                • Before you get that excited, let me clarify one thing: I don’t really know much about Shyamal Gupta, I’ve just heard his name. ;-)

                  Do please blog! I shall add you to my blog roll and hopefully learn more about some films that I know next to nothing about! I’ve seen a few Bangla films but only one Telugu film, and no Assamese or Oriya (though I tried searching for some – nobody seems to be subtitling them). :-(


                    • Thank you! It probably all stems from my love for learning as much as I can about all there is – and cinema, of course, happens to be one of my abiding loves. No matter what language it’s made in. :-)

                      PS. WordPress won’t let me reply to your comment with the song examples you’ve given, so I’ll say a big thank you for that here itself.


  16. Deeply moved by the tribute to the Late Mannada, as well as the various comments. I consider myself fortunate to have met this “God’s gift to Mankind” a few months before his 80th birthday at a musical programme where he was honoured. Had also seen him performing live on stage. This was a few months after the passing away of MD Jaikishen and those days, the song “Cham Cham Baajere Payaliya” from Jane Anjane was a rage and my favourite. Imagine my state when the curtains were raised and Mannada announced that he would begin by paying tribute to Late Jaikishan and sang this very song. I still get goose-pimples merely recollecting that event.

    May I add one more song to the list which appears to have been overlooked. “Jeevanse Lambe Hai Bandhu” from “Ashirwad”.


    • You are indeed to be envied. I have unfortunately never heard any of these greats in concert… Manna Dey’s voice remained excellent till very late in life, so I’m sure his rendition of Chham-chham baaje payaliya must have been great even at that age.

      No, I didn’t ‘overlook’ Jeevan se lambe hain bandhu; it’s just that that isn’t one of my favourite songs. Plus, of course, it’s from well into the 70s, and my blog steers quite strictly clear of that era. I believe someone did mention that song in their comments, though.


  17. Manna Dey was also the king of melody in Bengali music history.
    Manna Dey became the voice of Bengal’s matinee idol Uttam Kumar after Gali theke Rajpath and Sankhyabela. In fact, Sankhaybela established Manna Dey as the voice of Uttam Kumar and this continued for numerous films like Antony Firingee, Nishipadma, Chadmabeshi, Sannyasi Raja, Stree, Chirodiner, Sabarmati, Chowringhee, Mouchak, Kalankito Nayak, Anandamela, Brajabuli, Raater Rajanigandha, Sei Chokh, Har mana har, Jeevan Mrityu, Alo amar alo, Hotel Snow Fox, Devdas, Jadu Bangsha, Samadhan etc which are considered to be milestones in Bengali Film history . Some of the gems from Manna Dey- Uttam Kumar combo are:
    Ami je jalsaghare,
    Ami Jamini tumi soshi he,
    Ke prothom kache esechi,
    Ei eto alo eto akash,
    Kaharba noi dadra bajao,
    Na na na aaj rate ar,
    Bhalobashar agun jalao,
    Sura pane hoi na nesha,
    Ami agantuk ami barta dilam,
    Ja khushi ora bole boluk,
    Champa Chameli golapero baage,
    Kono kotha na bole,
    Manush khun hole pore,
    Lal nil sobujeri mela boseche,
    Phul pakhi bondhu amar chilo,
    Lag lag lag bhelkir bhela,
    Ami kon pothe je choli,
    Bachao ke acho,
    Hajar takar jharbati ta,
    Jemon shapini ke posh manay,
    Esechi ami esechi,
    Tomar deher bhongimati,
    Jano ki pathareo phote phul,
    Shaono rate Jodi,
    Jedin lobo biday,
    Ebar mole suto hobo,
    Paagla garod kothay ache…
    Manna Dey also had a successful association with Soumitra Chatterjee. The two icons (both went on to achieve the Dada Saheb Phalke Swarnakamal awards in their lifetime) did some wonderful work together in films like Basanta Bilap, Prothom Kadam phul, Teen Bhubaner paare, Chutir Phaade,Indira, Asati etc. Some of their memorable and superhit songs are:

