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Sandhya Mukherjee – the voice of Bengali romantic heart

Later she got Ustad Bade Golam Ali Khan and his son Ustad Manwar Ali Khan as her Guru (Teacher). The experts have always said that though Mukherjee has sung numerous songs for films but she never ignored Indian Classical Music. The Indian classical Music and Modern Bengali Songs melted in her.

IANS | New Delhi |

The pied piper of Bengali music industry – Sandhya Mukherjee who gave birth to a cascade of never-heard-before musical melodies that became the lyrical language of millions of romantic hearts – passed away in a city hospital at the age of 90 leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable songs that will be remembered even after her death.

The last of the living legend in ‘Modern Bengali Songs’ after Hemanta Mukherjee, Manna Dey, Shyamal Mitra – Mukherjee not only had a lyrical spectrum of musical rainbow that cast a spell on the romantic dreams of Bengali audience for more than four decades but she had a fearless and undeterred voice even till the end of her life when she could boldly refuse the ‘Padma Shri Award’ by the central government saying ‘Mera dil nahi chahti/ Mein nahi lungi’ (My heart is not giving consent. I won’t receive it).

A couple of days after refusing the prestigious award she was admitted to SSKM hospital with breathlessness and lung infection. Later she was shifted to a private hospital where she was tested Covid positive and after a battle of 19 days the legendary singer passed away. Mukherjee left singing in 2003 but she was respected and honoured till the last day of her life.

Born on October 4, 1931 at Dhakuria in South Kolkata of Railway employee Narendranath Mukherjee and Hemprabha Devi, Mukherjee the youngest of the six siblings recorded her first song at the age of only 13 years. She took her initial education of music from Santosh Kuamr Basu and after that she honed her skills from A.T. Kanan and Chimoy Lahiri.

Later she got Ustad Bade Golam Ali Khan and his son Ustad Manwar Ali Khan as her Guru (Teacher). The experts have always said that though Mukherjee has sung numerous songs for films but she never ignored Indian Classical Music. The Indian classical Music and Modern Bengali Songs melted in her.

Though she has sung numerous songs, she will always be remembered for her songs that she had sung for the Bengali films. It has occasionally been said that the box-office hit films of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen had never been complete without those of Hemanta Mukherjee and Sandhya Mukherjee. Songs like ‘Gane mor Indradhanu’ or ‘Ei poth jodi na sesh hoi’ or ‘Ke tumi Amare Dako’ still tickle every Bengali heart.

Despite her musical career Mukherjee never left her sense of freedom and self-esteem. During the liberation war of Bangladesh, she joined the mass movement and raised money for thousands of refugees. She created ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’, a radio station of that time in Bangladesh with Bangladeshi musician Samar Das through which she recorded and transmitted patriotic songs that inspired thousands of Bengladeshi freedom fighters. After the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, he sang the song ‘Bangabandhu Tumi Phire Ale’ in the evening.

Her sense of patriotism and self-respect was evident even on her last days when she refused and said – “My country loves me. I left singing in 2003. This is my pursuit. That’s what I have done all my life. I didn’t look at anything. I never thought of taking Padma Shri in my life. When the people of my love me, be it Padma Shri or anything, I don’t need. I don’t want anything more than the love of my countrymen”.