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Manna Dey: A Story of Amazing Versatility – Part 2

February 19, 2022 | By

Manna Dey worked with 195 music directors starting with KC Dey in the 1942 film Tamanna right up to Sameer Tandon in the 2005 film Umar. Silhouette presents the 2nd part of Bipin Parekh’s detailed study of Manna Dey’s musical life and discography with tables, charts and beautiful medley videos.

Continued from Part 1…

The Composers 

Manna Dey at a concert

Manna Dey at a concert (Pic courtesy: Twitter)

Manna Dey was fortunate to have enjoyed the rare opportunity of working with all the eminent music directors of the time. The variation of melodies that distinguished one music director from another had always been

[1] a source of eternal fascination for him,

[2] responsible for his perennially changing taste in music, and

[3] a motivating factor in sustaining interest in the world of music.

Manna Dey worked with 195 music directors starting in 1942 with KC Dey (film Tamanna) to the last one in 2005 Sameer Tandon (film Umar).

Figure Y shows a bar chart plots of the new music directors composing for Manna Dey over time. The data shows his popularity rose from the 1940s, stayed consistently high during the next 30 years and was steady even into the 1980s.

manna-dey-careergraph

Table X summarises a selected list of key music directors and their films with hit songs of Manna Dey.

Table X: Worked with a Variety of Composers in Popular Films

Music Directors Films
Naushad Shabab, Mother India
SD Burman Mashaal, Devdas, Manzil, Bandini, Meri Surat Teri Aankhen, Ziddi, Jyoti, Talaash
Salil Chowdhury Do Bigha Zameen, Madhumati, Usne Kaha Tha, Kabuliwala, Anand
Kalyanji Anandji Upkar, Zanjeer, Lawaris
Ravi Waqt, Ghar Sansaar, Aankhen
Laxmikant Pyarelal Sant Gyaneshwar, Anurodh, Pushpanjali, Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Datta Ram Parvarish, Qaidi # 911, Zindagi aur Khwab, Jab se Tumhe Dekha Hai
RD Burman Bhoot Bangla, Padosan, Sholay, Buddha Mil Gaya
Roshan Madhu, Dil Hi To Hai, Barsat Ki Raat
Vasant Desai Do Aankhen Barah Haath
Pt Ravi Shankar Anuradha
C Ramchandra Talaaq
Madan Mohan Dekh Kabira Roya, Baawarchi

Three Music Directors

Three influential music directors who were instrumental in promoting his career were (1) Sachin Dev Burman, (2) Salil Chowdhury and (3) Shankar Jaikishan.  Table Z lists Manna Dey’s song output by these three composers. Together, they represented less than 2% of music directors that Manna Dey worked with but produced a disproportionately large number (10% of songs) of memorable compositions for Manna Dey.

Table Z: Comparison of Song Output by Important Music Directors

Music Director # of Films # of songs
Shankar Jaikishan 50 77
Salil Chowdhury 25 37
S.D. Burman 24 31

SD Burman

Manna Dey credits Sachin Dev Burman and his compositions for being instrumental in his initial success as a playback singer. It was Sachin-da’s song from Mashal, Upar gagan vishal that would propel his singing career. Sachin-da was a perfectionist, an unassuming person and childlike in his simplicity. Sachin-da had this uncanny talent for tracking down singers with voices ideally suited for his compositions. Manna Dey felt that despite giving his best to the songs composed by Sachin-da and even after becoming an established playback singer, Sachin-da did not ask Manna Dey to sing regularly for the films whose music he composed.

Salil Chowdhury

Lata Mangeshkar, Salil Chowdhury and Manna Dey

In Manna Dey’s opinion ‘no music directors can match either Salil-babu’s talent for innovation or versatility. The secret of Salil-babu’s incomparable compositions lay in his in-depth knowledge of Indian folk tunes and the exemplary thoroughness with which he conducted his research into music. I first met Salil-babu in 1953; he composed music for Bimal Roy’s film Do Bigha Zameen, in which I sang two songs composed as a fusion of Indian folk tunes and Western pop.’

Shankar Jaikishan

Manna Dey, Raj Kapoor, Unknown, Shankar and Asha Bhosle

Manna Dey, Raj Kapoor, Unknown, Shankar and Asha Bhosle (Pic courtesy: ShankarJaikishan.Wordpress)

Manna Dey credits the composer duo Shankar Jaikishan for their crucial role in promoting his singing career. He once said about the duo Shankar Jaikishan, ‘I would certainly not have attained the heights of success I enjoyed in my career had it not been for their patronage.’