    Hoyto tomar jonno,
    Ei sohor theke,
    Aagun legeche legeche,
    Ekhon ami sick,
    Jiban e ki pabo na,
    Asbe se asbe,
    Jhoro jhoro bristi…
    Manna Dey was also sang for Asit Baran, Biswajeet, Anil Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee and also new age heroes like Ranjit Mullick, Samit Bhanja, Swarup Dutt, Dipankar De, Mithun Chakraborty, Debraj Roy to name a few. He was commercially perhaps the most successful singer in Bengali film history and enjoyed the top most slot from mid 1960 through to the end 1980 or early 1990. Ace music directors like Sudhin Dasgupta, Nachiketa Ghosh, Salil Chowdhury, Anil Bagchi, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Mrinal Bandopadhyay, Abhijit Bandopadhyay, Gopen Mallick, Bireshwar Sarkar, Rajen Sarkar, Ajoy Das, Adhir Bagchi used Manna Dey extensively for films. Even the film distributors also insisted on at least one Manna Dey song in the film which would assure returns on their investment. Apart from singing for the heroes, Dey also gave voice to various other central character actors like Chhabi Biswas, Bikash Roy, Anup Kumar, Kali Banerjee, Bhanu Bandopadhyay, Chinmoy Ray, Tarun Kumar, Dilip Roy etc. Manna Dey sang duets with all the leading female voices of Bengali films like Sandhya Mukherjee, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt, Arati Mukherjee, Ruma Guhathakurta, Protima Banerjee, Banashree Sengupta, Nirmala Mishra, Arundhati Home Chowdhury, Haimanti Shukla.
    Apart from this his basic Bengali songs were chart-busters for many years. His Puja numbers were extremely popular and command a huge market share of sales even today. Manna Dey teamed up with lyricists like Pulak Bandopadhyay, Gouriprasanna Majumdar, Shyamal Gupta, Bankim Ghosh, Jwahar Majumdar etc and music directors like Nachiketa Ghosh, Sudhin Dasgupta, Rotu Mukhopadhyay, Suparnakanti Ghosh, Mrinal Bandopadhyay, V Balsara, Y S Mulki etc to produce numerous timeless gems. Manna Dey himself gave music to many of his own timeless classics. A few of Manna Dey’s timeless basic non-film Bengali songs are:
    Char dewaler modhye nanan driswake,
    Abar Hobe to dekha,
    Ami tar thikana rakhini,
    Ami Aj akasher moto ekela,
    Kotodure ar nie jabe bolo,
    Hay hay go raat jay go,
    Ami niralay boshe,
    O keno eto sundari holo,
    O chand samle rakho jochonake,
    Ogo barsha tumi jhoro na ko omon jore,
    Ke tumi tandra harani,
    Jodi kagaje lekho nam,
    Na na jeo na,
    Ma ma go ma,
    Jorowar jhumko theke,
    Rangini koto mon,
    Tumi nijer mukhei,
    Ei kule ami ar oi kule tumi,
    Tumi onek jotno kore,
    Dekhi oi hasir jhilik,
    Lalita oke aaj chole jete bolona,
    Rat jaga duti chokh,
    Coffee house r sei adda ta,
    Majhraate Ghum bhenge jai,
    Se amar choto bon,
    Misti ekta gondho,
    Pousher kachakachi,
    Rimjhim jhim bristi,
    Khub jante ichhe kore,
    Teer bhanga dheu,
    Eki opurba prem,
    Eto raag noi e je abhiman,
    Abhimane chole jeo na,
    O amar mon jamunar,
    Ki dekhle tumi amate,
    Paro Jodi phire esho,
    E jibone joto byatha peyechi,
    Sei to abar kache ele,
    Deep chilo sikha chilo,
    Hridayer gaan sikhe to,
    Ei to sedin,
    Amar na Jodi thake sur,
    Chander ashai,
    E nodi emon nodi,
    Sobai to sukhi hote chay,
    Chand dekhte giye ami,
    Jokhon keu amake pagol bole,
    Sundari go dohai dohai
    ….the list is just endless. His popularity in basic songs stretched from mid-1950s to 2000. Even in the last years his song ‘Amay ektu jaiga dao mayer mondire boshi’ recorded phenomenal popularity and success.

    Apart from his monumental success as a singer, one should not forget his contribution to Bengali music as a music director. As stated earlier, he has given music to many of his timeless classics. Despite his busy schedule as a singer, he composed music for other singers like Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Supriti Ghosh, Tarun Bandopadhyay, Utpala Sen and was instrumental in shaping the careers of budding singers like Haimanti Shukla, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sudeb Dey, Adhir Bagchi.

    In spite of his tremendous success in Bengal he stayed in Mumbai (his plush bungalow ‘Anandam” in Juhu) due to his Hindi film music commitments but used to frequently fly down to Kolkata on assignment basis. Many of his Bengali numbers were recorded in Mumbai.


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