‘Shankar had a clear conception of the range of my voice and began composing some of my popular numbers. He was the first composer who dared to experiment by making me sing romantic numbers. These compositions were more like light music than classical, which made me a versatile singer. The precedent set by S-J would be instrumental in furthering my career with other MDs… Also, S-J used my voice to lip-synch for younger characters.’

Songs of Manna Dey Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan

Popular Songs for a Variety of Composers

As illustrated in Table X, Manna Dey delivered melodies composed by a diverse group of music directors. The next video of mixed medley show cases a short list of composers and their very popular numbers in qawwali, folk, western and soulful genres.

Composers:
★ RD Burman
★ Usha Khanna
★ Vasant Desai
★ Ravi
★ Roshan
★ Kalyanji-Anandji

Mixed medley of Manna Dey songs

Manna Dey’s Hindi Film Songs Output

Manna Dey’s autobiography provides an exhaustive list of songs in all languages. Of those, about 1363 are grouped as Hindi Film songs, rendered in a staggering number of about 932 films (1942-2005).

He reached a peak productivity of 93 songs in 1957.

Figure R shows song output over time. As his popularity increased with music directors (as shown in Fig. Y) came more opportunities and assignments to sing.

Figure R: Hindi Film Songs Output over Time

Figure S If we look at his ‘output per decade’ and it clearly shows a steady demand and commensurate output of Manna Dey’s melodious renditions. Decade after decade he consistently delivered a remarkably steady number of great songs.

Figure S: Song Production per Decade

manna dey song production per decade

Duets and Mixed Songs, Praise For Other Singers

Manna Dey graciously acknowledged admirations for his contemporary singers. It was his privilege of having sung duets and mixed songs with a number of talented singers during his long career.

Table T shows Duets and Mixed songs of Manna Dey with the top tier singers. The female duets and mixed songs account for over one fifth of his total song output.

Table T: Duets and Mixed songs of Manna Dey

Singers # of Films # of Songs # of Duets
Asha Bhosle 164 184 124
Lata Mangeshkar 93 107 97
Mohammad Rafi NA 82 55
Kishore Kumar 35 37 18
Mukesh NA 7 NA
Talat Mahmood 1 1 NA

Asha Bhosle or ‘Asha Tai’ was very fond of him. ‘I blessed her with all my heart when she married Pancham as she was like a younger sister to me; I admire Asha for her versatility; in her voice modulation she exceeds even her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar,’ said Manna Dey.

Manna Dey greatly admired Lata: ‘Talent, determination and commitment are an unbeatable combination and Lata had all three in ample measure. It is hardly a wonder that she is called the Nightingale of India. Few can emulate the way she modulates her voice to suite that of the screen personality for whom she is singing.’

Lata reciprocated and complimented Manna Dey saying: ‘Dada, you arrange the tunes in such a manner that the final product is a hit.’ Praising his pronunciation Lata said, ‘Dada, your Marathi pronunciation is more impeccable than that of a learned Marathi Brahmin.’

A medley of romantic songs of Manna Dey

Male Duets

The male singers Manna Dey had to initially compete against included Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Mukesh and later Kishore Kumar. Manna Dey strongly believed that to be successful, one has to put in his best effort in the competitive film business and that meant being ingenious and innovative. The singers shared a healthy professional rivalry devoid of any personal ‘equation’. Outside the studio, they were best of friends and shared their joys and sorrows with one another. They each had their own area of strength where they excelled. In his autobiography Manna Dey shared his honest opinions about his contemporaries.

‘Mohammad Rafi’s renditions were like an early spring morning with its varied hues and shades and appealed to me immensely, his songs touched people’s heart. I had the opportunity of singing quite a few duets with him and I enjoyed the sessions.’

‘It was taken for granted that Talat Mahmood would be the best choice for a romantic song. He was something of an aberration in the sense that he seemed to lack perseverance and abandoned his singing career prematurely.’

Legends All - At the S. D. Burman nite in 1967, with Mukesh, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Talat Mahmood, S.D Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, Nargis, Mohd Rafi and Manna Dey (Pic courtesy: Madanmohan.in)

Legends All – At the S. D. Burman nite in 1967 at the Shanmukhananda Hall (L to R) Mukesh, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Talat Mahmood, S.D Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, Nargis, Madan Mohan, Mohd Rafi and Manna Dey
(Pic courtesy: Madanmohan.in)

‘Mukesh was tranquility incarnate. Few could surpass him in rendering a melancholy number. One could not have asked for a better human being, but it was rumored that when training him to sing a number, music directors were hard put to conceal their impatience. Once he had mastered the song, however, none could find fault with his rendition.’

Asha Bhosle. Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey

‘Kishore was a phenomenon in the world of film music. He would create a niche for himself for the same kind of numbers. He cared a fig about classical conventions and sang the way he liked. That had mass appeal. It was Kishore’s inborn talent that helped him to reach the heights of excellence, and we have to accept this truth.’

‘Connoisseurs of music will agree that my songs were appreciated only by those acquainted with classical music. I have never been what one calls a ‘popular’ singer in the real sense of the word. I acknowledge this truth in all humility and this acceptance gives me strength to work against all odds. During my career I continued to hone my innate abilities to some level of perfection.’

Table U lists published statistics about the singers’ (a) number of songs, (b) number of films, and (c) number of music directors they worked with. Interestingly, Manna Dey ranks third in terms of number of songs and number of films and second for the number of music directors. However, his song ‘output per film’ is the lowest among the five singers.

 

Table U: Male Singers’ Songs Output Comparison

Singer # of songs # of films # of MDs
Manna Dey 1362 932 195
Mohammad Rafi 4513 1834 238
Kishore Kumar 2550 1118 135
Mukesh 859 519 122
Talat Mahmood 504 264

 

A selection of Manna Dey’s duets with the top male singers

Comedy Songs

Manna Dey: ‘One actor who was adamant about using my voice was the comedian of Hindi films — Mehmood. We had developed a wonderful rapport which helped us both to succeed in our respective fields. He would often drop in at our place for a practice session to perfect his lip movements so that when he lip-synched a number I had sung for him, he would appear completely natural. That is how those unforgettable songs from Bhoot Bangla, Ziddi, Padosan and Johar Mehmood In Goa were created. I was especially cautious when asked to sing for Mehmood in the duet, Ek Chatur Nar, with Kishore Kumar. To be put in the shade by his flamboyant style of singing was a distinct possibility and to counter the risk, I decided to work with Pancham, striving to build on my strengths and find a way of holding my own. On the day we were to record the song, the entire staff at the studio stood outside the glass door to watch Kishore and me sing. For the two of us, the session had taken on the magnitude of a duel. It took us twelve hours to complete the recording (9 AM to 9 PM). The song went on to become a winner’.

A medley of comedy songs rendered by Manna Dey for comedians Mehmood, Agha, Dhumal and Johnny Walker

Philosophical Songs

Manna Dey’s calm and soothing renditions in various scales do justice to the thoughtful and soulful lyrics in these philosophical songs.

Folk/Patriotic Songs

Mellifluously rendered songs in this medley derive extensively from Manna Dey’s experience in rendering songs of multitude of ethnic languages/cultures. His melodic delivery brings out the dignity, seriousness and solemnity penned by the great lyricists.

Blessed and Grateful Manna Dey

Manna Dey’s singular goal in life had been to give his best to be a great singer. Along that life journey he had endured his share of the highs and lows, joys and regrets and achievements and failures. He always acknowledged, humbly, as being indebted to so many for helping him attain the goals he set for himself — mentors, teachers and above all his beloved mother. Upon a soul-searching introspection he was convinced that if he could, he would be very happy to re-live his life. Thinking metaphorically, Manna Dey observed:

‘…If reincarnation is, indeed, a reality, my fervent hope would be to be reborn in India once again. If my wishes were granted, I would want a mother just like the one I had been blessed with in this life, an uncle like my Babu Kaka and the teachers who came by my way like precious gifts.

I long to be incarnated as a singer once more, so that I can revive the lost art of many promising composers, lyricists and instrumentalists…’

Manna Dey’s Favorite Song

This song from the film Zindagi Zindagi is one of his all-time favorites because it epitomises the way Manna Dey, a singer, felt about music; ‘music is everything to me, who else can be my friend but music?’

Mera sab kuch mere geet re (Zindagi Zindagi, 1972) SD Burman / Anand Bakshi


Manna Dey married Sulochana Kumaran on December 18, 1953.  They have two daughters Suroma Herekar and Sumita Deb. Manna Dey passed away on 24th October 2013.

manna dey wife and daughters

Manna Dey with wife Sulochana and their daughters (Pic courtesy: Twitter)

Although Manna Dey songs in Bengali and Hindi languages are very well known, he also sang in other languages – Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili, Punjabi, Assamese, Odia, Konkani, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, and Nepali. He recorded over 1360 Hindi film songs out of a total recording of around 3500 songs. His contribution was well recognised with many prestigious awards:

Government of India honors:

  • Padma Shri in 1971
  • Padma Bhushan in 2005
  • Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2007
  • Padma Vibhusan in 2012
  • Also conferred with foreign awards including Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France in 1985.

 

References:

  1. “Memories Come Alive”, An Autobiography, Manna Dey. Translated from the Bengali (Author, Gautam Roy) by Sarbani Putatunda, Penguin Random House, India, 2010
  2. “Yesterday’s Melodies Today’s Memories”, Manek Premchand, Norton Press, 2018
  3. “Lata Mangeshkar Gandhar Swaryatra”, Vishwas Nerurkar, Prasad Sinkar, Neelam Prakashan, 1989
  4. “Swarasha”, Vishwas Nerurkar, Prasad Sinkar, Neelam Prakashan, 1995
  5. “Mohammad Rafi, Mere Geet Tumhare” Ajit K. Pradhan and Preetam T. Menghani, Nitin Publications, 1998
  6. “Yaadgar E Rafi”, Iqbal A. Ganam and Asif Bakhshi, Gujarat Today, 1998
  7. “Lata Samagrah” Suman Chaurasiya, Ghulam Qureshi, Sanjay Mandloy, Siddharth Offset Pvt. Ltd, 2014
  8. “Kishore Kumar — Many Faces Of A Genius”, Vishwas Nerurkar, Vinod Sonthalia, Bishwanath Chatterjee, Gayatri Publication, 2002
  9. “Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman”, HQ Chowdhury, Blue Pencil, 2018
  10. “Salil Chowdhury – The Non-Conformist Genius” Suresh Rao, Ebenezer Printing House, 2008
  11. “Mukesh Geet Kosh”, Harish Raghuvanshi, 1985
  12. “Saat Suron Ka Saath: Shankar Jaikishan”, Vishwas Nerurkar

(Medley videos created by Monica Kar)

Read  Manna Dey: A Story of Amazing Versatility – Part 1

More to read

10 Most Favourite Salil Chowdhury Songs: Indian Melodies, Western Harmonies

Manna Dey: A Rare Voice That Excelled In All Music Genres

Umad Ghumad Kar Aayi Re Ghata – Euphoric Celebration of Rains

 

Creative Writing

Whether you are new or veteran, you are important. Please contribute with your articles on cinema, we are looking forward for an association. Send your writings to amitava@silhouette-magazine.com

Bipin Parekh is the host of GunjanRadio program, a no-commercial, community service radio program broadcast from Univ. of Mass., since 1983. He retired from a R & D job as a Chemical Engineer. A Ph.D in Chemical Engineering from State Univ. of New York and B. Chem Eng. from Univ. of Bombay, Bipin now spends time with his grandchildren. He is married to Meera Parekh and lives in Boston, NY.
All Posts of Bipin Parekh

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2 thoughts on “Manna Dey: A Story of Amazing Versatility – Part 2

  • Antara

    This is a fascinating study Bipin Parekh ji. Hats off to your painstaking research and analysis – the massive and mindblowing oeuvre of Manna Dey comes alive in a neat presentation that leaves one stunned.

    Manna Dey was always thought to be the most “classical” among the playback singers – but your anaylysis shows how varied his repertoire was – comedy, philosophical, romantic, folk, devotional… all genres with equal elan. And the distribution of his work with music composers is another eye opener. I did not realize Salil Chowdhury was among the top 3 music directors in his discography.

    I believe this 2-part study will be a huge reference and resource point for music lovers and film scholars. Thank you so much for sharing this. Eye-opener truly. 😊🙏👏

  • A Bharat

    A very detailed statistical analysis of Manna Dey’s career. The surprising lacuna is the absence of O P Nayyar in the list of composers, who in Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala gave Manna a duet of the same class and lilt as S&J’s Chori Chori duets- “Bahonko zara Lehara De” with Asha. In the portion about Mehmood the sensational starting song of the association “Are Hato ” from Manzil should certainly have been mentioned. To me as a non-expert listener Manna’s ultimate songs are the heavenly duet “Ai Kash Chalte milke”(Asha) from Manzil and the song which in its emotional onslaught would melt a stone – “Ai mere pyare Watan” from Kabuliwalah. In the latter song Prem Dhawan and Salil have given their best but ultimately it is Manna’s rendering that brings tears to the eyes of the toughest listener.

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